Set to Sail

Fair Wind offers eco-friendly luxury aboard its new catamaran

By: Marty Wentzel

There’s a new girl in town, and her name is Hula Kai. Operated by Fair Wind Cruises, she’s turning heads as the Big Island’s first hydrofoil-assist catamaran, a distinctive way to travel the waters of the Kona Coast.

Dating back to early 1970s, the family-owned Fair Wind Cruises is best known for its excursions on the Fair Wind II, a 60-foot aluminum catamaran. The firm added the 55-foot Hula Kai to its fleet in order to accommodate Hawaii’s growing market of luxury travelers, according to Penn Henderson, Fair Wind Cruises’ sales and marketing director.

Designed by Nic de Waal in Auckland, New Zealand, the foil technology produces hydrodynamic lift, translating into a smoother ride at higher speeds. It’s an environmentally friendly craft as well; the hull displaces less water and creates a smaller wake-wash than traditional catamarans, helping to reduce shoreline damage.

While the company’s Fair Wind II ventures to the marine conservation district of Kealakekua Bay, the Hula Kai takes clients 17 miles south of Keauhou.

“This new location is absolutely spectacular, with lots of marine life and fascinating rock formations like arches, caves and lava flows,” Henderson said. “It’s truly an ecological adventure.”

Since Hula Kai’s official launch on Oct. 15, she’s been attracting a number of curious clients.

“The initial response has been fantastic,” Henderson said. “While November is typically slow on the Big Island, we have already had many repeat guests aboard. Many people have been waiting for this type of catamaran and snorkel cruise for a long time.”

Like the vessel itself, the food service aboard Hula Kai targets clients with discriminating tastes. Guests get a breakfast of homemade frittatas, croissants, yogurt, granola, fresh fruit, juices and Kona coffee. The lunch menu features Angus burgers, potato salad, green salad, marinated chicken strips, veggie burgers and homemade brownies.

While the 42-passenger Hula Kai is attracting attention, the Fair Wind II has been charting a strong course for the company.

“Support for Fair Wind over the years has been phenomenal, especially in 2005,” said Henderson. “Our business this year has increased more than 20 percent compared to last year.”

Henderson credits much of the increase to a spike in interest in Fair Wind’s afternoon cruises to Kealakekua Bay.

“I guess the secret is out that the afternoon trip offers the same great snorkeling but with much fewer people,” he said.

With the addition of the Hula Kai, Fair Wind can get more creative with its offerings by introducing several new cruises in 2006.


Fair Wind Cruises
78-7130 Kaleiopapa St.
Kailua-Kona, HI 96740

The Hula Kai, a new vessel operated by Fair Wind Cruises, runs morning cruises from 8 a.m.-1 p.m. at $139 per person. Beginning next year, afternoon cruises and whale watches will be available.

In 2006, adult rates for Fair Wind II trips are $105 (morning deluxe snorkel cruise), $99 (afternoon deluxe snorkel cruise), $69 (afternoon snorkel cruise) and $55 (afternoon whale watch), with reduced rates for children.

Fair Wind pays 10 percent commission.