rappel maui blog

How to Book Activities & Tours in Hawaii

Hawaii Travel, Tour Tips No Comments »

Are you  going to book activities and tours while in Hawaii? Being a good consumer when planning your Hawaii vacation can save you time, money and frustration, and ensure that all your memories of Maui are great. Good consumerism can apply to anything, and making a reservation for doing an activity or taking a tour excursion in Hawaii is no exception.  Here are some tips for travelers from the Hawaii State Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs. You can get this and much more information from DCCA at their web site.

travel agencyThere are a few different ways to book an activity:

  • Direct with the tour operator–You can usually call the tour company directly to book or make a reservation online.
  • With an activity desk or hotel concierge–These are the booths or desks you see in the lobby or around town. Activity desks can also sell tours online.
  • With a travel agent–These are agencies that also sell other kinds of travel services, like cruises or airline fares. They might be location-based or online.
  • As a discounted or free gift after having attended a sales presentation–These are activity desks that also ask you to attend a time share or other pitch in order to claim your reservation.

Who Can Operate an Activity Desk?
The State of Hawaii regulates activity desks, and an activity desk must obtain a registration from the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affair’s Professional and Vocational Licensing Division before it can operate. You can find out if a company is properly registered as an activity desk at the CCA web site or by calling (808) 587-4272.

What Information Are You Entitled To?

An activity desk must clearly display the name and telephone number of the activity provider whose activity is being booked or sold. And, an
activity desk provider must disclose to you, in writing, if a discount offered for an activity requires you to first attend a sales presentation.

What Should You Look for Before You Book Directly With an Operator or a Desk?

An activity desk should be able to provide the following information, or get the information if they don’t have it immediately handy:

  • Where the excursion or activity is located and figure out how you’re going to get there
  • Where you will need to meet and whether transportation to the site is included
  •  What’s included in the cost, and if there additional fees like equipment rental or meals
  • If the activity is appropriate for you, and you meet the restrictions or requirements the operator may impose. Assess whether you are able to meet the physical demands of the activity. Some high adventure activities may not be appropriate for pregnant women or individuals with certain health issues.
  • What the cancellation policy is.  Be sure you understand it. Make sure you understand under what conditions a refund may be available.

 Pro Tips:

Be wary of deals that require you to book 60 days in advance. (Most credit card companies will only allow you to dispute a charge within 60 days of purchase.)
Ask if there are any limitations on what you can bring. Plan ahead if purses, handbags,or backpacks are not allowed.
Ask if you can bring your camera and if you can take pictures or video. If not, ask if pictures will be available for purchase.
Stay cool, drink plenty of water and don’t forget reef-safe sunscreen.

When is the Best Time to Visit Maui?

Hawaii and Hawaiiana, Hawaii Travel No Comments »

Many travelers and explorers know that, when visiting a new place, timing is everything. The best time to visit Maui depends on what you’re most interested in experiencing. According to some experts, the best time to visit Maui is NOW.

Here’s a rough guide to what happens on Maui, when.

If You Want to See Whales
These big, beautiful creatures begin arriving sometime in October, and wow us with their gigantic displays until April or even May (for those who didn’t get the memo.) You can catch the water aerobics and synchronized swimming from shore, often without using binoculars. If you want to get up close and personal, take a whale watch tour, or paddle out in a kayak or outrigger canoe. You can even spot these big beauties from a helicopter or small airplane.

If You Like Warmer Temperatures–or Not
Some like it hot. If that’s you, visit during the months of August or September; those are typically the months with the hottest average temperatures. January and February are usually cooler. Note that, because of Maui’s varied topography and the way that the mountains effect the weather patterns, there are places in Maui that stay warm all year round (Kihei, Wailea and Lahaina), and places where the nighttime temperatures can dip down into the 40s during winter time (Makawao, Kula and the Haleakala summit). There are even times where there’s a fine dusting of snow at the very tip of Mount Haleakala, which is at 10,000 feet above sea level.

If You Want to Catch the Trade Winds
If you’ve spent any time at all in the islands, you’ve heard of Maui’s two types of wind, kona winds and tradewinds. The trades are from the northeast, blow during most of the year, and keep things nice and temperate. These winds are more common April through October. The kona winds blow from the south or southwest, and usually bring with them a cloud of vog from Hawaii Island. Vog is the volcano gas from the Kiluea volcano across the channel, and can cause a hazy air quality. These winds are more common during the fall and winter months.

