Just off the Coast of West Maui lies the Molokini Crater, a small vocanit islet, shaped like a cresent moon that offers some of the best snorkelling in the world. An army of boats head out to this marine preserve every day to allow snorkellers to enjoy the wodeful reefs and diverses marine life.
The Four Winds II is one of these vessels and we took a trip out to the Crater to see how the vessel operates, what you get for your money, and how the whole experience plays out to see if the trip is worth it and how it compares to other trips. Our Four Winds II Snorkel Cruise Review is based in the cruise itself, rather than the experience of Molokini itself, but of course as that is the main attraction we look at that too, just to see if that is what you want to spend your vacation time and money on.
There is alot of competition for Molokini Cruises so it pay to get n the right boat, so sit back and take a look to see if Four Wind II is the right cruise for you.
- Price – $105 Adult $75 Child
- Location – Ma’alaea Habour
- Duration – 5 Hours
- Time – 07:30 – 12:30
- Stops – Molokini
- Meals – Breakfast And Lunch
- Open Bar – Yes
- Amenities – Glass Bottom, Slide, Showers.
- Scuba – No
- Snuba – Yes – $59
*we have no affiliation with Four Winds and provide a review simply as a guide and our own opinion. If you choose to book this tour we receive no commission at all, and we have not been paid in any way to write the review. We even paid for the tour fully from our own pocket.
The Tour we took was the Whale Watch and Molokini Snorkel Tour. The Boat offers 3 options for tours, The AM Snorkel Tour, the PM Snorkel Tour, and the Whale Watch and Molokini Snorkel Tour. The Whale Watch and the AM tour are essentially the same. The Whale Watch replaces the AM tour during the Whale Season – December to March, But it offers the exact same itinerary, Food, drinks, Price, Everything.
Really it is a bit of a con as there is no real whale watching at all. In fact, the only concession to whale watching is they try to find whales on route to the Molokini Crater and stop if they do come across some. They offer no Guarantees to spot whales and try and warn you they might not find any. Really this is a poor choice if you want to go Whale Watching!
That said, you will almost certainly see Whales on the Four Winds Whale Watching Tour! These incredible creatures are everywhere during Whale Season and the route you take out to Molokini is prime Whale territory. So as far as hitting two birds with one stone goes, the tour is great. Just remember this is a Snorkel Tour with the added bonus of Whales and not the other way around. If you really want to see whales and do not care about the crater, look for a dedicated Whale Watching Tour. If you really want to Snorkel in the Crater, and we do rate this as one of the top things to do in Maui, then this is a great tour that offers a spot of whale watching on the side.
If you are outside of Whale Watching Season the AM Snorkel is the alternative tour, so you can still learn a lot about this tour from this review, just ignore the whale watching parts and it is essentially the Same Tour.
The PM Snorkel is offered year-round and does not visit the Crater. Instead, you visit the ambiguous Turtle or Coral Garden. This Snorkel Site basically does not exist and instead is one of several nice reefs anywhere along the Maui Coastline. This is typically, for the Four Winds, the Area under the Honoapiilani Highway Cliffs/Pali’s just before Oluwalu in West Maui. It’s a wonderful spot with heaps of sea life and guaranteed Turtle Sightings.
In the Afternoon the Seas are rougher and access to Molokini is limited so the inshore sights are used. But other than this the trip is pretty similar only there is naturally no breakfast option and as the snorkel site is closer the trip can be shorter and less expensive. You may still spot whales in Whale season as they are so abundant, but no effort is made to hunt them out.
There are several different operators running cruises out to the Crater These vary in size and type of vessel and type of cruise. We really rate the Four Winds as one of the best but you can find all the other operators on Our Molokini Snorkel Cruise Page.
If thWhale Watching side of this is sounding more appealing than the Molokini Snorkel part of the trip then you need a dedicated Whale Watching Tour. We look at the best of those here.
If you are not an early riser and are just looking for a basic afternoon snorkel trip, like the PM Snorkel on the Four Winds Alternate operators for these are found here.
Boarding the Four Winds II
The Four Winds boards from the Maalaea Harbour in Maui. Most Cruise heading for Molokini board from here and the harbor is well equipped to accommodate the numbers. It’s not the most beautiful part of Maui, but it serves its purpose well. There is a large free parking lot above the harbor so there are no issues here. It;s a short walk down to the harbor.
