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How Physically Demanding Is Rappelling?

Inquiring minds often call the Rappel Maui offices wanting to know “how hard is rappelling”? Is the day-long rappelling tour physically hard or challenging. They want to know if they need to possess a certain physique, or if a lot of strength or physical conditioning is required.

Read on to get these and other answers, or call the Rappel Maui offices at 808-270-1500 for personalized information.

Woman rappelling down a waterfal for how hard is rappelling?

Come As You Are

Most active and healthy people are perfectly prepped for a Rappel Maui tour. You don’t have to bring “the gun show to town.” You don’t have to get “pumped up.”  You will not need an “xtreme” sports drink that “gives you wings.”  (You don’t need wings; you’ve got ropes.)

You will find that the most useful body parts during a rappel are you ears and brain. First you’ll need to listen to your guides’ instructions, then you’ll need to process and apply the information. And then you’ll need a keen willingness to have fun while taking a few steps away from your comfort zone.

Gravity Is Your Friend

Since you’ll be making 3 or more descents down a rock cliff (as opposed to rock climbing), your rappelling equipment will be working in cooperation with gravity to take the brunt of the work.  No significant amount of arm strength is necessary; just some moderate arm movements to slow or stop downward movement, and grasping/loosening a rope with your dominant hand.

You can use your non-dominant hand to steady or position yourself around rocks or trees, hold the front of your harness or rope, or throw a shaka out during a photo opp.

Some overall coordination is required, and where looking graceful is concerned, your mileage may vary. (You can delete those pictures later.)

Getting The Hang Of It (All Puns Intended)

You’ll sit back into your harness, like a chair (that’s hovering over a waterfall pool), and position your feet on the surface in front of you so that you can take one backwards step at a time. You’ll use the equipment to lower yourself down the surface as much or as little at a time as you like.

If you’re taking one of the dry rappels, you’ll end your journey by simply putting your feet down on the ground, unclipping your harness from the rope, and cheering on the next person.

How hard is rappelling? Thumbs up indicates not very.

If you’re rappelling one of the waterfalls, you’ll lower yourself into the water, unclip your harness from the rope, and swim or dog paddle on. You don’t need to be a great swimmer to make it across the pond. If you don’t swim, ask for a personal flotation device so that you can float over to the shallow end.

If you need a little encouragement, or an assist, the guide in the water with you can provide you with the right amount of swimmer’s mojo.

If you’re a multi-tasker, you’ll also be taking in the spectacular surroundings of the jungle, streams, waterfall and wildlife, and realizing that you have the makings of a truly unique story and memories that will go unequaled once you return to your non-waterfall-hovering chairs at home and work.

Getting Physical

What happens after you’ve done all that descending?

In this case, what goes down, must go back up. There are no elevators in the jungle (unless you’re on the Jurassic Park set), and thus comes the most physical part of the tour.

You’ll take what we refer to as “The Stairmaster,” a length of paths and series of steps cut into the earthen forest trails leading back to the top of the ridge. There’s no hurry; you can take your time, stop, rest, and hold on to the ropes, branches and roots that are there to help you steady and pull yourself along.

The trail is green, cool, shady and fragrant, and alive with the sounds of nature. Keep your heart pumping—or not. Get out your camera, or just take in the view. It’s totally up to you during this equivalent of about four flights of stairs.

Call us to ask your specific questions about what it’s like to walk down a tropical waterfall in a rainforest on Maui.
Spoiler alert: It’s not horrible.

What is Canyoneering and Rappelling?

Another Frequently Asked Question we get from a lot of first-timers who are interested in taking a tour, but are new to rappelling and canyoning in general is, of course:

What exactly IS canyoning, anyway?

We’re glad you asked!

What is Canyoneering? Woman rappelling down a clif into a lake

The simplest description of canyoning 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 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 canyoning include “kloofing” (S. Africa) and the Welsh phrase “cerdded ceunant.”

One thing that separates canyoning 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 canyoning 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, canyoning 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, canyoning was one of the fastest growing adventure sports.

You can sample a tasty morsel of canyoning during a Rappel Maui day tour.

These are recreational experiences for the uninitiated and experienced alike, and last about 3 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. Call us at 808-270-1500 to ask your questions.

