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Four Steps to Writing a Helpful Review About Your Travel Experiences

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Online-Reviews-5-starsAfter buying or consuming just about anything, the Internet hands us with a megaphone through which to share our experience with–potentially–the world.  In hospitality and travel, it’s TripAdvisor, Yelp, Gogobot and the like that receive the lion’s share of sharing. (And sometimes oversharing.)  One could argue that the whole point of the exercise of review writing is being helpful to others; to give those who have no previous experience the benefit of your discoveries, victories, and mistakes. It can also help the hotel, restaurant, service or activity operator improve upon its offering.

In that spirit, here are a few tips for doing your part before you drop the mic.

1. Your expectations and desires represent some percentage of others’ expectations and desires.
Your sister wanted a doll for her birthday. You wanted a pony.  Sometimes, our adult travel experiences are still like that.  If you had expectations that weren’t met during your vacation, spell out what happened.  “I was expecting Mr. Rourke and Tattoo to greet me at the entrance, but when I got there, it was Schneider opening the door.” (You’re welcome, ’70s TV fans.)

2. Grinding your axe may or may not help others.
We’ve all read reviews by people who were scorned, not by a place or an experience, but by someone rude.  Sure, it bears mentioning, but you may be doing yourself and others more of a favor by airing your grievance directly with the establishment. When you call or write an employer directly about an encounter you’ve had, the establishment has a better chance of preventing a repeat performance. That’s especially true if your experience happened at a place that employs, say, hundreds of people.  Getting on the horn with the person or people in charge may take a little more effort, but if you want to make a difference, it’s better than shouting into cyberspace.

3. Balance facts and opinions.
Part of the magic of being on vacation is that your satisfaction, and your opinion, matter.  You’re the customer, and the customer’s right. Right?  Sure, AND it’s also the smartest reviews that include both the subjective and hard evidence.  Did you feel like housekeeping could have done more to tidy up your accommodations?  Make mention that your unit with 2 adults and 2 kids received a full service cleaning only twice during your 10-day stay.  Did you feel like the management didn’t care about your complaint? If so, what exactly did you ask for, and what was provided, when?

4. Include reviews by proxy–a little. 
What did you hear other people on your tour say?  You may have considered a walk with a lot of sun exposure on a hot day a negative, but the couple on the tour who had just endured four months of a Midwest polar vortex felt quite a bit differently. If you like to rough it, but you were traveling with a couple of neatnicks, include a few blurbs about what would have made them happy. Include some snippets of what you heard from your tour mates or others nearby.

Writing a review that does its job is an art and a science; what matters most is your sincerity and honesty.  Mahalo for doing your part to make the Internet a place where there’s a healthy mix of cat pictures and useful information.

What is Canyoneering and Rappelling?

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q&aAnother Frequently Asked Question we get from a lot of first-timers who are interested in taking a tour, but are new to rappelling and canyoneering in general is, of course:  What exactly IS canyoneering, anyway?

We’re glad you asked!  The simplest description of canyoneering is: The exploration of canyons.  To go a little more in-depth, let’s take a page (literally) from Canyoneering: A Guide to Techniques for Wet and Dry Canyons, second edition, by our own David Black. (pp. xi, 1-2.) First off, a canyon is a deep, narrow valley or chasm with steep sides or cliff walls that have been carved and shaped by moving water. (For you trivia fans, a gorge is usually steeper and narrower than a canyon.) The exploration of a canyon (and descending/ascending it) may require any number of activities, such as hiking, scrambling, jumping, sliding, rappelling, and swimming.  In North America, there is a vague distinction between “canyoning” and “canyoneering,” but more often than not, the terms are used interchangeably, with “canyoning” being the favored term in English-speaking countries outside the United States.  Other names for canyoneering include “kloofing” (S. Africa) and the Welsh phrase”cerdded ceunant.” One thing that separates canyoneering from hiking is equipment, such as ropes and harnesses.  It can be summarized as a hybrid of rock climbing, hiking, river running, and wilderness skills. For those of you who are wondering, we keep our canyoneering day tours on the recreational side. There is some hiking and swimming during the tour, but no technical rock climbing,  navigating or camping.   

 Canyoneering in America is at least several hundred years old, but during the late 20th century, canyoneering became popular with aging climbers who had the skills and penchant for exploring some of the world’s loneliest places.  Word spread via guidebooks and the media, and by 2000, canyoneering was one of the fastest growing adventure sports.

