Beyond Here Travel Tips
What is the Molokini Crater?
Looking for the Right Tour
The Special Offer
The Sales Pitch
What to Expect on the Boat
Snorkeling with Fishes & Turtles
What is the Molokini Crater?
If you have been to Maui then you are aware that just about every tourist kiosk is offering a snorkel tour of Molokini Crater, usually advertising outrageously low prices. Snorkeling at Molokini Crater is one of the most popular activities to do on the island, and every vendor you meet will try and convince you that their deals are the best.
Molokini Crater lies off the south central coast of Maui island, near Kihei and across from Makena Beach (Big Beach). It is a partly submerged crater formed 230,000 years ago from a volcanic eruption, much the same as the rest of the Hawaiian islands. The crescent-shape of the crater and the rocky cliffs below the Pacific ocean provide a unique shelter for coral reefs and various marine life.
In these waters you can enjoy 150 feet (46 metres) of clear water visibility. Up to 250 different species of fish can be found here, so it is no wonder that many tourists show up in droves to have an opportunity to swim with the fish.
Things to Know When Looking for the Right Tour
We knew we wanted to visit Molokini during our trip to Maui, but we were unsure of prices. The advertised price per person is 130 USD. It is generally free for kids under three years old. Outside vendors offered discounts but not the hotels, where 130 USD was the final price.
There are several different catamarans heading to Molokini, such as the Odyssey, Calypso, Malolo, Paragon, Four Winds, and many more. Most of the boats leave in the morning because the water is less choppy. There are afternoon boats heading out for snorkeling, but not to Molokini Crater. These boats simply take you snorkeling at Turtle Town where you can swim with turtles. Of course, this tour is cheaper. You can also rent your own snorkels (advertised as low as 3 USD/day) and head over to Turtle Town on your own because it’s by the coast so a boat is not needed.
The vendors remind you constantly that the tours fill up quickly in order to encourage early registration. However, we were patient and took our time talking to a few different vendors. (This may be harder to do if you have limited time).
The Special Offer
During the first few days we spoke to a vendor in Lahaina, then shopped around on other parts of the island. A few days later we returned to the same vendor in Lahaina. This time it was a different person behind the desk. We told him the name of the woman who offered us a cheaper deal. He told us instead of the advertised 130 USD price per person, a 76 USD (for 2 people) deal was available. The only condition is you have to attend a sales pitch meeting for 90 minutes. He emphasized that it was not a sales pitch for time-shares.
In order to qualify for this meeting we had to fit the following criteria:
- Be married or common-law
- At least 28 years old or above
- Earning at least 60,000 USD/year combined
Since we met the criteria and was willing to attend the sales pitch, we only paid 76 USD (2 people) for the Calypso Molokini and Turtle Town tour. We were registered into an early morning sales pitch in Kihei. The session was awkward yet amusing. Both of us knew we were going to walk away without purchasing anything, making sure to decline everything.
We had to sit through the entire pitch if we wanted the deal. Even though I paid 76 USD with my credit card, they still put the difference on hold on the card in case we didn’t show up to the pitch or left halfway.
The Sales Pitch
There were five couples at the meeting and each of us had our own sales person. Our sales guy was an older gentleman who was more reserved than other sales staff in attendance. His role was to find out more about us and discuss travel. The actual sales pitch came from a younger man who had been in the marines. He presented the pitch with passive-aggressive humour.
Basically they are offering wholesale prices on hotels and flights if you become a member by paying a yearly fee of 200 USD, plus a payment of 7000 USD. They use the 7000 from each couple to access the wholesale deals. However, this 7000 would stay as your pool of money for when you travel.
It was a deal we didn’t expect. Yet there were so many questions which went unanswered. For example, are there hidden fees? Would we still get wholesale prices during the holiday season when flight and hotel prices double in price? Are there blackout dates? Anyone who was interested was taken into another room to discuss the details.
The fast-talking tactic the seller used to confuse us, along with the pressure to buy today, made us uneasy. Regardless, we didn’t have 7000 USD just sitting around to pay right this second, so we said no. We made sure to leave before the “closer” came in (a.k.a. the ex-marine salesman).
We were relieved to have made it through the sales pitch without feeling too pressured, and excited about our snorkeling adventure.
What to Expect on the Boat
We boarded the Calypso leaving from Ma’alaea Harbour early in the morning to Molokini Crater, then to Turtle Town in the afternoon which is south of the island near the Lava Fields.
