Today’s plan was to head out on the Four winds II catamaran For a Snorkelling and Whale Watch trip to Molokini. This was our first time aboard the Four winds but not our first time to Molokini. So we were looking forward to seeing what the Catamaran Offers. The Morning trip on the Four Winds II Molokini Snorkel trip is a 4-hour tour of the Crater with a longer than average stop at Molokini (most move sites). During Whale Season it also does its best to provide some whale encounters on the sail out to the Islet.
The small crescent-shaped Islet of Molokini is a partially submerged Volcanic crater that erupted from the seabed around 230,000 years ago and has been slowly collapsing ever since. The Remote Nature and sheltered harbor have allowed a pristine reef to build inside the crescent in shallow crystal clear water. Many waters around Maui and Hawaii are described as crystal clear in fact it’s a common description worldwide but here at Molokini, the water is clearer than almost anywhere in the world.
There is very little in the way of sediment of detritus that can get into the water. No runoff and the position in the channel means it is constantly flushed with fresh clear ocean water from the endless Pacific. This makes Visibility about as perfect as you are likely to find it anywhere.
The Downside to the is a large number of boats and visitors that visit here to experience the fantastic snorkeling available. The Islet is also home to a large number of seabirds and a frequent haunt of Spinner dolphins. In short, it is a unique natural paradise brimming with wildlife.
The Four Winds II is a large Sailing Catamaran that offers both morning and afternoon snorkeling trips around Maui. According to their blurb, the Morning trip goes to Molokini 99% of the time. It is, however, weather-dependent. The Afternoon trips rarely go to Molokini and instead visit one of the coral gardens around the Maui Coastline. It’s cheaper but has a lot less included and we really want to visit Molokini as if we wanted to view a coral garden we would just swim to it from shore for free.
The Morning trip we booked is an all-inclusive trip offering Breakfast and Lunch with Soft Drinks all day. There is also an open bar for complimentary alcoholic drinks ready for you once you have finished Snorkelling. A big plus for us.
The Catamaran is capable of carrying 149 Passengers. Four Winds say they never book that many and it’s a good job as it would be terribly crowded. There was around 60 guests book on our trip and that felt OK. It was busy but not cramped. The Boat is a big old beast and moves along feeling quite slow but actually makes good progress, the cruise out took about an hour, and the same on the return giving you around 2 hours moored time at the crater. Most trips stay less time and head off to a Turtle Town or coral garden. We Preferred the option of staying at the crater as we can just swim out to turtles and coral gardens anytime we please. It also gives you less time with the Open Bar!
Cost-wise it was $106.81 per person (including Tax) when booked online. We booked through Reserve Hawaii for $103.73 a pretty small saving but we were booking a few things through them at the same time so made sense.
It is a big outlay but the inclusive nature meant we felt we were getting quite a good amount for the money With both Breakfast and Lunch included. We should say we paid for this out of our own money, not freebies or paid for trips here. Our opinion is completely unbiased.
Breakfast was a simple affair. Juice and tea/Coffee accompanied by unlimited MONSTER muffins of various flavors plus plenty of fresh tropical fruits. It was a perfect way to start the morning and helped offset the 7:00 am sail time. Again we were aided by being Jetlagged still but we did need to get up pretty early to make the drive to Maalaea harbor where the Trip sailed from. While we are on the topic of the Harbour we avoided parking on the Quayside which incurred parking charges and parked up at the ocean center for free. While technically not allowed we say no way they could tell if we were customers or not.
Breakfast was accompanied by a safety briefing and introduction to the crew which was also a pretty long hard sell on all the “extras” you could purchase. You could rent wetsuits, cameras and sign up for Snuba* Or purchase Photos and videos of the day. While the crew pushed these extra’s it was only ever over the loudspeaker there was no real pressure. Nothing you need to enjoy the day is extra and you have everything you need is included in the price. The options are all accouterments to make the day more memorable. Wetsuits are not needed in our opinion but were there to rent if you wanted. At $5 per rental, we consider them very good value, but the water is a lovely temp and you shouldn’t get cold at all.
*Snuba is a cross between Scuba and Snorkelling allowing you to dive down and stay down while continuing to breathe. It’s a great introduction to the world of Scuba Diving as it requires very little training and is relatively cheap. We have no interest as Kate doesn’t like the idea of being underwater and I am an experienced Diver but we feel it’s pretty appealing for many who fancy scuba diving but don’t fancy the commitment or are just not sure. Certainly, Molokini is a great place to try it out!
Large Humpback Whale
From Check-in to boarding and the Safety announcement the whole crew did everything they could to play down the chances of seeing Whales on this trip. We had been told they have mainly left early and the chances were not great. Most people seemed very disappointed by this but we were just confused!
Thaa she Blows….
We had seen whales EVERY day of our trip so far and knew there were plenty about and there still would be for weeks? We couldn’t work out whether to be angry that they were not going to try very hard to find whales or if they were just being coy in case they really couldn’t find any. We really felt there was a very good chance of seeing whales and just couldn’t quite work out the pessimism!
After around 10 mins of cruising, we noticed the Boat was no longer headed directly for the islet of Molokini. We continued to monitor the direction and noticed we were sailing a very odd protracted route toward the Crater. Zig-Zagging all over. We figured the only explanation was Whale hunting. After around 30 Mins the Photographer rushed out as the engines cut out and all worries evaporated as the call went out Whale 4 O’Clock.
Sure enough, not far off towards the rear was a group of Humpbacks. The whales stayed and played on the surface for quite a while. There was little Breaching or Tail/Fin slapping but the whales were riding high out the water to give us a great view and there was loads of tail lobbing as they took it in turns to dive down. We stayed watching them for a good 10 Mins but Anti Harassment laws mean the boat is not permitted to approach them so they kept their distance but still put on a great show. The Laws are there for a reason and it’s great to see big tours like this doing the right thing.
