It’s not unusual to spot dolphins
as soon as the cruise departs.
My friend and I had just finished slathering sunscreen on our faces
when we heard the excited shout from a fellow passenger on the Wild
Dolphin Watch and Lunch Cruise: “Look! Spinner dolphins!”
We were surprised the first sighting came so soon; we were less
than a minute out of Waianae Boat Harbor.
Two dolphins were racing fin to fin beneath the bow of Hoku Naia
(Dolphin Star), a 65-foot, 149-passenger twin-hull catamaran that
was built specifically for this cruise. Less than 10 feet from the
boat, a few others were leaping and twirling with the agility of
acrobats. The rest of the school including a mother and her baby
were hanging out nearby.
True to Hoku Naia’s name, dolphins are the stars of this
memorable two-hour cruise. In fact, if the captain hadn’t steered
the boat away to show us more of the west Oahu coast while we ate
lunch, they would’ve likely stayed with us the entire time.
After years of extensive research, Star of Honolulu Cruises and
Events honed in on west Oahu for the Wild Dolphin Watch and Lunch
Cruise, which launched last October.
The Hoku Naia was specifically
built for the dolphin cruise.
“The Waianae range is largely shielded from the rains brought to
the islands by northeasterly trade winds,” explained company
president Ronald Howard. “This makes it much drier and keeps runoff
to a minimum. Thus, some of the clearest water in Hawaii is found
off the beaches of the Waianae Coast.”
It’s no wonder, then, that dolphins and a plethora of other
marine life such as flying fish, manta rays, false killer whales
and endangered Hawaiian green sea turtles thrive there. From now
through April, humpback whales can also be seen in these
Intent on protecting the wildlife that it would feature, Star of
Honolulu constructed a vessel that’s the epitome of
Hoku Naia’s low-emission main engines meet Environmental
Protection Agency standards. She has no electric generators,
relying instead on waste energy from the engines to keep her
battery banks charged. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration has determined her cruising speed of 15 miles per
hour is safe for marine animals.
The vessel provides a close-to-the-water
feel from every vantage point.
In addition, landlubbers will be happy to know Hoku Naia’s custom
stabilizers make for a comfortable ride in the open ocean. She’s
also equipped with a dining area, bar, restroom, barbecue facility,
a wrap-around main deck and an upper-level observation deck that
provides spectacular 360-degree views. Her freeboard was purposely
kept low, enabling passengers to enjoy a close-to-the-water feel
According to Howard, the tour’s route depends on sea conditions
and what the captain deems best for dolphin watching.
“Usually, we see dolphins within three miles of Waianae Harbor,”
he said. “Since dolphins in Hawaii haven’t been hunted like others
in the Pacific, they’re not afraid of humans. They’ll swim right up
to the boat, which gives guests a rare opportunity to see them up
Certified naturalists are on board every cruise, answering
questions and sharing fascinating tidbits about the Hawaiian
spinner, spotted and bottlenose dolphins that tour-goers might see.
For example, unbeknownst to most people, dolphins have acute vision
and hearing, but no sense of smell.
“The Wild Dolphin Watch and Lunch Cruise is a wonderful option
for all ages,” said Howard. “It’s exciting, it’s educational, and
it takes participants to a beautiful area of Oahu that they might
have otherwise overlooked.”
Star of Honolulu Cruises and Events
Wild Dolphin Watch and Lunch Cruise
1540 South King Street Honolulu, Hawaii 96826
Commission: 10 percent
Cruise offered daily except Mondays, New Year’s day,
Thanksgiving day and Christmas day from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Cost is
$65 for adults and $39 for children 3-11 (kids 2 and under are
free). Lunch is included: freshly grilled hamburgers with all the
fixings, chips, brownies and fruit punch. Sodas and alcoholic
drinks are $3 and $6 each, respectively. Vegetarian burgers are
available with 24 hours advance notice. Advise your clients to wear
a hat or visor, casual, comfortable clothes and a liberal dose of
sunscreen. Hoku Naia is not wheelchair accessible.
Roundtrip transportation is provided between most Waikiki hotels
and Waianae Boat Harbor for an additional $20 per person; between
Ko Olina Resort and the harbor for an additional $10 per person. On
the bus, narration by the guide and a video produced especially for
the tour provide information about Hawaiian history and culture,
marine life and significant sights. Your clients also can drive on
their own and meet the group at the boat harbor 45 minutes prior to
departure. If no dolphins are seen, a Dolphin Check good for a free
return cruise will be issued (meal and transportation are available
for an additional fee).