If You Want to Miss the Stormy Season
From June to November, there’s an uptick in tropical storm and hurricane activity in the Central and South Pacific. While it’s rare to encounter direct hurricane landfall in the Hawaiian Islands, foul weather bands bringing heavy rains can stretch out, reaching parts or all of Maui as the hurricanes pass by. These rains are usually short-lived, but bring with them the threat of flash flooding. That means that streams, rivers and gulches can swell unexpectedly and surprisingly quickly with dangerously swift and high waters. Don’t go unguided and unaccompanied on hikes along stream beds, even if they’re dry. It’s common for visitors and locals alike to become stranded or much worse by flash flood activity. This video is an accurate example of how easy it is to become a victim of changing conditions. Remember, the weather overhead does not always dictate water levels; it’s often the weather you can’t see, miles away that decides whether you need to be airlifted to safety. When active storms near Hawaii are sending big wave swells our way, be aware of breaking waves and rip tides when swimming in the ocean. Listen to the lifeguards and heed the red flags that may be posted on the beach warning of dangerous shore break–they really mean it.

If You Want to Miss the Crowds
There’s a dramatic drop in visitor activity in September, just after the high season finishes reaching its peak in August. This nice, quiet period lasts until the fall holidays. Other relatively low activity periods are January and April, with the busiest season being the summer months. These lull periods are great times to visit the island, as the weather is pleasant, and its easier to make reservations for tours and restaurants. Most tour operators even offer generous discounts during the slower seasons.

If You Want to Experience a Celebrity Sighting
During the holiday seasons, it’s common to see one of Maui’s famous residents or homeowners casually enjoying the aloha spirit in towns like Paia or Wailea.  Owen Wilson, Woody Harrelson, Steven Tyler, Oprah and many other legends make Maui their home for at least a portion of the year. Sometimes you can catch an impromptu number or two from the likes of Willie Nelson or Mick Fleetwood during a live music set. You can also catch surfing celebs like Kai Lenny, Bethany Hamilton, Laird Hamilton, Dave Kalama and a whole cast of surfing royalty doing what they love.

If You Want to Witness the Beauty of one of the Most Remote Places on Earth
Come anytime! There is no bad time to take in the natural wonder that is The Valley Isle. From rainforest to desert, and from hanging ten to beachcombing with an umbrella drink, there is ample opportunity to experience island time.  Safe travels!

Where’s What on Maui

Hawaii and Hawaiiana, Hawaii Travel, Maui Facts, Rappel Maui No Comments »

You’ve probably noticed that, even though it’s a smallish island, getting directions around Maui can be somewhat confusing if you’re a first-timer who’s unfamiliar with the towns and unique directional cues you’ll get from locals. Don’t worry, it doesn’t take long to catch on to what’s where and how to get there.

Cardinal Directions

First off, north/south/east/west are infrequently used, unless someone is referring to the sides of the island.  You’re more likely to hear island directional cues like mauka, makai and upcountry. To go in the “mauka” direction means to go away from the ocean; going “makai” means to go toward the ocean. “Upcountry” is the area at higher elevations up Mount Haleakala.

There are also leeward and windward mentions, but this is usually in relation to weather patterns. When Maui’s tradewinds are blowing, Hana, Kahului, Makawao, Wailuku, Kapalua, and Napili are on the island’s windward side; Wailea, Kihei, Maalaea, Lahaina, and Ka’anapali are located on the island’s leeward side.

Where You’ll Find What

  • Kahului is in Central Maui, at the isthmus of the island between East and West Maui; it’s where the Kahului (OGG) airport is.
  • Maalaea is where one of Maui’s harbors and the aquarium are located. It’s also near the park & ride lot where we meet you before your tour.
  • Lahaina is on the west side, along with Kaanapali–a long stretch of resorts, beaches and shops.
  • Kihei, Wailea and Makena are on the south side.
  • Makawao, Pukalani, Kula and part of Haiku are all upcountry towns.
  • Paia, Sprecklesville and part of Haiku are on what’s referred to as the North Shore.
  • Because of its remote perch at the very end of the eastern coast, Hana is…Hana.