Finding the Boarding area is not immediately obvious but essentially you head out along the main pier and look out for the Four Winds II Kiosk. We arrive in plenty of time as getting aboard early can assure you get a better place to locate yourself for the cruise out, but it’s not essential as there is loads of space aboard.
Once the Host has checked your tickets you head aboard where you receive the first safety briefing. Before an impressive spread of Fruit and Muffins along with coffee, tea, and juice for breakfast.
The Vessel – Four Winds II
Four Winds II is certified to hold 149 people, although they claim to allow far fewer aboard. On our trip that was certainly the case. There were around 50 (Guests) people aboard. At that it felt cozy but not crowded. We simply couldn’t imagine 149 people aboard!
The Boat is a Powered Sailing Catermaran. This means it can run under it’s diesel engines or via the wind. While the “burb” sugessts the Cruise will operate under sail power when possible the truth is that is almost never. So if you are looking for a sailing cruise look elsewhere. Howevr the engines are really quiet and the cat cruises along nicely at a relaxed apce.
The Vessel cruises really well. The twin hull are super stable and even in pretty heavy chop it just cuts through, making it a great choice for nervous sailors, or those prone to seasickenss. On our trip there was almost no roll at all!
There are Twin Decks with loads of outdoor deck space. We never had any issue finding a spot to sit in the sun, the top deck has a covered area, and you can sit inside the cabin on the bottom deck if you are looking to stay out of the sun.
The Website advertises a slide, and while there is a slide on board it’s a bit …well crap. This is basically just a child’s playground slide that deposits you into the water. It’s a bit of fun, but hardly a selling point. Same with the glass bottom. The windows are small and murky and you are unlikely to see anything other than Black Triggers that are not that interesting.
Cruise Out To Molokini
The Cruise out was calm and relaxing. As we said the Four Winds is a really stable vessel and it just seems to effortlessly glide along. The speed feels really slow and with the Islet just a speck in the distance you feel you might bever get there. But the relentlessness pays off and before long the tiny speck is looming large in front of you. cruise time was just under an hour (and around the same home) leaving around 3 hours at the Crater.
The Views back over Maio are Stunning, as you pull away from the harbor the WestMaui Mountains are stunning with the Wind farm rising up the flanks. You track aling side the shore of Kehei and Wilea with Haleakala rising up above them. Just being on the water in this glorious setting is probably worht hte price by itself!
As we were on the whale watching Tour, the route taken was fairy erratic, as the crew hunted out some whales for us. On the whole, there did not seem a huge effort to hunt out whales we were on a bit of a zig-zagging course, and there was plenty of radio chatter, but the initial briefing led us to believe whales were an unlikely event. However as we cruised along the reason for the lack of effort became clear, The whales were everywhere.
Blowholes were going off all-around in the distance and before long we got close to a group and the captain shut down as we watched them play alongside. The Cruises are under strict regulations to not approach whales and when a close sighting is made, they shut down in the hope, the whales approach the boat. In this case, they didn’t but we still got some great views of them breaching, pec slapping, and fluke diving.
As the Whale Watching is definitely secondary to Molokini we didn’t spend long with these amazing creatures and carried on to the Crater. Remember to keep an eye out for flying fish as you steam along, these are regulars to these waters and often fly alongside the boat after being disturbed.
As we pulled into the Crater, we got one final treat. The boat was met at its destination by a pod of Bottlenose Dolphins, including a baby Dolphin. It was pretty incredible!
One notable thing was during every announcment and saftey briefing we were plauged with a barrage of upselling. This was for Snuba, Underwater Camera Rental, GoPro Filters, Photo Servies and even just Wetsuits.
Really it was limited to the Announcements but it got a little tiresome. It was low pressure, just repeated and made some people think they needed the things that were being offered. Wetsuits being a good case in point. The water in Maui is warm year-round, 77-87°F (25-31°C) and you never need wetsuits for snorkeling, but just hearing it mentioned over and over meant many people decided to rent one!
It’s a small thing and can be ignored, none of the upsell is needed to enjoy your time on the boat, we are just not fans of the relentless offering. Once at the crater and most people had made their decisions this stopped but the first hour was on a loop!
Molokini is a partially sunken Volcanic Crater, rising up from the seafloor of the Channel, the Northside of the crater has collapsed filling the inner portions with water. The remaining Crater walls provide protection from the elements creating a perfect shallow Coral Reef inside the crater that is filled with Life.
