From volunteer activities to fireworks cruises and an ever-changing snorkeling adventure, there are some new options to consider when booking Hawaii tours as the destination returns from its pandemic hiatus.
• In Pearl Harbor, the Ford Island Bus Tour is one of those new options. Visitors take a boat to Ford Island to see the USS Oklahoma and USS Utah memorials, which are not otherwise accessible because they are on an active military base. The 90-minute guided tour is led by a National Park Service ranger who will give an interpretive talk and answer questions. Reservations are required.
The Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum takes visitors to the top of the restored Ford Island Control Tower. Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum
• Also on Ford Island, the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum opened the Top of the Tower tour, which takes visitors into an operational building, through a fire exhibit and an elevator to the top of the red and white control tower, which had just been completed several months after the attack on December 7, 1941. After a $7 million renovation, the tower gives visitors a 360-degree view of Battleship Row, military bases, and the USS Arizona Memorial.
“The Ford Island Control Tower stands as a symbol of stability and peace, standing tall on this hallowed ground,” Elissa Lines, executive director of the Pearl Harbor Aviation Museum, said in a statement. “It’s time for the world to witness Pearl Harbor from an aerial perspective.”
There are only 120 Top of the Tower tickets available each day, so it’s best to book early.
• Earlier this year, Hilton Hawaiian Village’s long-standing tradition of Friday night fireworks returned after a two-year hiatus due to Covid-19 restrictions. The return of the popular weekly event has opened the door for tour operators to launch evening cruises to view the spectacular pyrotechnics.
Known for its submarine diving tours and whale watching cruises, Atlantis Cruises now offers a Friday fireworks and cocktail cruise aboard the Majestic, a three-level ship with a full-service cocktail lounge and bar. complete. The Waikiki cruise departs from the Aloha Tower at 7:00 p.m., and guests can roam freely and watch the sunset from its decks, listen to live entertainment, and enjoy an uninterrupted view of the fireworks display.
Atlantis Cruises offers a Friday evening cocktail cruise to view the Waikiki fireworks display. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Atlantis Adventures
• Hawaii Wow Tours launched a Waikiki gondola experience on the Ala Wai Canal in June. It offers day and evening tours, including a Friday night fireworks cruise.
“Our gondola rides offer that unique romantic or family/friends setting that you can relax and enjoy in luxury,” said Shantel Kalmanson, one of the owners of Hawaii Wow. “You can sip sparkling apple cider and indulge in delicious pastries while your friendly gondolier guides you on a melodic ride up Magic Island for majestic views of Diamond Head and then passing under three bridges of what we we affectionately call it the Grand Canal of Waikiki.”
• On the Big Island, Hawaii Forest & Trail added a private lava tube excursion to its Volcano Unveiled tour in 2018 and late last year launched a volunteer trip called the Mauna Kea Summit & Stars Give Back Experience. The tour takes visitors into the Waikoloa Dry Forest to participate in the collection of native seeds before climbing to the summit of Mauna Kea.
“The experience allows our guides to immerse guests in this endangered dry forest, as well as learn about the area they will visit on Mauna Kea and how to better preserve it for future generations,” said Jonathan Wilt, director of sales and marketing for Hawaii. Forest & Trail. “After the donation portion, guests head to Mauna Kea for sunset at the summit and then stargaze at a lower elevation with our Celestron and Stellina telescopes.”
Volunteer activities like this are on the rise as regenerative tourism continues to be top of mind in Hawaii due in large part to the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s Malama Hawaii program. Volunteer opportunities include restoring a native pond with the Malama Loko Ea Foundation, planting native trees with the Hawaiian Heritage Reforestation Initiative, and participating in the restoration of the USS Missouri Memorial.
A snorkeler on the Maui Nui Wild Side Lahaina tour with PacWhale Eco-Adventures. Photo Credit: Courtesy of PacWhale Eco-Adventures
• PacWhale Eco-Adventures is offering a new Maui snorkeling tour that takes visitors “where many of the bigger ships can’t.” The adventure, called Maui Nui Wild Side Lahaina, is a six-hour tour on a 34-passenger boat that departs from Lahaina.
Offering guests an open itinerary, the captain will select two destinations on the day of the tour based on ocean conditions. Possible snorkeling spots could include Honolua Bay, the Carthage ruins, or even a few spots off the island of Lanai.
“They will see an abundance of beautiful reef fish and coral with possible sightings of dolphins, green sea turtles, octopus and many other marine animals,” the company said.
Owned by the nonprofit Pacific Whale Foundation, the tour will have certified marine naturalists on board to answer questions. Lunch and refreshments are also provided.