What Goes Around

With Segway, two wheels are better than four

By: Marty Wentzel

Do soaring gas prices have your clients seething every time they rent a car? Are they tired of dealing with traffic when they travel to Oahu? Then tell them about Segway of Hawaii, a new venture offering environmentally friendly, hassle-free tours of Waikiki and Honolulu.

Invented by entrepreneur Dean Kamen in 2002, the Segway a self-balancing two-wheeled personal transportation device can go anywhere pedestrians go, only faster. In February 2006, marketing and production maven Alan Rice took the concept to the next level, starting Segway tours in the tropics through his company Segway of Hawaii, based at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort and Spa.

“A Segway is great for Hawaii, because you can ride it outside any time of year,” he said. “I saw it on TV, tried one out and got hooked.”

Rice joined me on a recent tour called the Waikiki Glide Ride, which started with a 30-minute training session. Each member of our group learned to maneuver the machine through weight distribution, leaning forward to move it ahead and backward to slow it down. A lever on the left handlebar controls the direction the machine turns. As an additional safety precaution, our guides put us through some final paces like stopping on a dime and weaving in and out of cones, before leading us away on our tour.

Chugging along at 3 mph, I found the Segway easy to operate. Once we left the Hilton property, we navigated the sidewalks of Waikiki single file, getting quizzical looks from passers-by and more than a few questions about what we were doing. The tours serve as a rolling advertisement for the company, as people see the Segways and want to try one for themselves. Wisely, Rice has put the Segway of Hawaii phone number in large print on the front of each vehicle.

Our destination was Ala Moana Beach Park, home of a peninsula called Magic Island, where we posed for photos against a dramatic backdrop of Diamond Head.

“One thing I love about the Segway is that it goes where a lot of tourists wouldn’t otherwise go,” said Rice. “I never saw this view until I came here on a Segway. It’s a new way to wow people.”

Once we rode away from the crowds, we picked up the pace on the lawns and sidewalks of the park, under the ever-watchful eyes of our guides.

Rice hopes to expand Segway of Hawaii tours, possibly to the Hilton Waikoloa Village on the Big Island. He’s also considering setting up shop in the resorts of Wailea and Kapalua on Maui.

“On Kauai, it would work well for off-road adventures, and on the Big Island, people could tour the perimeter of the volcano since the Segway maneuvers over lava,” he said.

Groups, meanwhile, can use the Segway as a unique tool for team building, said Rice.

“We can put together scavenger hunts, private polo parties, picnic events and all kinds of customized tours,” he said.

Rice, who also leases Segways and sells them to businesses and individuals, spoke confidently about the positive impact the Segway can make on the environment. Approved for sidewalk riding, the Segway is quiet, pollution-free and has the energy equivalent of 450 miles per gallon of gas, he said.

“It can travel up to 24 miles on a single charge of electricity for less than 10 cents per charge,” said Rice. “It has the potential to alleviate congestion, pollution and parking problems throughout Honolulu and Hawaii.”

While it may not lure people out of their cars for good, Segway of Hawaii is a fun new way to show clients how two wheels are better than four.


Segway of Hawaii
Hilton Hawaiian Village
Commission: 20 percent

The 2½-hour Waikiki, Kapiolani Park and Diamond Head Tour costs $110 per person.
On the Honolulu History and Culture Tour, clients roll to Aloha Tower, Chinatown, Iolani Palace, the Mission Houses and Kawaiahao Church (two hours for $99).
The Waikiki Glide Ride heads to Magic Island and Ala Moana Beach Park (90 minutes for $79; two hours for $99). The Ultimate Glide lets clients choose their destination, accompanied by a guide (2½ hours from $125).
Segway of Hawaii also customizes tours for special occasions and groups.
Clients must be at least 16 years old, weigh no more than 280 pounds and wear a safety helmet. Tours are limited to eight people with two guides.