With some of the severe offshore weather the Hawaiian Islands experienced while Hurricane Lane was in the vicinity, many beach-goers are reporting frequent encounters with the Portuguese man-o-war (Physalia physalis). Like many exotic sea creatures, the man-o-war isn’t just beautiful, it’s harmful. Its long tentacles dangle down into the water, while its head bobs along the top of the water. The translucent wing on its head acts like a sail. Because it can’t actively swim or direct itself, the sail is the man-o-war’s only means of locomotion.
When the tentacles make contact with whatever is unlucky enough to be near them, they deliver a very painful, venomous sting. How painful and harmful the sting is depends on the size of the man-o-war, how many tentacles made contact, and how sensitive the victim is.
You won’t just see these creatures in the water. The winds will also blow them into the beach break, and eventually they end up littering the sandy beaches, where unsuspecting feet and toes step on them. Even after a man-o-war has died, their tentacles remain venomous, so be wary of these blue devils, especially after off shore storms or strong winds that blow man-o-war toward the beaches.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that it’s impossible to encounter a man-0-war or stinging jellyfish or any meddlesome, venomous sea creature on a Rappel Maui tour. There’s also no need to worry about shark bites, rip currents, wana (sea urchins) quills, or coral scrapes, either. You may see Tahitian prawns, those little crawdad-looking crustaceans in the fresh water ponds, but they move like lightning when threatened by curious hands. Here’s more about what makes a Rappel Maui tour safe. The rainforest also poses no threat from land wildlife such as bears, wildcats, or snakes. But if you’re worried about mosquitoes, please ask your guide for the DEET-free spray they carry. (Please do not apply products containing DEET before your tour, as it damages the gear that we use.) If you notice you’ve been bitten ask for the Afterbite, an anti-itch treatment that can be applied to the skin.
While the ocean waters may be rough, murky or unfriendly after storms, the rainforest streams remain, as always, man-o-war free. We operate rain or shine, and our offices are open 7 am to 7 pm every day of the year. Please call to ask about conditions due to weather any time.
Why Maui is Number One (and a Lot of Other Numbers)
If you read travel-related media, you’ll find that Maui consistently ranks high for “best of” categories. In fact, it spent 20 years at the top of Conde Nast Traveler’s Best Island in the World list. Here are some numbers of all kinds about why Maui is one of the greatest travel destinations in the world.
It’s very common for us to receive a phone call or a chat request from someone who says, “My tour is next week, and the forecast calls for rain.” A shrugging-type response is common. While it may be true that the forecast calls for rain, it doesn’t mean much to locals. That’s because, for the most part, your run of the mill online weather forecast for more than a few days in advance will not be accurate. Most reporting that isn’t island-specific is reporting weather that’s happening in some vague, central location, like an airport that is nowhere near your destination. The truth is, there is no way to make an accurate prediction of island-wide weather on Maui more than a day or two in advance. And even then, there have been lots of times when a “100% chance of rain” brought nothing but sunny skies and vice-versa. Why is the Hawaii weather forecast so tricky to predict? For starters, it’s a tiny spit of land surrounded by surrounded by deep water–big water, ocean water. There are somewhat reliable weather patterns around the island, but large or severe weather systems moving along the Central Pacific are, literally, hit or miss on the huge Pacific canvas.
Weather Trends Based on Micro-Climates
With the exception of periodic unstable weather patterns and cooling or rainy fronts moving past the islands from offshore systems, there’s a different kind of local weather forecast based on the island’s micro-climates. The western shores of Lahaina and Kaanapali are usually sunny, with winds picking up late morning. The southern shores of Kihei and Wailea are usually hot, dry and sunny. The north shore gets the lion’s share of the wind, and Haiku is where most of the north shore rain falls. As you travel the windward (north-northeast) side of the island toward Hana, the weather becomes increasingly wetter. The summit at Mount Haleakala is usually very windy and at least 15-20 degrees cooler than the coasts. In fact, there’s ice or snowfall at the summit each winter. Kula, Makawao and Pukalani are at higher altitudes, and lie within the volcano’s rain shadow, which means they enjoy cooler temperatures and less rain than the north shore towns.
Will it Rain in the Rain Forest?
