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How to Book Activities & Tours in Hawaii

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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.

How Does Weather Affect a Rappel Maui Tour?

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WHEN IS THE WEATHER WET IN HAWAII?

Some recent weather history on the Hawaiian Islands: the summer of 2015 was a very active one. It marked one of the strongest El Niño patterns in recorded history, which meant that warmer water temperatures along the equator brought higher numbers of tropical storms and hurricanes across the Pacific Ocean. El Niño was blamed for other strange weather patterns on the mainland that winter. There was flooding in some parts of the world, and severe drought conditions in others well into the spring of 2016. Here in Hawaii, the storm activity that crept across the Central Pacific made for noticeably wet weather. In 2016, that spring and summer never dried up; the moderate to heavy rains continued for the rest of the year, with some areas of the island receiving twice as much rain as usual. In early 2017, the weather began to settle into a more normal pattern; however, the weather in the rainforest is very unpredictable. If you are wondering what the weather is going to be like during your scheduled tour date, you may have to wait until 48 hours before your tour, unless a larger front, system or tropical storm is forecast. Also keep in mind, weather can vary wildly from shore to shore. It’s common for the weather in Kaanapali to be dramatically different from the weather in Haiku.  We can tell you how much rain has fallen or is expected at the activity site within the next few days.

WHAT DO WE DO WHEN IT RAINS?

A near-falls descent.

When heavy rain falls over the northern part of the island, it impacts Rappel Maui tours in a few ways.  We operate rain or shine, and we tell all of our guests to expect at least a little rain, even if it’s a few minutes of mist. There is frequently rain in the rainforest, and it’s evident from how lush and green the surroundings are at the activity location that is just a few miles from one of the wettest parts of the island: Hana. If heavy rains or prolonged periods of steady rains cause the streams to swell to levels that are unsafe for swimming, we operate the classic tour on a normal schedule and use alternative rappel stations that are a safe distance from the water course. Sometimes those stations are right next to the waterfall flow, ending in the ponds, and other times, when the falls are roaring and raging, we use jungle walls and cliffs that are farther away from the stream flow. The times when we do not operate due to weather is when extreme conditions cause road closures, landslides or widespread outages.

SAFETY FIRST

The main role of your guides is to make sure that everyone has a safe and enjoyable day. Safety is their first priority, and a generous portion of their attention is spent on looking out for one of the least forgiving dangers of rappelling: flash flooding. There are times when the water in the streams is not high or swift, and there’s blue sky above. Danger is not obvious to the average guest, but the guides opt to use rappel stations not directly in the water course. What gives? The local papers are full of accounts of visitors and locals alike getting stranded–or much worse–after seemingly safe conditions turned ugly within the period of a few seconds. When guests ask guides what made them veer from the preference of using the waterfalls, there’s usually a good reason based on ground saturation, the weather upstream, and river gauge readings taken before the tour began. Guides don’t take chances with your safety or theirs; if invisible dangers change your tour, and you’re unsatisfied or concerned, please call the reservations line to talk about your personal experience.  And if you’re ever interested in seeing for yourself what can happen when untrained explorers are caught off guard, this video and accompanying story is an excellent cautionary tale.

 

Choosing a Rappel Maui Tour

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Now there are two tours to choose from: The Classic Rappel Tour and the Extreme Zip Rappel Tour. Not sure which tour is right for you? Compare tours below, or call us at 808-445-6407 or chat with us online to tell us exactly what you’re looking for, including the availability of private custom tours.

 Classic Rappel TourExtreme Zip Rappel Tour
DurationApprox. 6.5 hoursApprox. 8 hours
Number of Rappels34 or more
Waterfall Rappels?
(Water level permitting)
YesYes
Lunch Included?YesYes
Climbing Included?NoYes
Weight RestrictionMinimum 70 lbs, maximum 250 lbs. Waist must measure between 22 and 54 inches.Minimum 80 lbs, maximum 230 lbs. Waist must measure between 22 and 54 inches.
Intended for Ages10 and up14 to 65
Price Per Person$219 plus tax$279 plus tax
Days OfferedDailyThree tours per week

How to Save Money on Maui

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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?

