In our hotel’s lobby, there were more than a dozen brochures for various excursions, the majority for snorkeling trips to Molokini, a crescent-shaped, partially submerged volcanic crater located in the Alalakeki Channel that forms a small islet. It is located between the islands of Maui and Kaho-olawe and is a Hawaii State Seabird sanctuary.
Pride of Maui was actually our second choice for tour operators. We found out our first choice, Pacific Whale Foundation, no longer offered the tour we wanted even though it was still listed on their website and in their brochures (I didn’t think this was very professional or good for business). The problem was with only one full day left on Maui, we didn’t want to have another all-day excursion. We had already done the Road to Hana and Upcountry, but most snorkeling excursions are seven hours or more. However, we kept browsing at the concierge desk and finally came across Pride of Maui, specifically their morning snorkel tour. It lasted five hours and included stops at Molokini and Turtle Town. Prices are $96 for adults and $62 for children (you can save by booking online). Check-in is at 7:30 at the Ma’alea Harbor, where the boat departs, at 8 AM. It’s about an hour from Ma’alea to Molokini and on the way a continental breakfast of pastries, fruit, and drinks is served. Snuba and scuba diving are also offered although they both cost extra. Snuba, which is a cross between snorkeling and scuba diving (you do not need to be scuba certified) costs $49.50 extra. Scuba does require that you be certified with costs at $42.50 extra for one tank and $66 extra for two tanks. Other add ons include an underwater camera rental and wet suit rentals. My only critique of the company is that you could only rent wet suits with cash or traveler’s checks even though the camera rental and other extras allowed you to pay with credit cards. I thought this was a bit tacky since not everyone carries cash.
The snorkeling at Molokini was great and while I didn’t see anything except fish, it was still a pretty incredible sight, gazing down 35 feet beneath the ocean’s surface. Turtle Town was a bit of a disappointment because the only time we saw turtles was back on the ship. Although other people in our group spotted multiple ones while snorkeling, we weren’t so lucky. The sea in the Turtle Town area was also incredibly rough with the waves constantly pushing you back from where you wanted to swim to.
Lunch was barbecue style complete with burgers, hot dogs, veggie burgers, green salad, and pasta salad. Later on, delicious homemade tasting macadamia nut cookies were passed around. There was also an open bar although it did not “open” until the snorkeling portion of the tour was done (for obvious reasons).
The ship’s staff was definitely one of the main reasons the excursion was as enjoyable as it was. All appeared to be in the 20-30 age demographic so fun obviously was second nature to them. Coming and going from Ma’alea the captain went slightly afield so that we could see whales and dolphins. The former was incredibly neat since whale watching season in Maui doesn’t normally begin until mid-December, while we were there in November).
The tour was efficiently run with a lot of nice features and I would recommend Pride of Maui for anyone wishing to go on a snorkeling excursion. They also have an afternoon snorkeling excursion, although the concierge at our hotel advised against it as she said the water in the afternoon is extremely rough.