The Spirit of Aloha Catamaran is operated by Port Waikiki Cruises and was the catamaran that we used during our free snorkel trip, courtesy of Hilton Hawaiian Village.
The Catamaran is a modern 54-foot motor sail vessel which accommodates up to 48 guests on each excursion. The catamaran is a clean efficient vessel with amenities ranging from a full bar, fully enclosed cabin with tables and bench seating, restrooms, showers and multiple stairway entry for snorkelers.
The tour starts at the pier located at the Duke Kahanamoku Beach. We made our way to the pier and boarded the catamaran for our 2.5 hour snorkel trip. I totally enjoyed our snorkel trip and we got to see some really amazing sea life. The Captain and everyone else on board were so nice, friendly, professional answering any questions that guests had.
The company offers a variety of tour options ranging in price and duration. We did the 2.5 snorkel tour which was just enough time for us. Our trip was complimentary from Hilton, but the price of the tour is $110 per person. I would definitely recommend the Spirit of Aloha Catamaran and would consider doing another tour with them.
These are the options available with the Spirit of Aloha Catamaran per person:
Hilton Breakfast Sail – 90 minutes – $90
Hilton Lunch Snorkel Sail – 2.5 hours – $110
Hilton Adventure Sail, Early Afternoon – 45 minutes – $45
Hilton Adventure Sail, Late Afternoon – 45 minutes – $45
Hilton Sunset Cocktails – 90 minutes - $90
Hilton Friday Fireworks Dinner Sail – 2 hours – $125
Hilton Moonlight Dessert Sail – 45 minutes – $60
Equipment: If you are doing the snorkel trip, snorkel gear is provided if you do not have your own. I always travel with mine when I am visiting tropical locations.
I enjoy being out in the water swimming and doing a little bit of snorkeling. Snorkeling is a fantastic way to get to see some of the creatures inhabiting the waters below without all that heavy scuba gear.
Hanauma Bay is a beautiful nature preserve located a few miles from Waikiki. The preserve restricts entrance to protect it and if you plan on visiting to do some snorkeling, I would recommend that you get there very early or in the late afternoon.
The snorkeling here is quite spectacular. You will make your way around some coral reefs where the currents can be strong, but you'll get a chance to see some really nice sea life.
Prior to entering the bay you go through a marine education center where an introductory video of the bay is given. After viewing the video you will make your way down to the bay via a tram.
There are some spectacular views from the top of the educational center as well.
Equipment: We took our snorkel gear, but you can rent your gear here if you don't have any.
When I was getting ready to go to Oahu, staying near the beach in Waikiki, my friend who vacations frequently in Oahu expressed her opinion that I would have to travel away from Waikiki to snorkel. Since I had never tried snorkeling in Waikiki, I agreed with her. The walled in, shallow beaches I remembered didn't seem likely to be good snorkeling spots.
Since I was getting around by bus and had a month to be in Waikiki, (My husband was on Oahu on a temporary work assignment), my first explorations of the Waikiki beaches were focused on finding out if there was anywhere there that would be good for snorkeling.
I did find a great spot, but not in the walled off beaches. I used those beaches to get more comfortable with my new snorkeling gear where it was shallow and sandy. There were a few fish there to get me started.
I did find a good beach for snorkeling further down on the beach bordering Kapiolani Park. On the map the area is identified as Sans Souci state park just before where the Barefoot Beach Café is located. It can be identified by the wall that goes straight out into the water with no shelter at the end of it. The beach on the right of that wall is less steep and has plenty of rock to shelter and feed visiting fish and several sandy entry points into the snorkeling area. This is the spot where I saw the most people snorkeling on the Waikiki stretch of beaches, but there were never so many as to get in the way.
The depth is shallow out to the end of the wall so that you can stand in most places if you need to, and the wall provides shelter and food to many species, including eels. I found many kinds of fish in abundance here every time I got in the water. If you walk out on the wall you will see crabs on the rocks soaking in the surf surges.
There is a beach shower nearby, which is handy for getting ready to go into the water and for cleaning off the salt water from you and your gear when you are done.
One bonus is that the beach is less crowded this far down from the hotels but still has lifeguard coverage and bathrooms and showers available. Food is available in the nearby Barefoot Beach café, including breakfast and lunch items like sandwiches, seafood and burgers, reasonably priced.
There are some problems on the beaches with theft, so make sure you leave valuables in your hotel room. I had waterproof holders for my phone that would also hold a credit card so I could keep them with me. I got mine from Amazon.com, but they are for sale in all the ABC stores in the area.
I didn't worry about my hotel key card since there was no id on it for which hotel or which room it opened. I used a big, zippered, bright pink bag that I could check on easily from the water and no one ever disturbed it, but I would have worried about leaving out any smaller bag or purse that could be quickly slipped into a larger bag and carried away unseen. Once in my explorations further down the beach I came upon a pile of empty small purses and bags that had obviously been discarded by a beach thief, so that informed my use of a large, conspicuous bag that I kept zipped up when I was in the water.
Hanauma Bay is the best place to snorkel, but for day to day snorkeling that is free and easy to get to if you are staying in Waikiki, this is a great spot! This is a good reason to bring your own gear so you can go in anytime you want.
Equipment: Mask, snorkel, water shoes, (or fins) beach towel, sunscreen are necessities.
I didn't like my fins so I was really glad I packed water shoes. I didn't find the currents or surge too difficult to manage without fins in December and January.
You might also want an underwater camera, waterproof phone holder (purchase at ABC store), safety flotation for children or weak swimmers.
Nice to have: Beach mat, beach chair, sun hat, swim suit cover up.
Hanauma bay provides both some of Hawaii's best snorkelling along with extremely easy access as the reef is right off the beach. This makes for a great first time snorkelling experience.
Equipment: Good equipment can be bought for around $50 or can be rented at the beach.
The Hawaiian State bird is the "Nene" a goose, but can you pronounce the name of the official/unofficial state fish?
Answer: it lies within the song Shirley Temple sang about going back to her little grass shack in Kalakaua, Hawaii, where the Humuhumunukunukuapuaa's go swimming by.
This is a Hawaiian Trigger Fish native to the outer reefs of Hawaii, the fish has a broad black band on the side and a black triangle at the beginning of the tail.
Equipment: A good dry snorkel, a mask and a pair of fins. For expert service either Maui Dive Shops or Snorkel Bob's, Snorkel Bob's is a hoot but they were rated highly amongst readers of the local newspaper.
Here at Hanauma Bay there is reputed to be the best snorkeling on the island.
There is an entrance fee of $5. p.p. and it is closed on a Tuesday.
An extract from the small free visitor's guide book says this about Hanauma Bay
"One of Hawaii's best snorkeling sites, it's calm, crystal-clear waters are home to hundreds of species of tropical reef fish. Protected by law, they have no fear of humans and are glad to greet the thousands of snorkelers that visit the bay every day, except Tuesdays."
Equipment: Obviously your snorkelling gear etc., and it may be wise to take food and drink, as there are no outlets provided for that.
Snorkel gear, underwater cameras, corrective lens masks, floatation devices, are available from some of the tour companies that pick you up from your Hotel and take you to Hanauma Bay/return. some also give expert instruction. Look for the tours advertised in the free booklets, or ask at your hotel.
There are washrooms at the Bay..