Clustered at the heart of the Hawaiian archipelago, the islands of Maui, Lanai and Molokai lie close enough to one another to make interisland day trips from Maui an easy activity option for visitors. Most boats depart from Lahaina, and during the winter season (early November through mid-May), whale-watching adds an extra dramatic component to a trip that traverses a key humpback whale habitat.
They say getting there is half the fun, and that's certainly the case with day trips to Lanai, with royal blue seas and island views that make the 15-mile sea journey visually spectacular. The usually calm interisland waters can on occasion get choppy, so travelers prone to motion sickness should come prepared.
Trilogy Excursions is the primary operator. As the Trilogy Web site makes clear, the run can be "restful and relaxing or wet and wild." Either way, it's a great experience with crews that aim to please and a setting that sets the stage for great memories.
With a 35-year track record and state-of-the-art catamarans that depart Lahaina Harbor on three tours to Lanai, Trilogy Excursions has played an important role in opening the island to day-trippers. Trilogy's catamarans are licensed to carry up to 96 passengers, but most cruises are limited to between 35 and 50, allowing for plenty of space both on deck and below.
The Discover Lanai Sunrise Sail departs at 6:15 a.m., followed by an onboard breakfast and midmorning arrival at Lanai's Manele small-boat harbor. There are several snorkeling options nearby, including the fish-rich waters of the Hulopoe Marine Preserve.
After a barbecue lunch at the company's harborside pavilion, there's a two-hour-long guided land tour that includes island panoramas as it heads to Lanai City, where nearly all of the island's 2,500 inhabitants live.
The Discover Lanai Sunset Sail starts with a 10 a.m. departure, with breakfast and deli snacks served on the way to Lanai, with the afternoon spent at Hulopoe Marine Preserve, where swimming, snorkeling, hiking and beach volleyball are options, followed by a guided tour to Lanai City. A barbecue dinner is served at the Hale O Manele pavilion. Both the sunrise and sunset tours are priced at $203, with a half-fare for kids ages 3 to 15.
Trilogy's Ultimate Seafari adds a Blue Water Adventure tour along Lanai's spectacular west coast to the list of activities, with breakfast, lunch and an hour-long raft excursion included on the full-day itinerary. Limited to 35 guests, it is offered only on Saturdays and select holidays.
Since the tour often sells out early, a commissionable prebooking is recommended for clients. It's priced at $213, with half-fares for kids. Travel agent bookings are handled via an agent-specific prompt on the company's toll-free reservations line.
The commissionable fare is $25 each way on Expeditions' five daily roundtrip ferry services between Lahaina and Lanai. There are morning and afternoon departures in both directions; the trip takes 75 minutes. There is service out of Maalaea Harbor from Friday through Monday.
Commissionable Experience Lanai packages offer day tour and overnight options, including all transfers on Lanai for the golf package and 4x4 Adventure packages. Overnight packages include accommodations at the Four Seasons Manele Bay or the Lodge at Koele.
Molokai Princess ferry
The Lahaina Cruise Co.'s 149-passenger Molokai Princess ferry departs Lahaina for Kaunakakai, Molokai's rustic capital.
Two 90-minute roundtrips are offered daily, with stunning interisland views as well as whale-watch opportunities in season. The roundtrip fare is $84.40, with one child under 12 traveling free with each paying adult.
On Molokai, the company offers the Alii Tour, which takes in scenic and historical island highlights and includes breakfast and lunch, with a 4 p.m. departure returning to Lahaina at 5:30 p.m. Bookings are commissionable after an account has been set up by the booking agency.