Before opening their local shop for underwater adventurers and tourists, The Snorkel Store's founders spent months field-testing hundreds of different snorkel sets for comfort, effectiveness, visibility, and durability. Thanks to their tireless research and firsthand experience, the snorkel specialists equip amateurs and avid swimmers alike with high-end silicone masks, bodyboards, and fins for exploring the beautiful below-sea-level scenery of Maui.
Explore coastal caves and rock formations. Walk past active lava flows and tubes. Paddle through schools of tropical fish against the underwater landscape of a reef. These outdoor adventures make up the daily commute for the five guides who helm Hawaii Pack and Paddle. In addition to belonging to the same family, these guides—each certified lifeguards trained in first aid and CPR—share a passion for the untamed splendor of Hawaii's outdoors. It's a passion they bestow upon others during 10 organized tours that challenge participants to kayak, snorkel, and embark on day or night hikes.
As a fully-insured kayak and snorkel-tour company, Hawaii Pack and Paddle sometimes leads forays into little-seen areas, such as the rugged Keauhou Bay or the cave where high-school senior Tiffany keeps her diary. Some tours lead adventurers through the lava flows and jungles of Volcanoes National Park, along the shore of Punaluu Black Sand Beach, or past the waterfalls and ridges of Waipi'o. Other tours focus on special topics such as spear-fishing and underwater geological exploration. Alternatively, multi-day tours may blend several outdoor activities or include overnight camping. On each excursion, guides elucidate facts about the local ecosystem and its ties to Hawaii's cultural history, and they often train participants in one of their favorite skills: marine-life identification.
Endless Adventures Hawaii combines water-equipment rentals with a knowledge of local breaks and secret spots to create memorable experiences. Its kayaks, standup paddleboards, surfboards, and snorkels get people out in the salty blue. For those who prefer a guided expedition, tours explore the Mokulua twin islands, which are protected as a bird sanctuary, and Kailua Beach. Guides also lead snorkeling expeditions around Lanikai to spot coral reefs and sea-turtle habitats and set out under the stars on a Glow Paddle tour with paddleboards equipped with LED lights to illuminate the water.
Founded with the goal of curating unique island adventures that promote up-close encounters with local wildlife, Island Water Sports Hawaii facilitates humans’ return to nature with intimate tours and activities. Working out of the Hawaii Kai Marina, Island Water Sports’ passionate staff of boat captains ferries guests out into Maunalua Bay to partake in aquatic adventures including snorkeling. The company’s signature eco-friendly submarine scooters secure riders' heads in clear, bubble-like helmets that draw on the principles of diving bells to safely seal air inside and keep faces dry, comfortable, and breathing easily throughout underwater tours. On boat tours, the balmy sea air tussles the manes of Island Watersports’ skippers as they point out awe-inspiring vistas and wildlife such as humpback whales that migrate to Hawaii from Alaska to nurse, mate, and take their sundresses out of storage.
With its pink sails filling with ocean breezes, the Island Magic Catamaran carries passengers out to sea in search of painted sunsets, playful humpbacks, and salty sprays. During sails, the crew carefully handles the 30-passenger vessel, allowing it to float lazily on glassy water or race against the island's fast-flowing swells. In addition to cruises, the team leads snorkeling adventures near Turtle Canyon, where sightseers can splash among green sea turtles before they finish hatching into boring, shell-less lizards. Sunset cruises depart 1.5 hours before the sun dips below the horizon, allowing passengers to admire the waves as they catch the last few bits of sunlight.
Somehow, every scuba-diving trip is distinct, even visits to well-traveled locations. Pearl Harbor Divers' team, for example, had visited the wreck of the USS Scrimmage, a World War II minesweeper, many times before. But one evening, while slipping through the water above the site, the crew heard a puff of air burst from the ocean, drowning out the motor. A humpback whale then crested just 15 feet from the boat. When the captain cut the engines, the crew realized they were surrounded by whales, which continued to break through the surface and catch breaths tinged with ocean spray in the moonlight.
In the shop, which is certified by the National Association of Underwater Instructors, guides work toward such unique experiences on scuba diving and snorkeling trips. They lead clients—including handicapped divers—to sunken ships, airplanes, lava caverns, and coral reefs throughout the Hawaiian Islands. On these dives, groups encounter common creatures such as sea turtles and native fish, as well as rare marine animals such as shy Pacific bottlenose dolphins, manta rays, and endangered Hawaiian monk seals. The instructors pride themselves on their ability to teach and engage by imparting the facts and historical significance of wrecks. They can also name and discuss each species that divers spot, at least the ones documented by science. On the nighttime Dive the Abyss adventure, divers are tethered within 40 feet of the boat and watch bioluminescent creatures, many of which are still not cataloged by zoologists, arise from depths of up to 2,000 feet.
In addition to dives, instructors conduct courses that work towards open-water or instructor certification. Chatter about past adventures drifts from a full-service pro shop, where technicians sell, service, and repair equipment from brands such as Atomic, Aeris, Oceanic, Mares and Zeagle.