Aloha Kauai takes clients through island's tropical trails

Travel Weekly Hawaii bureau chief Doug Oakley sampled a half-day tour with Aloha Kauai Tours on Kauai. His report follows:

LIHUE, Kauai -- A hike into this island's interior offers an onslaught of sheer mountains and hills covered in a carpet of electric green.

The oldest of all the islands in Hawaii, Kauai has had a head start in nurturing its tropical ambience.

Aloha Kauai Tours clients hike through the island's vast greenery. Today, parts of the island look like a greenhouse gone mad -- plants, trees and shrubs grow literally on top of each other, with leaves of some plants larger than a grown man.

Much of the terrain on Aloha Kauai Tours' hike was like that. I spent a half-day with the company on its Blue Hole Area tour.

The excursion offers a good balance of easy walking with transportation and sightseeing in a four-wheel-drive van.

The company pays travel agents 20% commission on a variety of active tours, including hiking, snorkeling and mountain biking.

Last fall, Mark Faldmo, owner of Columbus Travel in Salt Lake City, sent some of a group of 600 on the program.

"This tour was one of the options for that group," said Faldmo. "They have a unique product, and I'm going to use them again when I have groups going in January and February."

Clients are picked up in the towns of Puhi or Kapaa and from some hotels at either 8 a.m. or 1 p.m. This particular tour lasts about four hours.

After picking up passengers, the tour heads to the center of Kauai, near the base of one of the wettest spots on earth, Mount Waialeale.

The top of Mount Waialeale receives an average of 400 inches of rain per year, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The tour takes guests to the base of the mountain, where it is still wet at times, but not on the scale of rainfall at the top of the mountain. On this trip there was no rain at all.

The first part of the program is a two-hour van ride with stops at Opaekaa Falls near the Wailua River and a stop at a Hawaiian temple, which features birthing stones where the wives of Kauai's high chiefs once gave birth.

Our guide, Joe Abreu, was well-versed in Hawaiian history and able to tell stories with a good sense of what clients wanted to know about the area.

After an hour and a half driving on a small mountain road, our van veered onto a dirt track that we drove on for about a half-hour before stopping to get out and hike.

The beautiful hour-long hike included views of Mount Waialeale, a look at an old irrigation ditch built in the late 1800s for far-away sugar fields, a review of various native and non-native plants in the area and more history.

"It's nice to show the island to people to tell them what it might have been like before the white man arrived and then what it was like in the old days after they arrived," said Abreu.

Joe Abreu of Aloha Kauai Tours tells clients about the area around Mount Waialeale and about his sleepy days as a police officer on rural Kauai. Abreu, a retired Kauai police officer, added stories of his own in addition to Kauai history that gave the group a feel for what Kauai is really like.

"If I pulled over someone for speeding and they gave me a good excuse and made me laugh, I'd let them go for the day," he said. "But I gave my nephew five tickets for speeding. The guys at the station said 'Man, you're tough on that kid.' "

After about an hour of hiking and enjoying the views, the group had a lunch of sandwiches, chips and sodas and got back in the van for the hourlong ride to the drop-off spots.

In addition to the Blue Hole Area tour, Aloha Kauai offers a variety of other programs that range in price from $48 to $90 per person.

For more information, call (800) 452-1113 or visit www.alohakauaitours.com.

Collecting your 20% commission

HONOLULU -- Travel agents booking clients with Aloha Kauai Tours can collect their 20% commission in one of two ways, according to marketing manager Terri Scarborough.

The easiest way, Scarborough said, is for agents to calculate their commission on the sale and take that figure from the client at the time of booking.

Agents can collect the commission in the form of a deposit on the tour price, give the client a receipt and have the client submit the receipt to Aloha Kauai Tours. The client then will be billed for the price of the tour minus the deposit.

With the client paying a deposit on the tour, the agent gets his or her commission up front.

The second way is for agents to book their clients on the tour, give the company their address and all the necessary information and then wait for the company to send a commission check after the client has taken the tour.

-- D.O.

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