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
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
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
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
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
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.