The Four Winds II is a Sailing Catamaran and apparently on occasion they whip out the sails and power along on the wind. We saw no hint of that and they just cruised to the crater under engine power. The Catamaran sails very well there was a bit of chop around and you really couldn’t feel a thing. It was not a rough day but smaller vessels would be bouncing quite a bit, but our ride was smooth and sedate throughout. Even people quite prone to seasickness would get along ok as the ride was super smooth. We shared the front deck with some girls who had been on a very heavy session the night before and even they had limited problems.
The BBQ for lunch is fired up really early and the lunch is not fresh from the grill affair but cooked on the voyage out and kept warm. This is a big shame but again it’s for a reason. No BBQs are allowed to operate within the Crater as the number of tours cooking out there was causing problems to the birds so they banned it. A small price to pay.
As we pulled into the crater we were receiving our final safety instructions when a call from the crew halted this. A Pod of Spinner dolphins had appeared off the Bow and the Crew paused the Arrival as we all watched them play about in front of the boat. A great spectacle and there was even a Baby playing about with its mother. Really wonderful to see!
Pod Of Spinner Dolphins
Baby Spinner Dolphin playing with mummy Dolphin
Once parked up the large dual steps are lowered into the water and the pool is officially open. There wasn’t a mad dash for the sea so I led the way and plunged in. The water was as described, beautifully clear, and quite fresh but nothing near what would require a wetsuit. Four Winds offers a huge array of different floatation options from floats to boards with window holes to view underwater. All free of charge. As experienced swimmers, we shunned these and simply took the natural approach.
Gin Clear Water
Again Masks, Snorkels, and Fins were all provided free of charge. I had my own Kit but Kate made use of the rentals. The masks were decent quality for rental masks and fairly new. They had the reassuring antiseptic taste to the mouthpiece indicating they had been disinfected well. If re-using a snorkel is an issue for you? We simply advise purchasing your own kit. We normally have our own but we had a malfunction (the glass broke) on Kate’s mask before the trip.
The Boats all line up around the inside edge of the Islet and this creates a natural pool area to swim around in and take in the sea life. Unlike most Coral Gardens and Snorkelling spots around the coast, you can expect more unusual creatures out here. In our time in the water along with all the Regular reef fish, we saw some more interesting creatures.
There were several large Bluefin Trevally, along with a couple of Giant Trevally, I spotted at least 3 Moray eels of various types and two Hawaiian Day Octopus who were busy foraging around the corals. This is of course on top of thousands of Black triggerfish that surround the boat. Many hundreds of Morish idols, Yellow Tangs, Butterflyfish, Goatfish, Large Parrotfish, Unicornfish, and a hundred different small species. Many who are endemic to the islands. Really everywhere you look there were fish and the clear water meant you could see a long way into the distance with seemingly endless fish swimming around the reefs.
The Coral out here is not as varied as the coastal corals but it’s healthy and plentiful it does lack color though. One thing you will not find out here is Turtles. It’s not a big deal for us as we have already seen many turtles on our trip and assume we will see many more to come. But if seeing turtles is essential and a snorkeling trip is your only option this is probably not for you! There are many other places to see Turtles on Maui though.
The other great thing about a Snorkel trip during Whale Season is the chance to HEAR the whales song. While trips like this encourage easy snorkeling making use of floatation if you want to hear the whales you need to dive down. Once a meter or two under their song echo’s through your ears and is a pretty amazing experience. Anyone doing Snuba will be in for a real treat.
After around 30 Mins kate had seen enough and decided to switch fluid-based activities. She went from swimming in water to downing Wine! I stayed much longer and was pretty much the last out. I even checked out the onboard slide. The Four Winds slide is pretty lightly advertised but it is certainly available. It’s a little rickety and to be honest pretty scary. We think it’s more aimed at kids than 15 Stone Adults but still, I gave it a go!
The only thing we forgot to check out was the Glass bottom room. There was almost no mention of it from the crew and it slipped our minds to check.
Food and Drink
When I had finally had enough of the ocean I joined my wife for a spot of lunch. The offerings were Burgers, Chicken Breast Burgers, HotDogs, or Pulled Pork sandwiches. We both went for the Pulled pork. There were plenty of Self-serve condiments and Pickles along with Salad and Maui Chips (which had a miraculous ability to get everywhere!). The pork was very good and we both really enjoyed it, there was no limit and you could have more than one round if you were particularly hungry.
The Bar was now fully open and serving anyone who had finished Snorkelling. The choice was pretty limited. There was a selection of beers and wine and that was about it. The Wine was described by Kate as pretty Awful. This didn’t stop her from ordering repeated refills!
While the selection was limited the quantities appeared never-ending. Once we began the Cruise back the bar Remained firmly open and remained so until just outside the Harbour. This gave ample time for a good few rounds of drinks and I was only limited by the need to drive afterward so only had a couple of small beers. Kate didn’t have to drive so tried her best to finish off the Boat stock of Chardonnay.
Back to the Condo
Back at the Dock and the Fantastic clear blue skies we had enjoyed all morning were beginning to fill in. In fact, Large cloud build-ups on the West Maui Mountain looked intent on spoiling the rest of the day. And true enough as we drove into Lahaina on the way back to the Condo the Heavens opened.
With the rain lashing down and the large quantity of wine, Kate had consumed relegated the rest of the day to a lazy one in the condo. I caught up on a few work things and processed some photos while Kate slept off the booze. Later on, the rain cleared and we had a spectacular sunset that I Watched while out for a swim in the Bay.
It was then another BBQ then an early night as I was to be up early again to go Diving on Lanai.