“Paddle, paddle, paddle!” bellows Chris. I think it’s Chris, anyway. My arms are tired, I’m not thinking clearly and I have little desire to break a sweat. We’re on a Hawaiian canoeing adventure, paddling like mad to catch up with a humpback whale. But when you don’t know your front stroke from your back or if your hair will hold up, being an effective crew member is challenging.
Plus, Chris is super distracting. He’s like, one of those strapping surfer-type dudes and definitely under 30, so any inappropriate fantasies one may have (just surmising here) are more pathetic than creepy. Wanting to appear pleasing, I forgive Chris for his annoying habit of pronouncing every Hawaiian word correctly (as in Ha-vai-i for Hawaii) and expecting us to remember all the Hawaiian terminology he’s throwing at us. Good lord, it’s hard enough to remember I’m no longer 18!
Taking an outrigger canoe ride on Maui
Finally, we’re allowed to rest in this outrigger canoe. Though it’s rougher than normal in the ocean this morning, the canoe feels smooth and stable, and it’s eerily peaceful in this part of the Pacific. Our reward for frantically paddling to this spot off Polo Beach is a glimpse of a rogue whale less than 100 feet away.
Getting this up close and personal with these massive mammals makes it worth getting up at the crack of dawn and tearing myself away from the Fairmont Kea Lani. I mean, how often does one have the opportunity to take a traditional Hawaiian canoe out for a spin with a Greek god? It’s like, totally romantic, or would be if those other keeners weren’t with us.
Roughly 40 feet long with a flotation device on either side, Hawaiian canoes fit far too many people for my liking, and are what brought the Polynesians to this archipelago over a thousand years ago. We begin by learning all sorts of easily forgettable Hawaiian words, before Chris blows into a conch shell in the four directions of the wind. Praying to the Hawaiian gods before embarking on our adventure seems cheesy and very Fantasy Island, but hotties can pretty much be forgiven anything. Then we carry the canoe into the water and hoist our hoes (perhaps they were poes?), beginning to paddle in search of marine life.
Maui aquatic life
Just a few feet below the surface, a coral garden reveals brain, lobe and cauliflower coral and plenty of sea urchins. We don’t get a glimpse of the Hawaiian green sea turtles, who can hold their breath for up to four hours, but getting so close to the whale makes up for it. Sure, you can go on a whale watching excursion and chase down these enormous mammals by motorized boat, but gliding through the waves in a traditional Hawaiian canoe is a more natural and rewarding way to view the aquatic life.
“These canoes have always been about bringing people together,” says Chris. Sigh!
Have you ever tried traditional Hawaiian canoeing? Would you like to? Or maybe you’re more like me and prefer exploring a new destination through its treasures. If so, these are the best Hawaiian souvenirs to pick up.
P.S. You also might like reading:
Best things to do in Maui with kids
Thank you Fairmont Kea Lani, who hosted this experience. As always, my opinions (and fantasies) are my own.