What Happens If…: A Guide for the Unsure

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Many of our guests tell us that their waterfall rappels changed their lives. We hear things like, “I feel so accomplished. Invincible!” And then they often also tell us that, while they were doing this crazy thing, they were also feeling pretty scared.  Such is the curious paradox that is a Rappel Maui waterfalls adventure. Sometimes the fun is in the fear. Go figure.

Our guides, the ones keeping everyone safe while they voluntarily step off the edge of a 50-foot wall of water, also feel like they get something from the experience. Longtime Rappel Maui rock star Rich says that the time he invests in working with someone who’s “feeling the fear and doing it anyway” is even more rewarding than guiding those who are naturally good at taking charge of the rope.  So here are the answers to some of those “what if” questions we’re asked by those who are not sure that they have the right stuff.  To ask your own “what if” questions, call us at 808-445-6407 or chat live online with us by visiting the home page of our web site.

What happens if I change my mind?Rappel Maui Safety

If you find yourself at the top of a cliff and decide that you’d rather not rappel down one or all descents, you can still remain with your group. You can take hiking trails instead of rappelling, and enjoy the streams, pools and surroundings while the others in your party make their drops.

What happens if I let go of the rope?

If you happen to accidentally throw a starfish pose with “jazz hands” during one of your rappels, you will remain in place until you’re able to get your hands back on the rope, and your exaggerated facial expressions under control. Listen to your guides, and follow their instructions for continuing onward and downward. Pro tip: Wait until you’re on level ground to use your jazz hands. What you do with your facial expressions is totally up to you, but we recommend keeping it natural, happy and relaxed.

What happens if my 10-year-old is better at rappelling than I am?

This frequently happens to families with budding adventurists who are eager to make friends with gravity. If one of your children is a natural canyoneer, consider sending him or her to a canyoneering class during your next visit.

Safety is our top priority. Check out some of the ways a rappelling tour is safe, or call, email or chat for specifics. We’re ready to field your questions every day of the year from 7 AM to 7 PM Hawaii time.

Five Reasons Why Rappelling is the Perfect Rainy Day Activity on Maui

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If you’re visiting Hawaii in January, February or even March, there’s a good chance that you’ll experience some of the island’s cooler, wetter weather.  During some of these winter months, there’s even some snowfall at the top of the Big Island’s and Maui’s volcanic peaks. If you just spent a hefty sum to flee your frozen hometown for a week, no one can blame you for craving the sunny tropical beaches of Hawaii.  But if you’ve got a few soggy, gloomy days in front of you, take heart: We’ve got the perfect rainy day outdoor activity for you while you’re on Maui.

What Makes Rainforest Rappelling Such a Great All-Weather Go-To Tour?

1. Your destination is a rainforest canyon.

With so many outdoor activities on the island being weather dependent, we’re one of the few tours that can safely operate in virtually any kind of weather. That’s why one of the first things we say is: Rain or shine, we go.  How is this possible? Your tour is designed to take place in a rainforest canyon; that means that when it’s raining, you’re witnessing the jungle at its best and most normal state. It’s beautiful, it’s fragrant, it’s cool and it’s natural. When you see it you’ll know where the saying “right as rain” comes from. You’ll have time to listen to the pitter-patter of the drops falling on the plants and trees while the birds sing along.  When other tours must close up shop when high wind and high surf advisories threaten the island, we take you to a secluded area tucked into a snug valley protected by natural cliffs and rainforest canopy.  The weather on the windward side of the island is volatile and unpredictable, yes, but during the winter months, it can be some of the best weather on the island. Will you get wet? Yes, but…

2. You’re going to get wet anyway.

Anyone signing up to go waterfall rappelling is signing up to get wet. Whether that water is falling from the sky or the 50-cliff in front of you, it’s pretty much all the same stuff. This is outdoor adventure. Unless you’ve shown up in a business suit, the rain makes a pleasant sight and sensation that takes a lot of people back to a time when they thought it was fun to play in the rain. And it is!

