Hawaiian-style canoe sailing in Maui with Maui Sailing Canoe

Skimming over the ocean by canoe.
Skimming over the ocean by canoe.

Sailing in Hawaii is always a treat. I love feeling the tradewinds caressing my face as the vessel skims across the bluest of blue ocean water. I try to sail on each visit to Hawaii.

On my recent visit to Maui, I had the unique opportunity to sail on a canoe fashioned in the same manner as ancient Hawaiian sailing canoes, but made with modern materials. This canoe wasn’t motorized — only the wind and muscle-driven paddling powered this canoe.

This adventure starts from Polo Beach, the beach fronting the Fairmont Kea Lani, in Wailea on Maui’s South Coast. After checking in with Hawaiian Maui Sailing Canoe Adventures, we helped push the brightly colored red and yellow canoe from the sandy beach into the ocean, just as ancient Hawaiians did centuries ago. From there, we hopped aboard the trampoline that stretched across the outriggers and we were off.

Our two guides paddled us out away from the beach. We could have helped paddle if we wanted but we were content to just watch and enjoy the scenery.

Andy's toes dangling above the ocean from the sailing canoe.
Andy’s toes dangling above the ocean from the sailing canoe.

As we sailed, Sage Spalding, one of the owners and guides, explained how the Hawaiians would navigate hundreds and thousands of miles by the stars and by watching the birds. Sage also shared how he enjoys offering this authentic sailing experience for Maui visitors.

Sage knows all the best snorkeling spots in that area. He maneuvered the canoe over a reef area known as cleaning station where many tropical fish species and honu (Hawaiian sea turtles) gather. We donned the supplied snorkel gear and explored this underwater area. The variety of fish, urchins, honu sightings and coral was excellent.

After snorkeling we hopped back onto the canoe and sailed some more before coming back to shore. Our short GoPro video of this Hawaiian sailing and snorkeling adventure provides a great overview.

(Email subscribers: click here to view the video.)

What to know when you go: 

– This tour takes a maximum of six guests unless prior arrangements are made, so the tour size is small.  As such, it’s best if you book in advance, which you can do online at their website.

– During humpback whale season, there’s a great chance you’ll see whales from the canoe, which we experience on a second time we went out with Maui Sailing Canoe. (By the way, Eric Stonestreet, Cam from Modern Family, took this tour and tells Ellen DeGeneres that he saw whales. You can watch a clip of that at this link.)

– Water and juice are provided.

– Snorkel gear is provided.

– A locked box was available for storing valuables and car keys at the beach.

– Wear sunscreen, preferably sunscreen that’s coral safe. Rash guards with built-in sun protection are also great to wear.

– Three hour snorkeling tours are offered at 9am.

– Pricing is $179 for adults. Check their website for current pricing.

As part of the #seeMaui visit, our tour was complimentary. As always, we only write the same advice and experiences here on Go Visit Hawaii that we’d give to our friends and family.

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