In a word, yes. The Rappel Maui activity site receives at least a little rain every day. It’s what keeps the waterfalls flowing and the landscape green. It’s the reason we operate rain or shine. When heavy rains or prolonged rains cause the waterways to flood, we stay out of the direct flow of the stream, and use rappel stations that are a safe distance from high or swift water. The more severe the flooding, the farther away we get from the stream. Unless we’re expecting a tropical depression or storm, we probably won’t be able to tell you exactly how much rain there will be in the rainforest more than 48 hours in advance of your tour. The El Nino and La Nina years can sometimes make weather patterns more predictable. Because of the nature of the Rappel Maui activity, along with the activity location, the activity is very rarely cancelled due to severe or dangerous weather.
Island Topography and Geography
Maui’s land features are the main determinates for most of our weather patterns. What most visitors don’t understand is that, while the island is relatively small, each one of the Hawaiian Islands has a collection of micro-climates. That’s why, if you call us very concerned about the amount of rain your’re watching from your Kaanapali hotel the day before or day of your tour, we will tell you that the weather for one part of an island is usually completely different from another, even if there’s only a few miles (as the crow flies) between them. Maui has more than a dozen micro-climates, for example, and so the weather in Lahaina and Kihei will likely be hot and dry most of the time, while the mountains within eyeshot of these locations are sometimes the wettest place on the earth.
Wind Direction Plays a Part in Weather Approaches
When offshore weather is approaching from the south and blows northward, it’s known as a kona wind. When weather is blown from the north toward the south, its know as a trade wind. Trade winds are the most common wind direction, and are responsible for keeping the island pleasantly temperate and vog-free.
We’re Here to Talk Story
Do you want to talk about the weather? We are ready to take your call and give whatever insights we can about the island and its ever-intimate relationship with nature. Our phone hours are 7 AM to 7 PM, Hawaii time, every day of the year. Or get your fingers tapping and chat with us online.
You’ve probably noticed that, even though it’s a smallish island, getting directions around Maui can be somewhat confusing if you’re a first-timer who’s unfamiliar with the towns and unique directional cues you’ll get from locals. Don’t worry, it doesn’t take long to catch on to what’s where and how to get there.
First off, north/south/east/west are infrequently used, unless someone is referring to the sides of the island. You’re more likely to hear island directional cues like mauka, makai and upcountry. To go in the “mauka” direction means to go away from the ocean; going “makai” means to go toward the ocean. “Upcountry” is the area at higher elevations up Mount Haleakala.
There are also leeward and windward mentions, but this is usually in relation to weather patterns. When Maui’s tradewinds are blowing, Hana, Kahului, Makawao, Wailuku, Kapalua, and Napili are on the island’s windward side; Wailea, Kihei, Maalaea, Lahaina, and Ka’anapali are located on the island’s leeward side.
Where You’ll Find What
Kahului is in Central Maui, at the isthmus of the island between East and West Maui; it’s where the Kahului (OGG) airport is.
Maalaea is where one of Maui’s harbors and the aquarium are located. It’s also near the park & ride lot where we meet you before your tour.
Lahaina is on the west side, along with Kaanapali–a long stretch of resorts, beaches and shops.
Kihei, Wailea and Makena are on the south side.
Makawao, Pukalani, Kula and part of Haiku are all upcountry towns.
Paia, Sprecklesville and part of Haiku are on what’s referred to as the North Shore.
Because of its remote perch at the very end of the eastern coast, Hana is…Hana.
Maui’s beautiful sights are one well-known and often-discussed topic; another is the expense associated with traveling to Maui–one of the most remote places on Earth. If you’re on a budget, you’ve noticed that everything, from food and accommodations to fuel and excursions, costs a little more than it does on the mainland. If you have some time to plan and shop wisely, you can save money and make more of your vacation to Hawaii’s unique destinations. You can check out the latest deals and discounts on Rappel Maui tours now.
Take the Road Less Traveled Vendors off the beaten path are often able to offer better retail prices on items like groceries, clothing, souviners, swimwear, snorkel gear and more. Look for activity desks and sales agencies that are off the main drag. Google and TripAdvisor forums make this easier than ever.