The Land portions of the Island are a Bird Sanctuary and out of bounds to all, the waters surrunding the Islet are a Marine Life Conservation District, Meaning there are strict rules and a No-Take policy on fish and other marine life. This means the Fish density is really high and the coral-filled shallows are teeming with fish.
All of the cruise boats take you to the inside of the Crater, where the water is fairly shallow, although certainly, you will be out of your depth, and very sheltered. The Islet is pretty exposed and the seas here can be fairly choppy. However, inside the crater, things are normally swimming-pool-calm.
Inside the Crater, each boat has an assigned mooring spot and one of the key aspects is where each boat’s mooring is. Four Winds II has a great spot, fairly central but towards the left-hand side of the crater. There is a lot of Marine life going on below. Most of the below video was shot directly in front of the boat and there is not much to be found at Mokokini that can’t be spotted right under Four Winds II bows.
While there is the slight feeling of being hemmed in as you will have boats on either side of you, this is a common fault for all cruises.
The Cruise offers everyone full snorkeling gear, and while this is pretty basic, it is certainly adequate. One thing they offer, for free, that they push really hard is flotation devices. These are a great idea for inexperienced snorkelers. They offer Boogie Boards, Seeboards, flotation belts, and oodles of noodles, all to help keep you afloat.
The Seebords are great for a really nervous snorkeler as the clear window lets you look into the water without getting your head under. The key to good snorkeling is relaxing. Exertion is a snorkeler’s enemy and anything that helps you float makes life easier and snorkeling better so take the crew up on their offers of flotation devices. The other thing offered for free is Reef-Safe Suncream, again the answer is yes please, never underestimate how harsh the Hawaiian sun can be, especially when out on the water.
We are big snorkellers and always take our oen gear, but the provided equipment is addiquate.
Snorkeling is pretty incredible. The conditions are pretty perfect most of the time. The Islet is exposed to billions of gallons of fresh seawater every day so visibility is usually crystal clear. There is no run-off or sandy bottom to cloud things up meaning this is about as good as it gets, often well over 100ft.
There is also a lot to see. When you first hit the water, well actually before, you will see hordes of Black Durgeon Triggerfish. These guys kind of float about in the water doing very little, from a distance they are jet black but up close they are quite pretty really.
You enter the water in the deeper parts of the Crater and to find the most life you need to approach the wall. As you do the brighter and more colorful fish begin to appear and the shallows start to take on the appearance of an aquarium. There is a heap of coral but most of it is Greyish brown and not as interesting as you might imagine.
Exploring the shallows will reveal a huge number of Hawaii’s reef fish, you can use our guide to Hawaii’s Reef Fish to see what you may find, and most boats have a poster/chart listing species.
Keep an eye out for the more exciting fish such as Blue Trevally, Moral Eels, and Day Octopus (Tako). There is also a slim chance of white-tip Reef sharks, but these are normally spotted Diving. Don’t panic they are totally harmless. Eagle Rays are also a common sighting, and if you are ultra lucky a Manta Ray may wander in for a clean (although that’s never happened to us).
One thing to be certain about is you will not see is turtles. Despite being incredibly common around Maui’s Coastline, they don’t seem to like it this far offshore and sightings are incredibly rare. Again, while dolphins often play around the outskirts of the crater they rarely venture inside, at least not when there are people in the water, so those two are out.
In fact, there is no legal way to swim with wild dolphins anywhere in the Hawaiian Island Chain. However, if you want to see turtles then you definitely can!
The final thing to look out for is Whales. You won’t see any, and if you do there is a big problem as the Crater is not really big enough for them and if you are outside the crater you are in big trouble! But what you can do is hear them! This is one of the most magical experiences on the island, if you dive down just a meter or so, hold still, and listen, you will hear the whale song vibrating through your body, you can even heat it on our video above!
Overall the Snorkeling experience is about as good as it gets in Maui. Some people are disappointed, but this is mainly down to unrealistic expectations. They are dazzled with photoshopped images of dazzling reefs filled with color, and the reality is a little more beige than expected. Our video is pretty accurate in its color grading, we could have made the colors pop far more, but kept it real to show you what to expect.
There are a few sites in Maui we prefer to Molokini, but these are very advanced sites and require serious ability and knowledge to get to them. As far as snorkeling spots you can be delivered to on a boat Molokini is about the best in Hawaii, and one of the best in the world!