You can sample a tasty morsel of canyoneering during  a Rappel Maui day tour. These are recreational experiences for the uninitiated and experienced alike, and last about 6 hours. The tour is great for those looking for a unique outdoor activity that weds incredible tropical scenery with excitement and fun.  It’s great for families, couples, groups, conferences and solo travelers.  Learn more online or call us at 808.270.1500 7 AM-7 PM any day of the week to ask your own questions.

For a deeper dive into the principles and practices of canyoneering, take a one-day or multi-day class in canyoneering.  These are led by master guide Dave Black, and take place in a wet rainforest canyon on Maui.  Classes cover the full range of canyoneering subject matter, with lots of hands-on practice, from introductory to advanced, plus the availability of specialty classes in wilderness rescue and first aid.  Have something special in mind?  Learn more about canyoneering classes here or call 808.270.1500.

How Much Does it Cost to Go Rappelling on Maui?

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q&aFrom the Frequently Asked Questions series, here’s one we get all the time:  “How much does it cost to take a jungle waterfall rappelling adventure?”

RECREATIONAL DAY TOUR

The price is $219 plus $9.12 tax per person. Price includes round trip transportation from Central Maui meeting location, lunch, bottled water and all equipment (including a backpack with dry keg for your smaller water-sensitive items, special footwear and helmet.) We can provide South Maui resort pickup and return for a minimum of 2 people. The cost is an additional $25 per person, plus tax.  West Maui resort pickup is available for a minimum of 2 people, and is $35 per person plus tax. Call to ask about pickup and return times or see the list of resort transportation times and pickup locations.

If you would like to tip your guides at the end of the tour, bring cash with you, or call us to ask about sending your gratuity by check or credit card.  Call us to ask about kama ‘aina rates and other deals, including applying a Shaka Gold Club discount when booking online or over the phone.

CANYONEERING CLASSES

If you want to actually “learn the ropes,” so to speak, take a look at these opportunities to take a canyoneering class with master guide and longtime canyoneering expert, Dave Black.  These instructional one-day or multi-day lessons provide first-time, beginning, intermediate or advanced explorers with a deeper dive into techniques, skills and principles that provide a solid foundation in the sport and practice of canyoneering.

Introduction to Canyoneering Prices

Group class: $200 plus $8.33 tax.

Private class:
$700 plus $29.17 tax per day for up to 2 participants.
$800 plus 33.34 tax per day for up to 4 participants.  Add additional participants for $200 plus $8.33 tax per person.

Learn more

3-Day Technical Canyoneering

Group class:  $500 plus $20.84 tax.

Private class:
$700 plus $29.17 tax per day for up to 2 participants.
$800 plus 33.34 tax per day for up to 4 participants. Add additional participants for $200 plus $8.33 tax per person.

Learn more

3-Day Advanced Canyoneering

Group class: $500 plus $20.84 tax.

Private class: $700 plus $29.17 tax per day for up to 2 participants.
$800 plus 33.34 tax per day for up to 4 participants.  Add additional participants for $200 plus $8.33 tax per person.

Learn more

The Basics of Taking a Rappel Maui Tour

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Guided LandingThe Young and the Restless

The minimum age for joining a Rappel Maui Tour is 10, and many families tell us that a rappelling tour was the perfect activity for their active tweens and teens.  We keep the rules simple: Minors must be accompanied on the tour by a responsible adult, and have their parent or legal guardian sign the necessary forms beforehand.  Ask us for more information by calling 808.270.1500 or sending in the contact form at our web site.

Weighty Matters

The maximum limit on weight is 250 pounds, or about 115 kilograms.  Since you’re wearing a harness, we’ll ask you if your waist measures between 22 and 54 inches. If a member of your party measures smaller than 22 inches and is 10 years or older, we can fit them with a child’s harness.  To ask questions about weight or size restrictions, just call us between the hours of 7 AM and 7 PM Hawaii Standard Time.