3. It’s easy to get comfortable.

When it’s rainy, breezy or foggy, you’ll likely get fewer mosquito bites. When it’s sunny and hot, the waterfalls and pools make the perfect place for some chill time. When it’s chilly, a long-sleeved rash guard or wetsuit top under your flotation jacket is just the ticket for staying toasty, and there’s plenty of time for you to remove or add layers as conditions change.  After your tour, you can towel off and change into some fresh togs in one of the private on-site changing rooms. Ask your guide for some warm air in the van on the way back if you’re still feeling chilly.

4. It’s the most unique rainy day activity ever.

Anyone can go to the movies or stay inside when it’s rainy. It takes courage and savvy to take advantage of what most people would call “bad weather.” Going rappelling when everyone else is wandering around the lobby isn’t just making lemonade out of lemons, it’s making lifetime memories out of a rainy day. Embrace it!

5. Your bragging rights are irrevocable.

Hawaii is one of the most remote places on the Earth, with 10 of the 13 climate zones, and more endemic plant and animal species than you can shake a stick at. Not only were you here, a place where one island is getting bigger every second and a whole new island is brewing under the ocean’s surface, but you perched yourself at the top of a 6-story cliff and safely stepped off the edge.  You faced fears, danced with gravity and made new friends. You rocked it.  When most people return from vacation, they say, “I need to go on a diet.” What will you say?

What to Wear on a Rappel Maui Tour in Wet or Cooler Weather

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This long-sleeved rash guard plus life jacket is great for staying toasty in rainy, cool winter weather.

This long-sleeved rash guard plus life jacket is great for staying toasty in rainy, cool winter weather.

During the winter months, the weather can get rainy and cool on Maui.  Since we operate tours rain or shine, that means you may (or may not) want to adjust your rappel tour attire.  You’ll still wear the special footwear that we provide you. It’s a rubber booty with a felt sole that’s designed for traversing wet rocks and muddy surfaces, and keeps your feet and ankles protected while you’re rappelling and swimming.   But your best bet for preparing yourself for a day in the elements is to know yourself.

If you know that you’re sensitive to cold water, consider bringing some special items with you, such as a wetsuit top or a diving fleece top or pants.  (If, once you get a visual on the conditions at the rappelling site, you decide you don’t need them, you can leave them in the van or the supply shed.) You can usually rent these at your nearby dive shop, or you can occasionally buy them at Maui’s own COSTCO.  If you’re not sure about making a special trip to the dive shop or mall, wear a sleeved rash guard or quick-dry tee shirt (pictured, right). Paired with your personal flotation jacket, this is a great combo for staying warm in rainy, cool winter weather.

If you want to really maximize your thermal comfort, bring with you a small towel and/or tee shirt, and stow them in a plastic waterproof bag, such as a Ziplock. (Double-bag them for insurance.) You can keep these with you in the dry keg that’s provided with a backpack, which you can then use to dry off and warm up after a waterfall rappel. Since you’ll have some time in between rappels, this is when you’re most likely to–literally–chill out.  Remember that you’ll have an opportunity to warm up by way of exercise during the brief workout at the end of your rappels. It’s the climb back up to the top that we refer to as The Stairmaster.

Make sure to bring a dry, warm change of clothing with you. If you know that it takes you a while to warm up after a day in the elements, think layers: Shorts, sweatpants, tee shirt, hoodie, maybe some socks. After lunch and a ride back to the dryer, sunnier side of the island, you’ll be right as rain. Have more questions about other nuances of a Rappel Maui tour? Phones are all the way live from 7 AM to 7 PM, 7 days a week.  Call us to talk story anytime.

Getting to and From the Tour Location: Transportation Options

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 If You’re Using the Central Maui Meeting Location

Your guides will meet you in a large, white passenger van clearly marked “Rappel Maui,” usually in Central Maui, near the Ma’alaea Harbor at a small park & ride lot near the intersection of highways 310 (also called North Kihei Road) and highway 30.  Of course it’s possible to take a taxi or shuttle service to the meeting location.  Ask your concierge or activity agent for more information about availability and rates. Most guests will drive a rental car to the meeting locatiguides and van2on, and park it for the day. It bears repeating that you should not leave valuables in your parked car; either leave them at your accommodations, or take them with you on the tour.  Your guides will equip you with a backpack and a dry keg for keeping the smaller items your bring with you safe and dry.

