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We’re on a boat! HAWAII Magazine goes snorkeling and sailing off Waikiki

Waikiki_lunch_and_snorkel_catamaran_sailThough some of our readers might think otherwise, it’s not every day I find myself trading a morning behind my desk in HAWAII Magazine’s downtown Honolulu offices for a catamaran cruise off Waikiki. Really.

But some workdays are better than others. And on a recent sunny, blue-skied Friday morning, I was waiting—toes in Waikiki sand—at the Hilton Hawaiian Village’s pier for a snorkel-and-sail excursion with Hawaii Nautical.

The Oahu-based activities company offers several catamaran sails in the waters off of the island’s south shore and leeward coast: dolphin- and whale-watching, scuba, stand-up paddle boarding, sunset-and-cocktail sails and just plain hitting-the-water-and-seeing-where-the-wind-takes-us sails.

HAWAII Magazine photographer David Croxford and I opted for Hawaii Nautical’s lunch-and-snorkel sail off Waikiki. The two-and-a-half-hour tour is one of four sails Hawaii Nautical runs daily for the Hilton Hawaiian Village on the resort's Spirit of Aloha catamaran in the warm waters off the world-famous beach and Diamond Head. A Friday-only Spirit of Aloha dinner sail offers an ocean view of the weekly fireworks show Hilton launches from its white sand beachfront.

Our sail promised snacks, lunch, an open-ocean sail and an hour or so of snorkeling at Turtle Canyon, a reef about a mile out from the Hilton Pier, where Hawaiian green sea turtles gather to feed and frolic. The closest I’d previously observed the federally protected species was from shore or the deck of a boat, as the honu rose for air and then disappeared under the waves. So I was intrigued, but skeptical, when a Hawaii Nautical crew member promised we'd find at least a half-dozen honu at one time while snorkeling at the reef.

“Remember to stay at least 10 feet away from the turtles while you’re on the reef,” said Matt, our captain. It is against state law to touch, chase or disturb Hawaiian green sea turtles. “If a turtle approaches you, give it some space.”

Approaches me? I'll believe that when I see it, I mumbled to myself.

Photos and tales from Croxford's and my morning Hawaii Nautical sail start here and continue on the pages that follow:

Readying to board Spirit of Aloha at the Hilton Hawaiian Village Pier in Waikiki, 10:30 a.m.

The Hilton's 54-foot Spirit of Aloha catamaran, as the crew prepared for us to board.

The catamaran's enclosed and covered cabin was spacious, with lots of room for backpacks and personal items, two restrooms, a freshwater shower and ...

... a full bar serving cocktails, draft beer, soft drinks, juices, snacks and, later in the day, lunch.

Before leaving the pier, Captain Matt and Spirit's three-person crew briefed us on the lay of the catamaran, snorkel and safety equipment, shipboard amenities, rules for approaching honu while snorkeling (stay at least 10 feet or more away from them), and how to signal to the crew from the water.

The view of Waikiki and Diamond Head crater, as we headed out to Turtle Canyon reef.

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Check out these related HawaiiMagazine.com posts:
Waikiki fishing ban aims to replenish fish population
Ohana Hotels offering Waikiki room deals as low as $79 a night
The HAWAII Magazine Guide to Visiting Kailua, Oahu

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