Honolulu Unveils New Water Attraction

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Reed Travel Features

HONOLULU -- A water sports activity, Hawaiian Ocean Thrills, opened in Honolulu.

Visitors spend the morning at a large pontoon base in Keehi Lagoon, near Honolulu airport where Formula One Hydro Raceboats, miniature versions of jet craft used in hydroplane events, are the big attraction. There also are power bumper boats and paddle boats and a swimming pool, which is designed to attract families.

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Roberts Hawaii, a diversified travel and tour transportation company, opened the $2 million operation in November. The project is a partnership with Utah- and California-based New Sport International, which markets and manufactures the Formula One craft. It is New Sport's first tourist-oriented project.

The activity begins at 8 a.m. when Roberts' large catamaran Hokunani departs from Kewalo Basin, near Waikiki (the return is at noon). After a 40-minute shuttle, the catamaran ties up at what Roberts has dubbed Hot Island, its series of linked pontoons. Six of the 14 single-seat Formula One race boats are involved in a race at any one time.

Participants race around a set course, with a minimum of two races included in the price (more if Hot Island visitor numbers are not at full capacity). The minimum age for racing is 15, under the terms of a state law that also covers jet skis.

According to Sam Shenkus, Roberts marketing vice president, the race boats are much safer than jet skis. "They don't turn over," she said. A controller sets the maximum speed, and there is an emergency lever that cuts the engine.

Hot Island includes fresh water showers, a saltwater pool and a water slide and rest rooms; there is a snack bar aboard the Hokunani. Children and parents can use the bumper boats to play a version of water polo and the smaller paddle boats to maneuver a Hydro Cruise Maze Race Course. "We feel we must attract the family market to be successful," said Shenkus.

Currently, Hawaiian Ocean Thrills operates daily, in the mornings, but Roberts plans to to add an 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. operation when demand increases.

Groups of up to 100 persons (Hot Island's maximum capacity) also can be handled.

Roberts also is considering using Hot Island for functions. Its permit allows night use except for the race boats.

The company is offering two Ocean Thrills packages.

Both include roundtrip transfers from Waikiki hotels to Kewalo Basin, the roundtrip catamaran trip and the family-oriented water sports.

  • Deluxe Grand Prix, including a minimum of two races in the Formula One boats, costs $89.
  • The Adventure package, which excludes the race boats, costs $69 for adults and $49 for children ages 6 to 14 (there is no charge for kids 5 and under).
  • Roberts Hawaii owns Roberts Tours and Transportation, the state's largest tour bus company, which became the Hawaii Gray Line franchisee last year.

    Roberts Hawaii

    Phone: (888) 472-GRAY.

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