pedicureThe Bold and the Beautiful

It’s going to rain in the rainforest, and, if you’ve signed up for a waterfall rappelling tour, you know you’re going to get wet anyway.  Out there in nature, we can encounter all kinds of weather, terrain and conditions.  That means it’s a smart idea to prepare yourself to mingle with the mud a little, or at least get a little messy. You will also encounter natural, wild terrain.  Some of the rocks and walls are sharp, and some drops are home to branches, shrubs and sharp sticks.  That means that you might snag or tear your clothing, should you take an unexpected swing or sway into the walls.  Wear clothing that can take a beating, and save your mani-pedi spa appointment for the next day–you’re going home with dirt under your nails and a chip or two in your polish.  Because safety is the top priority, you’ll wear your helmet during the entire tour, minus the ride to and from the trails.scarlett at the falls

Gravity Happens

You’ll wear special rappelling footwear–a rubber bootie with a felt sole–that’s designed to grip the wet rocks.  And you’ll have a guide on belay who will keep you from making a dangerous descent should you lose control of your rope.  However, the laws of gravity are still at work, which is why we remind you to take these and other precautions:

  • When hiking, pay attention to the trail for obstacles and stumbling blocks.
  • Keep everything in the backpack provided to keep your hands free at all times.
  • If you don’t love swimming, ask for a personal flotation device.
  • Walk slowly and carefully in shallow water when you aren’t able to see the bottom.
  • When you’re hiking a section of trail with an exposed edge, you’ll clip your harness into anchored ropes.
  • If you are not great at rock-hopping or stone-stepping, ask for a steadying hand from your guide, and make three or more points of contact with the ground when you’re likely to be not-so-sure-footed.  (That means putting one or both hands on low rocks or the ground to steady yourself as you move your feet.)

Members of The Cold Feet Club

It’s not just a cliche; that first step really is a doozy!  It takes courage, attention, and a healthy dose of desire (for first-timers especially) to take that first backward step from nice, level horizontal ground, over the edge of a vertical drop.  That’s why, sometimes, it just doesn’t happen for everybody every time.  Some tour-takers decide not to rappel every drop; others end up as observers, forgoing the rappelling altogether.  Just as you are in control of your descent when you do rappel, you are in control of whether you do the rappelling or not. There’s no forcing, no pressure–you’re on vacation!  If you decide to watch from the sidelines, one of your guides will walk you to the bottom of the drop, where you’ll wait for the rest of the party to make their rappels. You can swim, take photos, grab a bite of the snack in your pack, and enjoy the scenery of the trails while you wait.

Tardy for the Party?

When making your reservation, look for an email afterward that confirms your reservation and explains what to bring, what to wear, and where the transportation meeting location is.  Take a look at the directions and map to the meeting location. If you’re very unfamiliar with Maui, map the location the day before your tour.  If you get lost en route, call 808.270.1500 for directions as you go.   Please note that the tour time is the time that the van departs the park and ride location in central Maui. If you know you’re running late, call us right away so that we can communicate with the guides providing transportation.

What’s the Best Way to Book a Rappel Maui Tour?

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Elvis-on-the-Phone-31Today we’ll answer a question we’re usually asked after speaking to people who call to ask about rappelling tour availability. “How should I book my Rappel Maui tour?” Thanks for asking!

If you know exactly when you want to go, and when, booking your rappelling adventure tour online is convenient, quick and easy.  After booking by any means, you’ll receive a confirmation by email with instructions about what to wear and where to meet us, followed by a reminder in your email inbox a few days before your tour.

If you have questions or special considerations (“Can I get hotel pickup?” or “I’m very allergic to bee stings” or “Can I take the tour if I don’t know how to swim?”) call us at 808.270.1500 to talk about it.  You can also book online with your detailed notes in the comments section. By the way, the answer to “Can I rappel while wearing my Elvis costume?” is “We hope so.”)  We answer the bat phone from 7 AM-7 PM, 7 days a week.
Hey, what time is it in Hawaii, anyway?

If you want to book through your resort concierge, that’s OK too, although you might want to start scheduling farther in advance during the summer months, when tours fill up quickly.

Finally, if you want us to get in touch with you at your convenience, just send us a request that tells us when the time is right.

How to Prepare for a Safe Day of Rappelling on Maui

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While a Rappel Maui tour is a thrilling but safe activity, there are some natural hazards that exist out in the rainforest. The good news is, with just a little thought and planning, these common risks can be easily minimized and mitigated.

prepared-not-scaredInsects:  While there are mosquitoes in the rainforest, there is no malaria or dengue fever.  If you are particularly sensitive to bites, we recommend wearing pants and a long-sleeved rash guard.  We don’t recommend bug spray, since DEET can damage rappelling gear, and put chemicals into the rainforest streams.