Where the Streets Have Long Names: A Pronunciation Guide to Maui’s Places

Hawaii and Hawaiiana, Hawaii Travel, Rappel Maui No Comments »

One thing that first-time visitors to Hawaii mention are the seemingly complicated Hawaiian names found on street signs and maps.  Be assured: there’s a way to get through words that look like vowel soup.

Look for the okina or break up long words with lots of vowels.

An ‘okina is a character that resembles an apostrophe or a tiny, upside down, superscript 6. It marks a very brief pause between the syllables of a word, a sound you can hear in the word “uh-oh,” for example.  (This is also called, for you grammar nerds out there, a glottal stop.) Pronouncing the vowel and consonant sounds separated by the ‘okina allows you to break down the word into shorter, simpler parts, but you can also do this with longer words in which there is no ‘okina. This is also useful for when the ‘okina is absent from traffic and street signs.

Look for vowel pairs and syllable couples

Note that some vowel pairs are not pronounced separately, but together as one sound, unless they are separated by an okina.  “Au,” (pronounced like “ow”)  “ei” (pronounced “ay”) and “ae” (usually pronounced “eye”) are such pairs (called a diphthong).

Practice with common names

Try this method with some of these street names and cities:

Mokulele–broken up into 4 parts is easy to pronounce phonetically:  Moe-koo-LAY-lay
Honoapiilani–broken up into 7 parts is pronounced: Ho-no-ah-pee-ee-LA-knee
Kaahumanu–is another 5 part word:  Ka-ah-hu-MAH-noo
Hookele–broken into 4 parts, with the stop happening between the two Os:  Ho-oh-KAY-lay
Haleakala–broken into 5 parts: Ha-lay-ah-kah-LA

Kihei–very simply, in 2 parts: KEY-hay
Kaanapali–properly pronounced in five parts, with the stop between the As, but commonly pronounced in four parts, without the stop between the two As: KA-nah-PAW-lee (or ka-AH-nah-PAW-lee if you honor the okina)

Note that the emphasis on some words will vary from person to person, just as with words in other languages. Often the authentic pronunciation differs from the casual dialect that has evolved over time. You’ll also hear some widely accepted pronunciations of Hawaiian words that are incorrect, but most locals use them. One such example is Hali’imaile.  The way that you’ll most likely hear it pronounced is “HIGH-lee-MY-lee.”

Most Important: It’s OK to slow down

Remember, while you’re driving around Maui, that slowing down to read those long street names is OK. Speed limits are low, and if you’re on vacation, a change of pace is probably why you’re here. Take your time, both driving, and “talking story.” Discover the island with aloha and be safe.  Welcome!

Adding Vocation to Your Vacation

Hawaii and Hawaiiana, Hawaii Travel No Comments »

It’s easy to call a place like Maui paradise. It’s a warm, sunny climate with stunning scenery everywhere, and blue waters teeming with sea life. Even so, Maui is home to populations of people, animals, plants and places that need help.  If you’ve ever wanted to make your vacation about something more than recreation and relaxation, there are lots of activities that are interesting, stimulating, rewarding, fun AND give back to the communities that are often underserved or land in the shadows of big tourism.  Because #themoreyouknow…

IF YOU’RE AN ANIMAL LOVER

You can take a shelter dog to the beach for a day of out-of-the-kennel-and-into-the-sunshine fun by way of the Beach Buddies program at Maui Humane Society.  Because Maui has a limited adoption pool and pet overpopulation problem in an isolated and remote place on the globe, animals can wait a long time to find their forever homes.  Not only can you have a Maui dog for a day, you can also visit Maui’s cutest critters at the shelter, volunteer your time at one of MHS’s free spay/neuter clinics or stop by to take a tour and make a donation. Everything helps. Learn more.

IF YOU WANT TO END HUNGER

Maui’s COSTCO is one of the busiest locations in the United States.  When doors open at 10 AM, there’s often a line of people waiting that stretches out into the parking lot.  Because many COSTCO purchases are big purchases at a great value, many visitors end up with more food than they can consume during their time on Maui. There are multiple food drop off locations for you to donate unopened, non-perishable foods to Maui Food Bank. Learn more.