For a deeper dive into the principles and practices of canyoning, take a one-day or multi-day class in canyoning. Classes cover the full range of canyoning subject matter, with lots of hands-on practice, from introductory to advanced, plus the availability of specialty classes.

Have something special in mind? Call us at 808-270-1500 to talk.

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

Elvis Presley using the phone to book a rappelling tour with Rappel Maui

Today 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 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Tuesday through Friday.

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.

What’s the Water Temperature in the Waterfalls?

So, How Cold Is It?

One of the most frequently asked questions we encounter from guests is, “What’s the water temperature?” or “Maui water temperatureHow cold is the water?” Stream water temperature is a little chillier than the ocean water, especially during certain times of the year. Another question we’re often asked is if it’s necessary to wear a wet suit top while rappelling waterfalls. Since everyone has a different idea of what cold is, we’ll give you the following facts: The normal annual range of water temperature for the network of streams that travels through natural gulches and man made flumes is 20-27 degrees C or 68 to 80 F. The stream that contributes to most of the waterfall flow at the Rappel Maui activity site averages about 23 degrees C or 73 degrees F.

These are shallow streams with flow that fluctuates with rainfall and other factors. There may be a daily range of a few degrees, and can follow the trends in air temperature.  Stream water temperatures are warmer June through September. They’re cooler November through February.  The weather is usually a little wetter during the winter months as well. Heavy rainfalls make streams fuller or raise the possibility of flooding.

How to Prepare

If you know that you’re sensitive to chilly water temperatures, it doesn’t hurt to bring a thin wet suit top.  Most guests do not find it necessary, but nice to have.  If you bring a wet suit with you and decide not to wear it, you can remove it and stash it into the backpack we provide for you.  Alternatively, a long sleeved rash guard or quick-dry shirt works well, and the flotation device you’ll wear during the tour also serves as a warmth layer. If you’re looking for a wet suit top once you arrive on Maui, most of the dive and snorkel shops carry them for sale or rent.

While your mileage may vary for comfort level with water temperatures, it’s rare for the water temperatures to be intolerable. The amount of time guests are submerged in the pools and streams is limited.  Please call or chat with us to discuss your experience.

What is Rappelling, Anyway?

q&a

Aloha!  In this Question and Answer post, you’ll find out what rappelling is.  We’re happy to discuss it, especially since most of our guests are unfamiliar, and we like to welcome first-timers to the sport whenever possible.

What is Rappelling?

Rappelling is the practice of using ropes, a harness, belay device and other equipment to descend a steep terrain. It’s an important part of climbing, caving and canyoning–the exploration of canyons.  There are a few kinds of rappelling styles. The kind that you’ll perform during a Rappel Maui tour is either:

A standard rappel, during which a person lowers herself down vertical terrain with her back toward the ground and her feet in contact with the rock, and walks down while letting the rope slide through the  device. (The angle of the rope through the device determines the speed of the descent.) Here’s where you can learn more about the standard rappels you’ll do during the Classic Rappel Tour.

OR,

A free rappel–we also refer to this as a “zip” rappel, during which the climber slides down the rope through free space between the rope’s two anchors. In the case of a Rappel Maui zip rappel, the high end of the rope is attached to the top of a jungle wall near the top of the waterfall, while the other end is attached to an underwater surface in the pool below. Thus the rappeller makes a rapid descent down the rope from the top of the cliff and zips down into the water, which slows her to a stop.  You can learn more about the standard and free rappels you’ll do during the Extreme Zip Rappel Tour.

Do You Still Have Questions About What a Tour is Like, and Whether it’s for You?

We’re here!  You can call us at 808-270-1500. You can email us at dropoff@rappelmaui.com. Or you can chat with us from your computer or mobile device.

What Happens If…: A Guide for the Unsure

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 808-270-1500 or chat live online with us by visiting the home page of our web site.

What happens if I change my mind?

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 canyoning 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.

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

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

 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.  Classic Tour times are at 7, 8:30, 10, and 11:30 AM daily, based on availability. The Extreme Zip Rappel Tour time is at 9:30, and operates 3 days per week. You can book tours online and then call or email us to add round trip hotel transportation from your hotel.

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

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