What’s in the Water:  Sometimes longer expeditions take a turn for the worse when canyoneers fail to properly filter or purify their water from natural sources.  Avoiding waterborne illness is easy–don’t drink the water from the streams or falls.  Since there’s plenty of bottled water on your Rappel Maui tour, there’s no reason to do so.

Temperature: Getting too cold or too hot is a common show-stopper for canyoneers from Maine to Hawaii. If you know that you are prone to hypothermia or hyperthermia, plan and act accordingly. Don’t stay in the water if you find it very cold, and bring a rashguard or even a wetsuit top or wetsuit if you know you get too cold too quickly in chilly water.  Drink plenty of water and cool off in the pools if you’re feeling too warm.  Eat a good breakfast and hydrate yourself before your tour. Bring towels and a dry change of clothing with you so that you can return in comfort after a day in the water and/or rain.

Rockfall: Rocks can and do move about in the water, especially when water levels rise rapidly.  They can also be loosened on dry land by a number of factors, including climate.  In this case, we don’t recommend “using your head.”  Helmets save lives, and that’s why everyone wears a helmet, every day we go out, for the duration of the tour. No exceptions.  Listen to your guides always, who will be watching for loose debris.  Lean into the slope and look down (not up) if you hear someone yell, “Rock!”

Swiftwater and Flash Floods: When water levels are high, or there is a threat of flash flooding, we stay out of the streams and waterfalls.  We do dry rappels next to or overlooking the roaring falls on these days, the sights and sounds of which are unforgettable.

The Road to Hana: While we don’t drive you all the way to Hana from the pickup location, we do take the infamous Road to Hana about halfway there. It’s about an hour from the pickup location in Central Maui to the rappelling site, and so if you are prone to car sickness, please do let us know in advance.  There are a few measures we can take to make sure that you’re comfortable at the beginning and end of your epic tour.

There are other hazards associated with canyoneering in general, but there are some that simply won’t apply to you on a Rappel Maui tour.

Hunters and Land Owners:  Since we rappel with permission in a privately-owned valley, we don’t have to worry about angry farmers, ranchers, or Dick Cheney.

Wildlife:  The birds mind their own business, and the freshwater fish are so tiny, you need a little net to catch them. There are chickens and ducks nearby that belong to the arboretum, but they’re more like pets.  There are no snakes, bears, wolves or coyotes. Further, Hawaii is a rabies-free state.

Do you want to talk about your own personal preparation plan? We have our listening ears on from 7 AM-7 PM every day. Call 808.270.1500 or let your fingers do the typing at our Contact page

How Safe is Rappelling a Waterfall?

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keep_calm_rappel_square_sticker_3_x_3Sometimes during the same phone call with the person who asks, “How scary is rappelling?” we’re asked, “Is rappelling down a waterfall safe?”
The short answer is, “When you rappel with us, yes!”  The fact is that rappelling is safer than a regular hike down a hiking trail, and as you can read below, safer than the beach.  The 2 guides per 8 guests personalized attention and supervision, safety equipment, and nature of the activity all make a rainforest rappelling tour one of the safest activities on Maui.  Here are some other reasons why a rappelling tour is safe:

Natural vs. Man-Made Hazards

As with any outdoor sport, there are some common hazards and risks associated with canyoneering and rappelling. There are natural hazards, which are limited in number, and include things like rockfall, weather and swift-water current.  All of these dangers can be sensed, monitored or noticed in some way.

And then there are man-made or self-inflicted hazards that are brought on by some failure on the canyoneer’s part. These are much more subtle and numerous, and can include things like inadequate information about the environment, substandard gear, lack of expertise, and many, many other lapses in judgment and behavior.

Rappelling and canyoneering become dangerous when natural hazards, which are always potentially present, meet up with self-inflicted hazards.  In other words, a rappelling team can be its own worst enemies or its own best friends in any adventure.

Your New Best Friends: You, Your Gear and Your Guide Team

When we take new or old friends rappelling, our first safety advantage is the environment. Since we rappel in the same location every day, there are no new routes or anchors to assess, and therefore, there are few surprises.