Each tour or boat has different features. Here is what the Calypso tour advertises:
- Ice cold refreshments
- Ham & Eggs Tropical Breakfast
- BBQ Lunch with a vegetarian option
- Snorkel sets and instructions
- Calypso “Snorkel 101” course
- Glass Bottom Viewing Room
- 2 Water Slides, 1 with big drop
- “Leap of Faith” Jump Platform
- Easy Access to Ocean
- Flotation Devices
- Fast High Tech Catamaran
- Wheelchair Accessible
- Turtles & Seasonal Whales
- Freshwater Showers
- 3 Docks & Large Shady Cabin
- Excellent Comfort Facilities
- Fun for the Entire Family
- Great Music & Sound System
- 3 Restrooms On-Board
- Fun & Happy Crew
- Whale Watching (Dec – May)
- SNUBA – videographer aboard
- Digital Underwater Camera and Wetsuit Rentals Available
- Souvenir T-Shirts Available
Here is our review of what is included:
They serve refreshments such as coffee and juices, including alcoholic drinks at the end of the trip. The breakfast and lunch is mediocre. Our breakfast consisted of mini pastries and flavourless scrambled eggs. Even the BBQ burger for lunch was lacklustre. Although, we didn’t expect anything special even if the pictures on the brochure advertised otherwise.
Snorkel sets and instructions/Calypso “Snorkel 101” course:
The snorkel sets were great and worked well. They do provide a quick course on how to use the device. However, there is not much teaching involved when it comes to snorkeling, especially if you already know how to swim or are using a flotation device, which they have plenty of.
Glass Viewing Deck:
The glass bottom viewing deck is not what you’d expect, however they do have a picture of it on the brochure. Instead of on the floor, the small rectangular windows are against the side of the boat. You still get a glimpse of underwater life.
Diving Platforms and Slides:
We did see kids jumping off water slides, but we didn’t get around to using them because we were too enthralled by the life underneath the ocean.
Easy Access to Ocean:
Not sure why “easy access to ocean” is necessary to mention since the entire tour takes place on and in the ocean.
The catamaran was actually pretty fast. We were at each of our destinations quite quickly.
Whale watching is only available during certain times of the year. Yet we did see dolphins swimming alongside the boat on our way to the crater.
We didn’t see the showers, but the bathrooms were clean and there were no major lines. There are three levels on the boat, and although they boast a great sound system, it was not something we noticed.
There is an underwater photographer on board who takes pictures of everyone throughout the tour and exhibits them on a computer screen. If you see yourself in the slideshow you can purchase the picture. There is a price difference depending on if you are underwater or above water. A single photo of Chris and a turtle underwater cost 30 USD.
You can purchase rash guards on board for about 20 USD. They are waterproof long sleeve shirts which keep you from burning under the sun while snorkeling.
There is also the option of Snuba diving which costs extra. Snuba is similar to scuba diving, except you don’t have a tank. Instead they attach an air tube to your body which is connected to a tank above the water.
Our favourite feature of the tour, other than the actual snorkeling and swimming with the turtles, were the crew. They were incredibly nice, accommodating, and funny cheerful individuals who seemed to love what they do. (Keep in mind, they do work for tips).
Snorkeling with Fishes and Turtles
We saw lots of different species of colourful fish, including coral reefs, and eels at the crater. The water was very clear and when the sun shone it lit up all the activity in the water. You can try diving closer to the reefs by holding your breath, then squeezing your nose halfway down to release pressure. It appears as though bleaching is occurring on some of these corals. There is an aquatic life guide who snorkels with anyone interested in learning about each of the different species, such as the Parrot Fish, Moorish Idol, Yellow Tang, Black Triggerfish, and more.
We bought our own water-proof disposable cameras from a grocery store for pictures. We were only able to take 20 pictures with it, and most of them came out blurred. So, we recommend renting one of the go-pro cameras Calypso has available on their boat for 40 USD.
After getting back on the boat we went to Turtle Town nearby to see turtles. It was a pretty amazing experience to swim with these beautiful creatures gliding peacefully in the water. These are Hawaiian green sea turtles which are a protected species. Their dark-brown patterned shells are large, the heads small and rounded, and their skin resemble wrinkled reptiles.
We had to stay at least 10 feet away from them or you can get fined up to 10,000 USD. Even though this warning was strictly outlined to us on the catamaran, as soon as a turtle was spotted, everyone crowded around it trying to get a picture.
Overall, for only 76 USD, the tour to Molokini Crater and Turtle Town were awesome. We would highly recommend it, but consider snatching up a good deal by haggling, shopping around, and being patient. It’s an experience not to be missed!
Happy Travels Snorkeling! Mahalo!
Copyright © Beyond Here 2020
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