It should be noted many cruises offer less time at Molokini than Four Winds II. They head to an alternate site afterward, usually a Coral Garden or Turtle Town where you can snorkel more. We prefer the Four Winds Approach, which means more time at the one site, Molokini which is really what you have come to see. It also means once you have done snorkeling you can enjoy the open bar on the cruise back. With the alternate stop, you cannot drink alcohol before you have finished snorkeling, so the cruise back from Molokini to the second stop is “dry”
Snuba is an alternative to Scuba Diving. Where Scuba diving requires a large amount of training and competence to participate safely, Snuba is perfect for beginners with next to no training.
It is essentially Scuba Diving but the Air bottles are not carried on your back but instead attached to a raft floating above you, with the air provided via an extra-long tube. Naturally, this restricts where you can go and how deep you can dive but it removes so many of the complexities that make diving harder to get into. A short safety briefing and you are good to go for 30mins of underwater magic.
We are avid Divers so have never actually done Snuba, but it is a great introduction to the underwater world and costs $62+Tax to experience aboard the Four Winds II. The Crater is just about the perfect location to experience Snuba as the shallow crater floor, extensive marine life, and sheltered and clear waters make it a wonderful Dive site.
There is no option to Scuba Dive from the Four Winds II but really we think you are best using a dedicated Dive Company if you want to Scuba.
Lunch and Drinks
The boat stays in the crater for just under 3 hours and this provides you with a serious Dilemma, how long do you spend in the water exploring the crater? You see the problem is as soon as you decide to start exploring the Bar, the water becomes off-limits. Snorkeling and Drinking are poor bedfellows and the crew makes this abundantly clear. There is plenty to drink that is non-alcoholic to keep you nicely hydrated.
However when you finally have had your fill of the ocean the Open bar is a great touch. There are abundant cold ones along with a slightly dubious Chardonnay. It’s not the best wine, but a nice cold drink after your snorkeling adventure goes down a treat, and the wine gets better with each glass!
The Lunch provided is a BBQ affair, unfortunately, nothing is cooked fresh, but that is due to strict rules preventing live cooking inside the rim. Snoke and ash from the BBQs used to be a real issue. So everything is cooked up one the sail out. You can choose from Pulled Pork or Grilled Chicken Breast Sandwich, there is also a Veggie Burger option. This is accompanied by salad fruit and all the trimmings including Maui Chips, with fresh-baked cookies for dessert.
It is by no means gourmet, but pretty decent for a basic BBQ lunch on a boat tour, we certainly don’t hear many complaints.
On the whole, the cruise home is very much the same as the cruise out. It’s a beautiful piece of the ocean with the same stunning views. We found the route more direct, but closer to shore. The winds and therefore the seas build during the morning and often become too choppy to get to the Islet in the afternoon, this makes the return leg rougher, but by routing closer to shore the worst is avoided and it’s still a very smooth ride.
The one thing we wanted to know, and the most important element of the cruise home is what time the Open Bar ends, and the good news is it remains open well into the cruise to ensure you have enough time to get the last couple of drinks in for your trip to the shore!
Of course, this isn’t a Booze Cruise, and you will land around midday so heavy drinking is not recommended but really there was no issue with the generosity of drinks, and remember we are British so are demanding when it comes to open bars, and this one flows very nicely for a mid-morning affair! Do remember someone will need to do the driving, however!
Despite the few little niggles, we love the Four Winds II. It strikes a great balance between a fun touristy type cruise but staying small and friendly. There was always plenty of space on the boat and a large choice of seating option both indoors and out. You were far from cramped up like on some of the larger cattle boats.
The Crew works tirelessly to keep you happy, safe, fed, Safe, Well Quenched, and above all SAFE! They are both knowledgeable, friendly, professional, and approachable. Each member seems to have their own specialty and you always know how to approach about what.
The Breakfast was well above our expectations and the Lunch perfectly decent, and much needed after a couple of hours in the water. The Open bar was brilliant and overall we had a great time.
Sailing during Whale season adds a special sparkle to the cruise but it’s still an excellent option when the whales have moved on for the year.
Apart from laying off the upsell, it’s hard to think of what we would really add to the experience, it’s a fantastic morning out on the ocean.
Have Your Say
Have you taken a cruise out to the Molokini Crater? Which operator did you go with? Did you try Four Winds II? If so what were your thoughts? Did you spot whales? What else did you see? Let us know your experience in the comments below we would love to hear from you. and if you have any questions just fire away.