We already knowCaptain & Clark May, 2014 what the path is like because it’s explored and maintained daily.  When routes change due to weather or water, we close the route until either we can change it, or it has returned to its previous, normal state.

We also know that you don’t go rappelling every day. That’s why there are two guides assigned to each person who’s rappelling: One at the top to get you started, and one at the bottom who’s there as your backup on the brakes, should you fail to brake properly with your rope.  It’s uncommon, but in the even of a mid-descent freak-out or freeze-up, the top guide can pull you or help you back up to the top.

If you’re not the greatest swimmer, make sure you communicate that to your guides. We’ll provide you with a personal floatation device, and we can also provide you with a dry keg in your backpack, which adds additional buoyancy. The guide at the bottom of the falls can make sure that you make it across the pond in good shape.  It’s only a few minutes worth of dog-paddling to the other side.

We know what kind of gear is necessary, and we use and carefully maintain the best gear every time, for everyone.  Whether it’s because of falling rock or stumbling while hiking any surface, we all wear helmets. Helmets save lives.

Your guide team is well-trained and practiced in communicating with each other both verbally and non-verbally using some of the same methods rescue personnel and military units have used for year, decades, centuries.

Many of the hazards canyoneers face in other environments simply aren’t present when we guide our rappelling tours. Again, the rainforest canyon we rappel is visited and monitored every day.

Because the valley we’re visiting is privately owned, we don’t have to worry about trespassing and angering a farmer or rancher.  We already have permission to do our thing.

Rattlesnakes are the bane of many a mountain climber and canyoneer. Luckily, we don’t have snakes in Hawaii, nor are there rabies, malaria or dengue fever.

We conduct tours rain or shine–there will be rain in the rainforest.  But lightning is extremely rare on Maui, and when the rain causes the waterfalls to practically erupt, we rappel existing routes that are near them or overlooking them, so that we can enjoy the excitement of the roaring falls without endangering anyone’s safety. When the water is swift or high, we don’t rappel in it and we don’t swim.

To learn more about some common environmental hazards, how we mitigate them, and how you can prepare for them, check out the post How to Prepare for a Day of Safe Rappelling on Maui.

How the Risks of Rappelling Compare to a Very Common Maui Activity

dangeroussurfWho visits Maui without going in the ocean? That would be crazy, right? Yet there are many more unexpected hazards in the ocean environment, and an overall lack of guidance for those who haven’t spent their lives in the surf. Remember,  you can’t get stung by a jellyfish or bitten by a shark on a rappelling trip.  You won’t get overrun by a surfboard, you won’t step on a spiny sear urchin (the dreaded “wana”), and you won’t get raked over coral by a wave you didn’t see coming.  You’re even less likely to get sunburned in the rainforest environment.  Yet not many people ask, “Is it safe to go in the ocean?”

On a very serious note, Hawaii emergency services and hospitals are plagued with a regular influx of people who have broken or damaged their vertebrae while body surfing, boogie boarding, or just standing in the waves.  Hawaii lifeguards are some of the best in the world, but the ocean is big and the surf is serious, unpredictable business. There are far more swimmers, surfers and kayakers than lifeguards, and unlike a rappelling tour, there is simply no way for them to help each person manage the natural hazards that exist, or the lack of knowledge about the power of the surf.

Safety is our first priority. We don’t do surprises.  When the water is too high or swift, we don’t go in it.  Our equipment, gear and anchor systems are checked and re-checked daily.  Our guides come to the job with years of experience, and receive ongoing training and education from renowned instructors.

Finally, it’s up to you to be your own best advocate, not just for your safety, but for your own enjoyment. Ask questions; be communicative. If you don’t understand or aren’t satisfied with an answer, it’s OK. We’re in no hurry.  Rappel Maui tour sizes are small so that each person can receive very specialized, personal attention from start to finish.  Listening to your guides and focusing on their instructions keeps everyone safe. And, if you decide that it’s not for you, you’re never obligated or forced to rappel once you’re at the edge. If that’s the case, you can continue on the tour as a hiker without having to leave the tour altogether.

But be forewarned:  Focusing on the experience and taking a rappel down a rainforest waterfall on Maui can induce intense feelings of accomplishment and satisfaction, with the possibility of wanting to do it again.

