By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 2/18/2020
Posted: 5/17/2011
Topics/Keywords: #Maui #Snorkeling #Luau #Molokini #Hawaii Page Views: 3681
Jason and I go on a snorkeling adventure and to a luau in Maui.

We had saved today for the most blatantly touristy stuff one can do on Maui, besides shopping for T-shirts: A snorkeling trip, and a luau.

The morning trip was to a small isle off Maui called Molokini, where there was supposed to be amazing snorkeling. Our reservation was for the Four Winds II, Maalaea Harbor, Slip #80. We had made a point of camping the previous night as near as possible to the harbor. We arrived early and found what we thought was the right boat. It was (also) boarding at 7 am. However they had no record of our reservation. We rifled through the papers in the camper and finally found one with the reservation. Slip 80 was on the opposite side of the harbor. We ran back to the camper, drove it around, parked it (the handicapped placard I had because of my leg helped) and got to the correct boat as quickly as we could.

The Four Winds II.

Everyone else was aboard already; we entered the main cabin just in time for the captain's safety lecture.

Jason listens to the safety lecture.

The boat moved slowly through the waters of the harbor, then picked up speed once in the open sea between Maui and Molokini. Molokini can be seen as a small sliver on the horizon from the Maui coast, almost unnoticeable next to its bigger brother, Molokai (one-time home of the infamous leper colony). From the boat, Molokini rapidly grew more distinct.

The isle of Molokini. Molokini from the air.

Molokini is a partially-submerged volcanic crater, which gives it a crescent shape more easily seen from the air. The crater is less than half a mile in diameter; the shallow and protected waters provide a safe environment to a rich array of sea life, which is why it is such a popular snorkeling destination. In fact, Molokini is listed as one of the 10 top dive spots in the world.

While we motored to the islet, we were served breakfast on board: bagels with cream cheese, fresh pineapple, coffee and juices. While we ate the captain chattered over the PA system some information regarding our destination.

Molokini last erupted some 230,000 years ago, according to potassium-argon dating. During World War II, the US Navy used Molokini for target practice. In 1975 and 1984 the Navy detonated in-place unexploded munitions found within the crater, resulting in the destruction of large areas of coral, which of course resulted in a public outcry. A thorough search and risky manual removal of unexploded munitions to deep water was carried out by volunteer divers as a result. A 2006 survey found no evidence of unexploded munitions on the islet itself, which of course was good news to the folks who were about to go snorkeling.

Jason gearing up.

Within a short time we reached Molokini, and the Four Winds II moored to a permanent mooring post, as is required by law. There were quite a few boats there already, and many empty mooring posts that suggested more would arrive before the day was out.

Jason enters the water.

The snorkelers geared up in the snorkel, mask, fins and float belt that had already been handed out.

There was a ladder on the back of the catamaran that was lowered for the snorkelers to use. Jason entered the Pacific ocean for his snorkeling adventure!

Jason snorkeling.

From the boat to the reef was just a short swim; and Jason had taken an underwater camera with him to capture the most interesting aspects of it. To begin with, the reef itself was beautiful.

The Molokini reef.

The popularity of reef diving is that there are so many different species of fish hanging around them. Molokini is home to more than 250 different species.

A yellow fish off Molokini.

So, for the aficionado, snorkeling is just like bird-watching for the more athletic nature lover.

In many places, the reef was extremely near the surface; the snorkelers had been warned not to touch the reef, much less stand on it. But Jason captured the reflection of the reef from the underside of the surface in this stunning photograph:

The shallow reef, reflected against the bottom of the surface.

Jason was also attracted to a silver, dart-like fish that seemed almost as curious about him, and it kept coming round to investigate.

A long, thin fish.

In addition to fascinating fish were other life forms, such as this sea urchin.

A bright red sea urchin adds to the color of the reef.

The intermingling of species didn't just include fish and humans. Fish of different species also seemed interested in each other, and not just as fast food.

Two brightly colored fish check each other out. Your blogger, stuck on the boat.

Of course, you've noted that Jason did the snorkeling. I enjoyed the boat ride, and the meal. But I couldn't go into the water with my leg still bandaged, and with openings in the skin grafts beneath the bandages. Especially here, where we'd been told the water contains bacteria that can result in serious infections in anyone with an open wound.

However, I did figure out a way to get at least my good foot immersed in the Pacific.

My right foot in the Pacific.

By now exposure to the sun was taking a surprising toll on us Phoenix residents, so Jason boarded and we both put on sun block after enjoying a delicious BBQ lunch provided by the Four Winds II. The sun block we had had been purchased at Whole Foods (yes, there's one on Maui!) and definitely had a clinging effect even after Jason returned to the water.

Jason and Paul (your blogger) sun blocked.

Since Jason and I both knew that that old wives' tale about not going back into the water for an hour after eating has no basis in fact, Jason was able to enjoy a second round of snorkeling, this time without the float belt which, it turned out, he didn't need.

Jason floating without a belt.

Then they gathered up the snorkelers and we began our return to Maui.

Jason and Paul on the return trip.

Along the way, the captain suddenly stopped the boat to make way for a sea turtle.

A sea turtle between Molokini and Maui.

So the catamaran docked; we left the folks on board a nice tip, put on clean shirts and stopped by for more Haupia ice cream and some Starbucks. We then made a stop at the Haycraft Beach Park shower we'd been at yesterday to shower and change; and then arrived at the hotel hosting the luau for which we had reservations.

As soon as we got there, the staff photographer was quick to take our picture.

Jason and Paul's official luau photo.

This luau was a smaller affair than the one I attended last year on Kauai. That one seated hundreds; this one seated dozens.

Seating at the luau.

There were all kinds of participatory activities preceding dinner, including lei-making, ball-twirling, and spear throwing.

Jason learns to throw a spear. Jason throws a spear. Bullseye!

There was also an Hawaiian band playing live music, which was very good. Apparently a single Samoan family provides the cooking and most of the entertainment. And then the band brought out their "youngest member", a girl of ten or eleven with a creepily aged face, to perform.

The band's youngest member performs.

To say watching this young lady perform the sensuous moves of the hula was mildly disturbing would be an understatement. However, she was clearly very talented and loved what she was doing.

The food was served buffet-style, and was awesome—although oddly lacking in that luau staple, Kalua pig. (They had pork but it wasn't the same.) However, what they did have was delicious, and Jason and I each ate far too much.

After dinner and desert, the master of ceremonies asked if there were any honeymooners in the audience. Jason and I looked at each other, grinned, and raised our hands. The MC asked us to come up, had us give our names, gave a Hawaiian blessing, and congratulated us. Everyone in the audience applauded enthusiastically.

Then the traditional luau show continued, with dancers and dances from each of the major Polynesian cultures represented.

Polynesian dancers at the luau. More Polynesian dancers.

They also had a Samoan fire dancer, one who had come in first in some recent fire dancing pageant. (Who knew?)

The Samoan fire dancer.

Finally, the luau was over and Jason and I returned to the camper, which we drove to Papalaua Beach, where we'd camped the previous night. After setting up the camper for the night, we wandered onto the beach itself and sat at a picnic table in the darkness, punctuated only by stars and flickering lights from Maalaea Harbor ten or fifteen miles around the curve of the coastline.

View from the beach.

We held each other in the embracing ocean breeze, watching the moon march overhead, until it was time to go to bed.