IF YOU WANT TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE THROUGHOUT THE ISLANDS

Charity Walk happens every May, and raises millions of dollars for charitable organizations all around Hawaii.

IF YOU LOVE READING OR MOVIES

Did you know that Maui has only one major book retailer on the island? You can make media and materials more accessible for all by donating any books, magazines, DVDs and other media that you’re not taking home with you to one of the three used bookstores operated by Maui Friends of the Library.  There’s even a super convenient location where you can donate and shop at the Queen Kaahumanu Center in Kahului. Learn more.

IF YOU LOVE THE OCEAN

Visit the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary in Kihei on your way to South Maui’s beautiful beaches. Not only will you learn more about the weather, the ocean and undersea life, you’ll have a beautiful view of the water and Haleakala. Learn more.

On the third Saturday of each month, you can join the Surfrider Foundation and a collection of Maui’s community groups to conduct Beach Cleanups. Learn more.

IF YOU WERE ON VACATION WITH CHILDREN

Did you buy toys, beach toys and larger or bulky baby/child supplies that you know you’re not able to pack? Donate these items to a Goodwill donation drop. There are four donation center collection centers to serve Maui. Learn more.

If you’re not able to give your time, talent or treasure to the places you visit, you can always do your part by limiting your environmental impact on the places you do visit.

  • Reduce, reuse, recycle.
  • Follow signs and instructions when visiting natural preserves.
  • Don’t walk or step on reefs.
  • Don’t bother or touch wildlife/sea life. Leave turtles and seals on the beaches alone. (There is a fine waiting for you if you don’t.)
  • Dispose of your garbage responsibly.
  • Respect the culture.
  • Bring or buy reusable shopping bags.
  • Respect park and private property boundaries.
  • Instead of using chemical blocks like sunscreen that bleaches and kills the coral reefs, use clothing and swimwear to protect your skin from the sun.
  • And, best of all, educate yourself on the challenges that face the places you love, even if you don’t live there. The problems that Hawaii faces are just like the ones you might know from your mainland hometown, but are often exacerbated by occurring in one of the most remote places in the world.

The Hawaiian Island chain contains some of the most extensive coral reefs found in the world. They are home to over 7,000 marine species, one quarter of which are found only in the Hawaiian Archipelago. Let’s keep Hawaii beautiful so that you and many future generations will be able to appreciate it again and again.

Dear Valentine: Aloha Means Love

Hawaii Travel, Rappel Maui No Comments »

heart-carabiners

When you visit any of the Hawaiian Islands, you’ll hear the Hawaiian word “aloha” almost at every turn. That’s because “aloha” means hello, goodbye, and perhaps most important, love.  Although you might not equate dangling yourself over a jungle cliff or waterfall with love or Valentine’s Day, many people tell us that their rappelling tour was one of the most romantic activities they’ve ever tried.  Why?

Challenges Bring People Together

Facing fears with the help and support of a partner in a safe environment is a powerful exercise that builds trust, opens communication and forges bonds in ways that don’t happen during dinner and a movie. Not to mention that unleashing your inner rock star is a way to see your partner and yourself in a new light. These couples from various age groups and walks of life all have lifelong memories to share.

The Rainforest is for Lovers

There’s no more romantic backdrop than the natural, raw beauty of the East Maui jungle. The dewy, green foliage, the gentle sounds of water and wildlife and the flowery fragrance in the air makes for the perfect setting for people with a fondness for nature and each other. Take it all in–together.

The Island is Quiet and Calm in February

With high season being summer time in Hawaii, February is not just quieter because there are fewer people visiting, but the weather is less volatile also. You can look forward to milder temperatures and less precipitation. Although there is some big surf and strong winds during the winter, these conditions don’t affect our tour.

You’ll Share Unique & Exciting Memories

“Remember the trip we took to Maui, when we dangled ourselves over waterfalls off the Road to Hana?” That’s a good story for the watercooler, the wedding or for the grandchildren. With stories like those, family and friends–no matter where you are–will want to hear the rest of it.  Bring your camera. Diamonds might be forever, but so are bragging rights. One newlywed told us that after he and his bride walked down the aisle on Maui, they wanted to walk down a waterfall.  “Can do,” we said.