Are you still curious about safety and the other details of a Rappel Maui tour? That’s great! We encourage your questions, since it gives you a chance to prepare for the experience, and therefore get the most from it.  You can read more here at the blog about tour details, or, call us at 808.270.1500 7 AM-7 PM, 7 days a week.

How Scary is Rappelling?

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“So, I just have a question,” the person on the other end of the phone says, “how scary is rappelling?” That’s a tricky question, given that there are different kinds of scary, and the fear factor in any adventure is personal. If you want to know for yourself, read on, or call us at 808.270.1500 to talk about your day.  You can also see firsthand what Audrina Patridge thought of her first rappelling trip when she and the show 1st Look came to visit.

Rappel Maui-Glori takes on waterfall rappel like proWhat Kind of Scary Can You Expect–and Not Expect?
It’s NOT haunted house-scary. There are no “gotchas” in a Rappel Maui tour–and we keep it that way on purpose, no surprises.
It’s NOT unsafe-scary. We don’t take risks with equipment, best practices or behavior. Period.
It’s NOT prison camp-scary. There are no snakes, no rabies, no malaria, no dengue fever. There’s plenty of bottled water to drink, snacks to eat, and hand sanitizer/running water at the picnic area.
It’s NOT amusement park-scary. Unlike a roller coaster ride or even a zip line, rappelling is not a ride that happens to you. Once you begin your descent, you’re in control of the action and the pace. You’re the boss, with your guide team there if you don’t know what to do, or need a hand.
DO expect to feel the kind of scared that comes with doing something exciting, thrilling, that you don’t do everyday. Like walking down a tropical rainforest waterfall on one of the most remote islands on Earth, for example.
If you are feeling afraid at first, DO expect to feel a sense of accomplishment and invincibility afterward. Like you faced your fears and conquered them.

Rappelling Realness
You may not look graceful during all of your rappels. You may want to take a “do over” before you feel like you’ve got your ninja moves down.
Rappelling down natural, wild terrain may cause a broken nail, a scraped shin or some bruised skin. We’ve seen our friends show these off later, while telling and retelling stories about their epic day. We heard one young photographer say, “Mom, turn so that your scratch shows.”
The outdoors are messy; you may find the water chilly–or exhilarating. You will wear unusual equipment, get wet and gritty, and stay that way for a few hours. You might not look good in a helmet. You might follow a 10-year old who looks like a circus-performing monkey on her first rappel ever. Those are the realities of taking on one of the best adventures on the island. Let’s say that the “scary” stuff dissipates for most people long before everyone is finishing their dessert cookie at lunch.

What to Expect When You’re Rappelling

You will feel excitement from your surroundings and the experience. There’s the roar of the falls, the birds and breezes in the trees, the sensation of intense sun or soft shade of the tree canopy. Your senses will be stimulated. If the cliff exposure or the heights are turning your adrenaline up to 11, tell your guides; they are experts in focusing energy in the right direction. And you’ll find the built-in support of others on your tour, even if they are complete strangers, surprisingly inspiring.

Best Bets For Good Times
DO try to relax. Take photos and videos for sharing later.
DON’T worry about being inexperienced. We cater to people who don’t do this every day; that’s why the very best in the business are on the team.
DO listen up, look around, laugh out loud.
You can do this!

Honolulu Star Advertiser Reviews Rappel Maui

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We are the featured “local” travel article in Sunday’s June 8th newspaper.

The reporter writes: “It’s an activity just about everyone can do.”

First page 2nd

Great Press . . . fun photos.

In The Press, Rappel Maui, Rappelling Tour No Comments »

The Maui Visitors Bureau wants to show writers the best Maui has to offer, so they often send travel writers, bloggers and reporters rappelling with us. Weʻre the new tour on island and definitely the most adventuresome. And, our valley is gorgeous. Our latest trio are photographer JD Andrews, travel writing bloggers “Captain” Chris Staudinger and Tawny Clark. All three seemed thrilled by their day with us.

Here are a few items they posted to their various accounts (Facebook, Google, Instagram, etcetera). 

JD Andrews, photog May, 2014

Renowned photographer JD Andrews

JD Andrews 5.2014 Captain & Clark 5.2014

Quirky and well-read travel bloggers “Captain” Chris Staudinger and Tawny Clark.

Captain & Clark May, 2014