Hina Adventures strives to bring locals and visitors together

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Having tested the market since opening for business this summer, tour operator Hina Adventures is refining its product line as it refocuses its business on customized itineraries designed to provide visitors to Oahu with a unique introduction to the island's culture and lifestyle.

That might mean a visit to a taro farm where clients help in the harvest, a tour to one of the ancient fish ponds still found along Oahu's windward coast, or an escorted hike into the island's lush mountains.

"Customizing was what people were calling us about," said Ena Sroat, who along with partner Uluwehi Hopkins opened for business this past August. "So we rethought our business plan and have come up with something that allows us to serve both visitors and the local community. This is about giving a cultural context to a visit to Hawaii."

Hopkins and Sroat are both Oahu-born and -bred women who share a passion for Hawaii and its host culture. Uluwehi, who is part Hawaiian, is pursuing a graduate degree in Hawaiian studies at the University of Hawaii. Ena, a university-trained historian, is a fourth-generation islander and knows Oahu intimately as a hiker.

Both of them lead Hina Adventures tours.

"We named our company after the goddess Hina because she is representative of so many important aspects of Hawaiian culture," Sroat said. "She was linked to agriculture and fishing and the coral reef as moon goddess, since the Hawaiian worked with a lunar calendar. She is also a patron of the healing arts."

While Hina Adventures fits into the broad category of ecotourism, it does so in a culturally authentic Hawaiian context. The focus is on authenticity and a first-person experience of Hawaii. 

Sroat and Hopkins said Hina's offerings are ideal for couples, families and extended families and emphasize the affordability of their packages.

A family of four with one teenager and one child under 12 could pay as little as $357 for a six-hour private tour.

Even a more involved Cultural Day Tour is priced at $175 for adults and $150 for children ages 12 and younger. Tour prices, which include Waikiki hotel pick-up, vary according to passenger count (the company van holds 12 passengers, but larger groups also can be accommodated) and tour options selected. Generous commissions are offered for agent bookings.

Although the company's focus is on custom tours, it is continuing its popular Night Sky Tour, with the evening spent under the night sky on Kahala Beach, with storytelling and talks on the star-based navigational techniques that brought Polynesians to the Islands.

Pickups start at 6:30 p.m., with a 9:30 p.m. return. The evening is priced at $58, with children under 12 discounted 15%. 

For information, call (888) 933-4452 or visit www.hinaadventures.com.   

To contact reporter Allan Seiden, send e-mail to [email protected].

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