Posted February 5th, 2013, 12:52 PM
Below is something I wrote describing our recent visit to Hawaii. It may be helpful. As explained, we were on the Pride of America docked 30 min from Maalaea. Our snorkeling and catamaran trip was one of 10 activities that I commented on. I found the snorkeling disappointing, but if it fits your schedule, it may be perfect for you. For more context on my comments you may choose to read the entire string at "Our Top 10 activities/ attractions / excursions.
# 7 on our countdown is the catamaran sailing and snorkel trip we took out of Maalaea harbor on Maui.
This was Day 2 of our stay in Maui as part of our NCL Pride of America cruise. Amid lots of grumbling, we were off the POA by 6:30am in order to catch a taxi (very easy) and drive across the island to Maalaea. At a cost of $40 (incl tip) each way the taxi took about 30 min to traverse the narrow throat of the island. This left plenty of time to locate the slip where our catamaran was located and get checked in by 7:15am. Many sailing/diving tours leave from Maalaea each day. Some of my comments will apply across the board to any excursion in this area, others will be focused on our particular sail aboard the Paragon II.
As advertised, a continental breakfast is provided on the boat. We were pleasantly surprised by the array of pastries, juices and coffee provided. It’s definitely enough to get you going in the morning. The captain (male) and his two gorgeous crew (female) seem to be “livin’ the dream.” They are friendly, attentive and totally competent. All are willing to engage in conversation and provide information about the boat and what we could/would see throughout the day. Most particularly, they were vigilant in whale spotting. Since this was mid-January, we expected to see whales. To our delight, there were many to be enjoyed.
As most are probably aware, Molokini is an old volcanic crater that flooded when a section of the rim collapsed. The allure for us (and others, I’m sure), was the idea of snorkeling within this flooded crater…how cool is that!
The trip out to Molokini takes about an hour. If you haven’t had problems in a boat before, you are unlikely to have them aboard Paragon II. The catamaran is stable and comfortable. Initial winds allowed the captain to kill the engine and run under full sail. As the wind died, we proceeded to Molokini under engine power.
Once we reached Molokini, the crew secured the boat, got everyone squared away with snorkels, masks and fins, and prepared us to get into the water. Entering the water is pretty easy. There is a ladder / stairway that drops down from the trampoline in the front of the boat. Just step down the stairs and get wet! Two members of my group are essentially non-swimmers. No problem! Styrofoam “noodles” are provided. Place the noodle across your chest and under your armpits and you will be ready to go. Even if you can swim, don’t be bashful about taking a noodle. Frankly, it makes easing around the crater easier and more relaxing.
If you have not snorkeled before, you will likely be awed. The flip side is that if you have snorkeled before, you may be disappointed. All 7 of my group enjoyed being in the water. The 3 (including the 2 non-swimmers) who had not previously snorkeled thought it was fantastic. The other 4 have snorkeled and dived at several spots in the Caribbean. To be honest, we were underwhelmed. While we saw plenty of fish, the variety was lacking. More striking was the lack of color or more accurately the muted colors that could be seen. Rather than brilliant blues, reds, oranges, purples and yellows, we saw a lot of grey, dusty, ashy, dull marine flora. Sure, it was fun and we enjoyed pointing things out to each other, but I can’t say it was the best snorkeling we have ever done.
After about an hour swimming in the crater, it was time to head back to Maalaea. While we were playing the crew were putting out a really nice buffet lunch. Cold sandwiches, chips, salads and desserts were plentiful. Oh, by the way, beer and wine are provided in addition to a range of soft drinks…not bad!
During the sail back to harbor, the captain directed our attention to lots of whales. No, we didn’t get close enough to pet them, but we had no problem spotting them throughout the sail. By 1:00pm we were back in the slip in Maalaea and ready for the rest of our day.
If you want to enjoy a nice sail on a comfortable catamaran, Paragon II (and others) will do the trick. The captain and crew of Paragon II were excellent…no complaints at all. If you want to spot whales, any boat out of Maalaea should suffice during the appropriate season. If you want truly beautiful diving or snorkeling, you might want to keep looking. Having put all our eggs in this basket, I can’t compare it to other sites around Hawaii. I simply find it hard to believe that this is as good as it gets. Overall, it was a good trip for us and it worked well with our schedule. Beyond that, I would search for a better dive site and not be seduced by the allure of the crater.