In Hawaiian, holo holo, translated loosely, means leisurely journey. It embodies a laid-back and enjoyable approach to life where people take the time to simply enjoy the ride. So, it made perfect sense to me that I should go on a Na Pali Snorkel Sail excursion with Holo Holo Charters last summer. The Eleele, Kauai-based tour operator specializes in sailing and powerboat tours to the famed Na Pali Coast as well as to Niihau, nicknamed Hawaii’s Forbidden Island.
Sea turtles are just one of many species to be encountered.// (C) Steve Jurvetson
Taking it easy on my second Hawaii snorkeling attempt was an absolute necessity. As I revealed in an article published last year (“Under-Sea Adventure,” Aug. 3, 2009), snorkeling isn’t exactly my idea of fun in the sun. I just feel uncomfortable invading the underwater territory of our fellow sea creatures. However, following my positive Big Island snorkeling experience a few months earlier, I did feel more confident this time around and more willing to go face-to-face with all manner of undersea life forms.
Luckily for me, the trip started off ideally. Our group reached the Holo Holo Charters headquarters in Eleele, near Port Allen, just in time for the 8 a.m. roundup. Soon enough, we were ready to board our 50-foot catamaran, the Leila. As soon as we left the dock, the cheerful crew was serving up piping-hot coffee and tea; freshly baked banana bread, pastries, bagels; fresh tropical fruits; and juices. I could get used to this, I thought.
Sitting near the ship’s bow, I took a moment to soak in the beautiful scenery of the coastline and the clear-blue waves — both of which never get old. In front of me, a group of young girls lying on the catamaran’s net for a closer look at the wave action were laughing, amused by the occasional waves that splashed up from underneath the net. Soon, Jeff, a crew member approached the bow and began chatting with guests, reliving some of his favorite memories of growing up on Kauai. In between, he sprinkled in important safety tidbits and boat information but, for the most part, he had us enthralled with his storytelling abilities.
No sooner had I begun to daydream when, all of a sudden, a group of some six or seven rough-tooth dolphins appeared, with a baby dolphin in tow. Almost everyone scurried to the left side of the boat to catch a fleeting glimpse of the dolphins as they playfully swam next to our vessel. It was incredible to see them up close and to watch how the dolphin’s mother protectively guarded her young offspring, even as they braved some large waves along the way.
The Leila did, too, and unfortunately for us, the waters were particularly choppy on the day of our tour. To alleviate our jostled nerves and stomachs, the crew passed out ginger drops to passengers who felt a little seasick. The ginger drops were a big relief to me, and I could finally put my mind at ease and mentally prepare for my snorkeling excursion.
Before the big swim, however, there were plenty more sights to take in. As we made our way north from Port Allen toward the Na Pali Coast, we lingered for a bit to see the majestic Honopu Beach and Valley. The valley is known for its iconic 90-foot arch and served as the site of ancient Hawaiian temples and burial grounds, making it a foundation for numerous Hawaiian myths and legends. Our crew told us about the famous movies that have been filmed there, among them “King Kong” (1976); “Six Days, Seven Nights” (1998); and “Raiders of the Lost Ark” (1981). The view was simply stunning.
About a half an hour later, we finally arrived at our snorkeling spot along the Na Pali Coast. After readying myself to take the plunge, I went in, fins first. The waters were warm and fairly clear and, soon enough, I was engaged in a staring match with a nearby fish. We stayed in the water for about 45 minutes or so and some in my group were even lucky enough to spot sea turtles. Proudly, I can say that I didn’t rush back to the boat; instead, I took the time to enjoy my surroundings and revel in the beautiful underwater aquarium beneath me.
Once back onboard the Leila, we were greeted with a spread of delicious sandwiches, salads and fruit, as well as complimentary beer, wine and soft drinks. Close to 2 p.m. in the afternoon, we reached our home port, and I was sad that our sailing excursion was over. Slowly but surely, and with the help of great tour operators like Holo Holo Charters, I find myself actually enjoying snorkeling more and more. Who knows? I might even do it again.