Molokini Islet Snorkel

Molokini, an islet just off the coast of Maui, Hawaii

Molokini Islet - a satellite image

Molokini Islet – a satellite image

Nov 26, 1995 – The Islet of Molokini is located off the southwest coast of Maui, and is formed from the tip of a volcano, which just breaks out of the water. The island is a crescent shape, and forms a beautiful lagoon inside, where lots of fish congregate.

Snorkel cruises to Molokini abound, and we decided to take the Prince Kuhio, a 92 foot mono-hull diesel-powered cruiser (no longer running). There are many, many cruises offered to Molokini, (both power and sail, and mono-hull, catamaran and trimaran) so you should find one that suits your taste in boats.

Our itinerary included an early morning pickup from our condo, then we departed from nearby Maalaea Bay for the islet of Molokini. A breakfast of juice, coffee, muffins and fruit is served buffet-style, while we make our way to the island. After arriving at the island mid-morning, the boat is tied to mooring anchors set in the lagoon, and we are off snorkelling.

All equipment is provided. You must be able to swim, since the lagoon is about 50 feet deep, however swim boards are provided for those who lack confidence, or who are weak swimmers. The shore of Molokini is very steep, and consists of very rough lava rock. It is not recommended that snorkelers swim ashore, since it is difficult to climb ashore, and there are strong currents near shore. The ship’s crew is in the water with you at all times, and are ready to assist you, should you need help.

Snorkelling time available is about 2 hours, however we were tired out after about an hour and a quarter. While there, we had our adventure video taped by one of the crew. This is a good idea, since taking pictures underwater is tricky at best, and these professionals do a good job – giving you an excellent, personalized souvenir of your trip to Molokini. The video is edited onboard, and is ready for you when you depart a few hours later. Not expensive.

It is quite a thrill to get close to tropical fish. Of course, with that many boats (30 or so) going to Molokini every day, the fish are well rehearsed! They expect to be fed once the boats arrive, and they swarm around the snorkelers as soon as you enter the water.

The Prince Kuhio (and some other Molokini boats) offer as an extra cost option Snuba gear. This is a cross between snorkeling and full scuba gear. With Snuba, you don’t need to be previously certified for scuba diving. Snuba instruction is given onboard and in the lagoon. The tanks are floated on a raft on the surface, and air supply hoses are ganged off these tanks to the Snuba divers below. This allows you to go to the bottom of the lagoon, whereas snorkelers are confined to the surface, and can usually only dive down 10 feet or so for short periods of time. I can’t see the benefits of Snuba, since the fish are all near the surface anyway. Not recommended.

As we were pulling into Maalaea Bay at the end of our return trip, we spotted some large turtles in the bay – an added bonus to the trip! Apparently, the turtles nest ashore in the nearby salt flats. We were back at our condo by mid-afternoon.

Some thoughts…

Even if you don’t swim or don’t feel like snorkeling, this trip would be well worth taking. Molokini cruises offer good value for a day out on the water. Depending on the season, you might also see turtles (as we did), or Humpback Whales. Recommended.

The water at Molokini is quite cool, as compared with the water temperature you find on the Maui beaches. I would guess the water temperature is between 72 and 74 degrees Fahrenheit. If you do not have much body fat, you may find that you cannot stand to stay in the water for more than 15 minutes or so. If you start to shiver while in the water, return to the boat, immediately dry off, and warm yourself up. Don’t hesitate to ask the ship’s crew to assist you, if you need it.

The trip to and from Molokini can encounter some ocean swells. If you are prone to sea sickness, take your medication before leaving.

