Upscale experiences offer chance to take in sights by land, sea or air

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Southern StarVisitor spending sank 11.7%, or just over $1.3 billion, across Hawaii in 2009, and for island companies selling upscale activities and experiences, travelers intent on cutting expenses have been tough on business.

But Andy Evans, the founder of Kauai-based Capt. Andy's Sailing Adventures, hasn't let that drop in visitor spending dampen his enthusiasm.

"Business is definitely down, but we're not falling apart," Evans said. "We're down a few percentage points, but that's also allowed us to get more efficient, and we're not going anywhere."

Capt. Andy's excursions have been a favorite with Kauai regulars for more than 25 years, and Evans launched a second charter company with a brand-new, 65-foot luxury catamaran in October 2009.

Although the vessel calls Kauai's Port Allen home, the Southern Star will travel anywhere in Hawaii to meet clients and tackle entirely custom-tailored itineraries. Activities are planned a day or so in advance with the captain, and guests can explore the Na Pali coast, paddle into sea caves, snorkel or scuba dive, whale and dolphin watch, try offshore fishing, or even experiment with stand-up paddleboards and outrigger canoes.

Equipped with an onboard galley, bar, bathrooms, hot showers, plush upholstery, teak furniture and decks, the Southern Star also features a personal chef. Trips run $1,750 an hour and are 10% commissionable to agents. Visit www.southernstarhawaii.com.  

More high-end Hawaii

Travelers looking to explore the Big Island from a unique perspective might want to consider Kapohokine Adventures' Grand Fire and Falls excursions. Trips begin with a helicopter tour of the island's active Kilauea volcano district and unparalleled views of craters, smoking vents and, Mother Nature permitting, molten lava flows. The itinerary then moves north over vibrant rain forests and plunging waterfalls before a remote landing and a swim in a mountain pool.

Kapohokine Adventures later serves a Hawaii-style barbecue at the company's private, on-site pavilion, featuring champagne, local beer and all sorts of Big Island favorites. After lunch, guests enjoy a drive to stunning Akaka Falls and along Onomea Bay before a stop at photo-friendly Rainbow Falls near Hilo.

Trips start at $547 per person from Kona and are commissionable to agents. Visit www.kapohokine.com.  

Oahu visitors seeking hassle-free, full-service airport transfers should check out Honolulu's Elite Limousine Services. Started 29 years ago by Eugene Yee, a former captain of the Honolulu Fire Department, Elite recently handled transportation for the "Lost" red carpet premiere in Waikiki. Its fleet comprises 22 vehicles ranging from town cars and standard limos to custom vans and SUVs.

Also available for sightseeing and evening on the town charters, Elite handles high-end clients regularly and offers planeside pickup service at Honolulu International. Airport limo transfers to Waikiki start at $142. Visit www.elitelimohawaii.com.

Read more from the 2010 How to Sell Hawaii Luxury Vacations special section here.

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