If you are driving your rental car to the meeting spot, or are requesting taxi or shuttle service, you can find the directions and map here. You’ll also find them in your email inbox upon your reservation.  Note that, unless we otherwise notify you, the time of your trip is the van departure time from the meeting area. Arrive 10 minutes early to leisurely gather your things and board the van.  Tour times are at 8, 9:30 and 11:30 AM daily, based on availability.

Please call us at 808.270.1500 to ask about alternative transportation, including:

  • South Maui Hotel/Resort Pickup and Return
  • Using Public Transportation
  • Alternative Meeting Locations (for those with accommodations in Paia, Haiku, Makawao or Hana.)

Hungry After a Day of Walking Maui Waterfalls? Lunch is Served.

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You’ll get hungry during your 6.5-hour tour cruising around nature and its variable climate, so we provide snacks, fresh fruit, plenty of bottled water and a picnic lunch.  When you make your reservation, we’ll take your order.  You’ll enjoy your meal in out own private garden picnic area near the trail head.   If it’s raining, not to worry, there’s shelter for you and your colleagues in adventure. Questions about the food on the trip?  Concerns about food allergy or dietary restrictions?  Just call 808.270.1500.

Your lunch choices are:

Turkeywrap

  • Vegetarian/Vegan Wrap: Tortilla wrapped around hummus, tapenade, chopped tomato, fresh lettuce and carrots.
  • Turkey: Tortilla wrapped around freshly-sliced Legend Carolina turkey breast, pesto cream cheese, fresh greens, carrots and chopped tomato.
  • Gluten-free: Freshly-sliced Legend Carolina turkey breast wrapped around pesto cream cheese, fresh lettuce, chopped tomato, and carrots.

All lunches are served with fresh chocolate chip cookies for dessert and fresh Maui pineapple.  During the tour, you’re provided with granola bars for snacking.  Plenty of bottled water is offered before, during and after lunch.

If you’re taking an earlier tour (7:00 or 8:30), you’ll eat lunch after you rappel. If you’re taking a later tour (10:00 or 11:30), you eat first.  If you have food allergies, please notify us during your reservation, and tell your guides during the ride to the rappelling location.

What Shoes Should I Wear?

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q&aFrom the Frequently Asked Questions files, a very commonly voiced concern:  “What kind of shoes should I wear to the tour?” Because most of our guests have come to the island with a suitcase, they doubt they have come fully equipped with “the right stuff” to rappel.  The truth is:  Some forgiving clothing and a sense of fun and adventure are pretty much all you need to participate in this curious journey into nature.   The answer to “What kind of shoes should I wear on the day of the tour” is:   Whichever shoes you feel comfortable walking in for a few hundred yards, keeping in mind that those few hundred yards may be muddy.  1363439141_louboutins3

That’s because we equip you with special footwear at the rappelling site.  Wear your sandals, your mandals, your flipflops, wear sneakers.  Wear your  platform Louboutins (or not.) It’s all good, because, once you suit up, you’ll be taking off whatever you’re wearing on your feet, and replacing them with a neoprene booty with special felt soles designed for helping your feet grip the forest’s slippery surfaces.

Once you’re out on the ridges and trails, you will still need to step carefully and pay attention to your guides.  They know every part of the valley, and can point out places where the passage is tricky.  When you’re hiking along high passes on exposed cliffs, you’ll clip your harness to anchored ropes.  When walking up the trail “stairs”, conditions can be muddy and slippery when wet.  Use the anchored ropes and trees as handrails, to prevent slips, falls and otherwise ungraceful moves.

Once you’re back at the picnic area, you’ll have a chance to change out of your gear and shoes, clean yourself up a bit, and relax.  Unless you really did wear your Louboutins.