What you should take:

  • a bathing suit (duh!)
  • waterproof sunscreen
  • sun glasses
    underwater camera
  • towel
  • change of clothes
  • hat
  • light jacket or sweater
  • cash ($20 or so)

What you should LEAVE BEHIND:

  • wrist watch (enjoy yourself…who cares what time it is!)
  • expensive jewelry (you won’t impress anyone when you’re dripping wet anyway)
  • passports, and other important documents (there are no immigration officers on Molokini)
  • fancy clothes (you will stick out in the t-shirts and shorts crowd)
  • large amounts of money (nowhere to spend it)
  • your expensive camera (you probably don’t have an underwater case for it, and even if you don’t get it wet, salt spray will find it’s way onto your camera, no matter how careful you are)

What is supplied/included:

  • all food and drink (buffet breakfast and lunch – liquor extra)
  • snorkelling equipment
  • transportation to/from your hotel/condo from Kihei, Wailea, or Kaanapali
  • cheap champagne on the return trip (we added fruit juice to ours, to make it drinkable!!)
  • bilingual staff – English and Japanese

Haleakela, Maui, Hawaii

Nov 26, 1995 – Haleakela volcano, Maui, Hawaii

The drive from our condo in Kihei to the top of Haleakela and back – an easy half day trip. Haleakala volcano is 3,058 metres (10,033 feet high). Driving to the summit will take about two hours from Kahului, assuming you take your time to see the sights along the way. Give yourself an extra 20 minutes if you are traveling from Kihei or Wailea, or give yourself an extra 45 minutes if you are driving from Lahaina/Kaanapali. The road is paved the whole way, although the upper half of the route has many hairpin turns and is quite narrow. Haleakela National Park charges a modest per car fee, which is collected at a toll booth on the way up the mountain.

Make sure your car has a full tank of gas and check all fluid levels before you leave. There are no service stations once you pass Pukalani on Highway 37, so it is up to you to ensure your vehicle is in good condition. Speaking of being prepared – you should take some snacks and drinks with you. Although there is a restaurant and lodge in Kula on Highway 377, most visitors get hungry or thirsty while up on the summit, so bring food and drinks with you. Leave yourself at least a half hour to experience the strange sights from the summit.

The weather on the summit is not easily predictable. It can be sunny or rainy – or both! Keep in mind, you are at 3,000 metres elevation, so the air temperature will be quite cool. Take a jacket. Likewise, it is impossible to predict whether you will be able to view the scenery of Maui from the summit or not. Obscuring clouds come and go…just because you see clouds while driving up the mountain, doesn’t mean they won’t clear by the time you reach the summit.

There are many unusual and contrasting colours at this elevation, so take lots of pictures. Compare my photos of the crater taken in 1983 with the ones taken of the same area in 1995. There are some interesting cinder cones inside the crater.

Although there are observatories and repeater stations on the summit, there is no access permitted to this area. There are some spectacular silver sword plants to see, depending on the season. Please remember – don’t touch. The ecology in Haleakala National Park is very fragile. Please observe signs which restrict access to certain areas used by the nene, or native Hawaiian goose.

On the way up, observe the transitions through several ecosystems – from the tropical valley floor, through the temperate forests on the lower slopes, to grasslands on the middle slopes. The higher elevations have very little vegetation, except the hardiest of plant varieties.

You never know what you will encounter on these trips. Who would have thought that a Viper sports car would be parked at the top?

One last warning – traveling from sea level to 3,000 metres (10,000 feet) so rapidly is hard on the human respiratory system. If you have a heart condition, or have respiratory ailments, think twice before making this trip. Hardly a day goes by without an ambulance having to take someone down from Haleakala. Even healthy individuals will find that the rapid climb to the summit can cause “fuzzy” sensations, feelings of slight nausea or loss of balance. While on the summit, take it easy. Walk slowly (even if you feel OK), and sit down for short rests on the benches provided. Haleakala is well worth seeing, so make sure you are one of the 99% of visitors who enjoy this unique experience.

For the more adventuresome, there are many activities available within the Haleakala crater: hiking trips (3 cabins are available, reservations required), ranger-guided walks and hikes, concessionaire-guided trips through the crater, short, self-guided walks, and camping at Hosmer Grove Campground.

Although I have concentrated on the Haleakala Crater portion of Haleakala National Park, there is a second section to the park – the Kipahulu area. This coastal area can be reached by driving the road to Hana (Highway 360), and going past Hana on Highway 31 to the Oheo Gulch (Seven Pools) area. Hiking, swimming, camping, and picnicking is available in this area. Facilities at Kipahulu are primitive. Neither drinking water nor modern restrooms are available. If you are considering going to this area, check with the park administration first. Car rental agencies may prohibit the use of their vehicles on Highway 31, so check before you go.