How to Save Money on Maui

Hawaii Travel, Maui Facts, Rappel Maui, Tour Tips No Comments »

Maui’s beautiful sights are one well-known and often-discussed topic; another is the expense associated with traveling to Maui–one of the most remote places on Earth.  If you’re on a budget, budget-travel-hawaiiyou’ve noticed that everything, from food and accommodations to fuel and excursions, costs a little more than it does on the mainland. If you have some time to plan and shop wisely, you can save money and make more of your vacation to Hawaii’s unique destinations. You can check out the latest deals and discounts on Rappel Maui tours now.

Take the Road Less Traveled
Vendors off the beaten path are often able to offer better retail prices on items like groceries, clothing, souviners, swimwear, snorkel gear and more. Look for activity desks and sales agencies that are off the main drag. Google and TripAdvisor forums make this easier than ever.

Try Hotel-affiliated Activities–Even if You’re Not a Guest There
If you’re out of ideas, or if you’ve hit a streak of bad luck with the weather, resorts are a great place to get the ideas flowing. You likely won’t find deals at places like spas there, but you might find something fun to do at one of the activity desks. You don’t need to be a guest of the hotel to use the activity concierge or sales desk, and some desks can be more price-competitive than others. Larger resorts also offer indoor and outdoor classes, from flower arranging and hula, to fitness and surfing.  Some hotels also sell day passes to exclusive pool use.  Looking for a wacky, one-of-a-kind poolside experience? Try the Fishpipe at the Grand Wailea Resort in South Maui.  Some hotels and resorts will offer you discounts at a very steep discount if you attend a presentation.

Meet Two or More Goals with One Activity
Some activities are combinations by design, but there are many more that let you double up on the action by coincidence.  There are hike/kayak combo tours, cruise/snorkel tours, helicopter/hike tours, and more.  There are also tours that let you see sights as a bonus to taking the tour, as opposed to being the main attraction. For example, when you take a Rappel Maui tour, your transportation includes a drive down half of the famous Road to Hana and views of all of its scenic jewels before you even get to the main activity.

Exclusive, Online-Only Deals
Some of the more established or web-savvy tour operators will run specials on their activities that you wouldn’t know about unless you subscribed to their newsletter, or filled out a form at their web site. Take your time looking through an operator’s web site, and call or email to ask about accommodating your budget. You may also be able to buy coupon deals at third party sites, such as Yelp, Groupon and others. A reputable operator will let you easily and reliably unsubscribe from their sales communications.

Visiting During Certain Times of Year, and Booking Activities During Certain Times of Week or Day
Do you have flexibility when you travel? Look into visiting Hawaii during slower periods, when the demand for activities is less intense. Not only do you stand a chance of scoring a discount, but tour groups are usually less crowded during low season. On Maui, these times of year are usually in October, November, January and early February.  Certain days of the week can also be less busy than others. At Rappel Maui, lower volume days are usually Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. Find out which days cruise ships dock at an island’s harbor–these are usually higher volume days on an island in general.

Discounts for Volume
Are you able to round up a group of several participants? You might be able to get a volume discount if you book a group of greater than 5.

Look for Hidden (Muddy) Gems
It sounds strange, but consider activities that you didn’t know you wanted to try–like walking down a waterfall while suspended by a rope.  Because there are so many outdoor activities in Hawaii, there are probably some activities that you might not have known were activities.  Look for places and activities that are new or off the beaten path–literally. For example, you won’t find any big mainland-style water parks in Hawaii, but you will find natural freshwater water slides in the middle of a sugar cane field overlooking the Pacific Ocean that is only accessible by 4-wheel ATV.  If vacations are good for something, it should be for getting wet, muddy, and suntanned.

Last-minute Deals and Discounts
While you might be taking a chance with sold-out tours and limited availability, some operators will offer you a discount at the last minute, or for a less popular tour time.  If there is a tour time that’s discounted, ask if the time of day makes a difference in the quality of the experience.  Just keep in mind that most tours have a 48-hour cancellation policy.  Check policies carefully when booking any tour.

If All Else Fails, Try Asking
If you call a tour company and ask if there is a discounted rate on any tour, what’s the worst that can happen?