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What is Rappelling, Anyway?

Question and Answer for What is Rappelling?

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.


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.

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

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Exploring and Preserving: Canyoneering for Conservation with Rappel Maui

Welcome to Rappel Maui: Where Adventure Meets Conservation

Enjoy a waterfall canyoneering trip and help conservation in Maui, Hawaii

Welcome to a world where each rappel and climb is not just about thrill but also about cherishing and conserving our beautiful island home. At Rappel Maui, we believe in turning exciting canyoneering experiences into opportunities to learn and protect the ʻāina (pronounced “eye-nah” meaning land in Hawaiian). The Thrill of Canyoneering.

Canyoneering combines hiking, climbing, swimming, and rappelling into one exhilarating sport. Traverse the rugged, stunning canyons of Maui, adorned with cascading waterfalls and lush tropical vegetation. This adventure is perfect for both novices and experienced adventurers seeking to explore Maui’s hidden wonders. Join us as we delve into how you can contribute to preserving the natural beauty of our island all while enjoying the thrill of adventure!

Conservation Through Adventure

Every Rappel Maui adventure promotes conservation. By accessing remote areas rarely visited by tourists, we raise awareness and contribute to the preservation of Maui’s fragile ecosystems. Our knowledgeable guides are trained in rappelling, first aid, outdoor rescue, and swift water disciplines, ensuring both safety and educational value.

We maintain small tour groups to minimize our environmental footprint and uphold the highest operational standards. Committed to the principles of Leave No Trace, we work to make sure that every adventure respects and preserves the natural landscape. Along with fellow conservation-minded adventurers, we have taken part in removing invasive species and planting native flora. Through these concerted efforts, we strive to safeguard the unique beauty of Maui for future generations to come.

The Garden of Eden front gate, where Rappel Maui has it's tours

The Garden of Eden: A Pesticide-Free Haven

The Garden of Eden, the backdrop for our tours, is entirely self-funded. Visitors like you support over 15 staff members who help maintain the garden. Pesticides are not used and only a few herbicides help to control the highly invasive flora that have been introduced to the island. Here you will find that the grounds are beautifully maintained to help restore natural ecosystems while promoting Hawaii’s native and indigenous flora and fauna. Their collection also reflects a diverse range of  plants and trees from tropical and subtropical areas globally carefully maintained by their arborists.

Join Us For An Adventure You Won’t Forget

So whether you are an experienced thrill seeking adventurer, a newbie to canyoning, or a conservationist at heart Rappel Maui’s tour is just the ticket. Experience the thrill of canyoneering and the fulfillment of making a positive impact—book your tour today!

What Happens If… A Guide on Waterfall Rappels 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 rappelling adventure. Sometimes the fun is in the fear. Go figure.

Rappel Maui guide preparing for waterfall rappels

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” waterfall rappels questions, call us at 808-270-1500.

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 waterfall 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, consider sending him or her to a rappelling class during your next visit.

Safety is our top priority. Check out some of the ways a rappelling tour is safe, or contact us for specifics. We’re ready to field your questions!

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

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: rainforest rappelling is 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 rappelling 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 rainforest rappelling 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. Rainforest rappelling is 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?

Getting to and From the Rappelling Tour Location

Rappel Maui Transportation Options

If You’re Using the Central Maui Meeting Location

The Rappel Maui van and two rappelling guides

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 location, 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 Rappel Maui van departure time from the meeting area. Arrive 10 minutes early to leisurely gather your things and board the van.

Classic Rappelling Group Tour times are at 7, 8:30, 10, and 11:30 AM daily, based on availability. You can book rappelling tours online and then call or email us to add round trip hotel transportation from your hotel in our van.

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)

What Shoes Should I Wear on the Rappelling Tour?

Questions and Answers for Rappelling Tour

From the Frequently Asked Questions files, a very commonly voiced concern: “What kind of shoes should I wear on the rappelling 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 rappelling 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.

That’s because we equip you with special footwear at the rappelling site.

Louboutins very high heel shoes with red sols

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.

Four Steps to Writing a Helpful Review About Your Travel Experiences

Graphic of five yellow stars for Writing a Helpful ReviewAfter 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 writing a review 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 writing a helpful review 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 helpful 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 neat nicks, 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 helpful 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?

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.