Try Hotel-affiliated Activities–Even if You’re Not a Guest There If you’re out of ideas, or if you’ve hit a streak of bad luck with the weather, resorts are a great place to get the ideas flowing. You likely won’t find deals at places like spas there, but you might find something fun to do at one of the activity desks. You don’t need to be a guest of the hotel to use the activity concierge or sales desk, and some desks can be more price-competitive than others. Larger resorts also offer indoor and outdoor classes, from flower arranging and hula, to fitness and surfing. Some hotels also sell day passes to exclusive pool use. Looking for a wacky, one-of-a-kind poolside experience? Try the Fishpipe at the Grand Wailea Resort in South Maui. Some hotels and resorts will offer you discounts at a very steep discount if you attend a presentation.
Meet Two or More Goals with One Activity Some activities are combinations by design, but there are many more that let you double up on the action by coincidence. There are hike/kayak combo tours, cruise/snorkel tours, helicopter/hike tours, and more. There are also tours that let you see sights as a bonus to taking the tour, as opposed to being the main attraction. For example, when you take a Rappel Maui tour, your transportation includes a drive down half of the famous Road to Hana and views of all of its scenic jewels before you even get to the main activity.
Exclusive, Online-Only Deals Some of the more established or web-savvy tour operators will run specials on their activities that you wouldn’t know about unless you subscribed to their newsletter, or filled out a form at their web site. Take your time looking through an operator’s web site, and call or email to ask about accommodating your budget. You may also be able to buy coupon deals at third party sites, such as Yelp, Groupon and others. A reputable operator will let you easily and reliably unsubscribe from their sales communications.
Visiting During Certain Times of Year, and Booking Activities During Certain Times of Week or Day Do you have flexibility when you travel? Look into visiting Hawaii during slower periods, when the demand for activities is less intense. Not only do you stand a chance of scoring a discount, but tour groups are usually less crowded during low season. On Maui, these times of year are usually in October, November, January and early February. Certain days of the week can also be less busy than others. At Rappel Maui, lower volume days are usually Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. Find out which days cruise ships dock at an island’s harbor–these are usually higher volume days on an island in general.
Discounts for Volume Are you able to round up a group of several participants? You might be able to get a volume discount if you book a group of greater than 5.
Look for Hidden (Muddy) Gems It sounds strange, but consider activities that you didn’t know you wanted to try–like walking down a waterfall while suspended by a rope. Because there are so many outdoor activities in Hawaii, there are probably some activities that you might not have known were activities. Look for places and activities that are new or off the beaten path–literally. For example, you won’t find any big mainland-style water parks in Hawaii, but you will find natural freshwater water slides in the middle of a sugar cane field overlooking the Pacific Ocean that is only accessible by 4-wheel ATV. If vacations are good for something, it should be for getting wet, muddy, and suntanned.
Last-minute Deals and Discounts While you might be taking a chance with sold-out tours and limited availability, some operators will offer you a discount at the last minute, or for a less popular tour time. If there is a tour time that’s discounted, ask if the time of day makes a difference in the quality of the experience. Just keep in mind that most tours have a 48-hour cancellation policy. Check policies carefully when booking any tour.
If All Else Fails, Try Asking If you call a tour company and ask if there is a discounted rate on any tour, what’s the worst that can happen?
Once visitors arrive on Maui or any Hawaiian Island, it’s easy to forget the miracle that has just happened: The Hawaiian Islands are located on one of the most remote places on Earth. With the closest continent or major land mass being more than 2,000 miles away, Hawaii is an oasis in reverse–a tiny spit of land in a sprawling expanse of ocean. Of course, with all of its modern amenities, it’s easy to forget how far away from basically everything Maui is, but here we are. Paradise is always the last place you look.
That’s why one of our friends who works at an activity desk in Wailea keeps a globe at her desk. She wrote a little note in Sharpie just over our little place in the middle of all that blue that says, “You are here.” It’s a reminder and an explanation of why things are the way they are on Maui and the other 7 major islands. Everything that’s here, besides the 32 canoe plants or the endemic plants and animals that arrived by way of one or more of the 3 Ws, had to get here somehow, usually at great cost.
So, if something takes a little longer than we’re used to, or if something is more expensive than we would like, it’s helpful to imagine that globe, and remember, “You are here.” And also, if things are more wonderful and exotic than usual, and there are people, places and things that you’ve never seen in all your life; if you meet people from everywhere out here in the middle of nowhere, remember: “You are here.” Or, if you’re rappelling off a 50-foot waterfall looking like a rock star, you’ll have to yell it; those falls are loud sometimes. YOU ARE HERE!
Wherever you are, we want to meet you sometime and extend our aloha. We are here.