Explore the Storied Waters of Wailea in an Outrigger Canoe
At Grand Wailea, we consider ourselves lucky to be able to enjoy the wonders of Maui each and every day, right out our front door. More than that, we are fortunate to be part of Hawaiʻi’s thriving, rich culture, whose roots go back generations, and whose traditions perfectly reflect the natural beauty and intrigue of daily life on these mesmerizing Pacific islands.
One of the most revered and celebrated Hawaiian traditions is that of the waʻa (outrigger canoe). In fact, outrigger canoe paddling was actually adopted as the state’s official state team sport in 1986 and is an interscholastic high school sport—a sure sign of its significance even today.
The roots of the outrigger canoe in Hawaiʻi go much farther back—almost 2,000 years—to a time when ancient Polynesian explorers were navigating these very waters, guided by the stars and the migratory patterns of birds. When some of these explorers landed on Hawaiʻi and settled here, the outrigger canoe came with them and quickly became a central part of their daily existence, carrying food, people, and goods across waterways and between islands, and even serving as small battleships during tribal feuds.
We want our guests to share in on this truly iconic Hawaiian experience, which is why we have partnered with Maui Pacific Tours, a local company that creates bespoke, one-of-a-kind island adventures. We have tapped into their expertise in providing water activities and private tours to create our outrigger program, which comprises three types of adventures: a 1-hour turtle watching tour, a 2-hour snorkel tour (which includes all snorkeling equipment), and a 2-hour seasonal whale watching tour.
Guests who go on these tours have the authentic experience of paddling a real Hawaiian outrigger canoe through the storied waters of Wailea—Hawaiian for the “waters of Lea,” who happens to be the goddess of canoe builders! And the best part is that there’s no prior experience necessary—guests can simply grab a paddle, follow the instructions of the steersman or steerswoman, and start paddling. The tours give each paddler a literal front-row seat to the amazing beauty of Maui’s ocean environment in almost total silence while enjoying the thrill of propelling the canoe forward in perfect synchronicity.
“It’s amazing to work with the Grand Wailea to offer guests this unique hands-on experience,” says Austin O’Campo, Maui Pacific Tours’ Operations Manager. “You’re on the shore one minute and then you blink, and you’re on the water in a 6-person outrigger canoe looking down into the water at sea turtles, or even seeing a humpback whale slap its tail just a few feet away. It’s surreal!”
From their booth on property, just steps from Wailea Beach, Maui Pacific Tours operates daily tours, although seats are limited each day, so we recommend early bookings. In addition, the whale-watching tours take place only from December to April, which is when humpback whales congregate in Maui’s warm, calm, clear waters to breed, calve, and nurse their young during their long annual migration from the waters of Alaska.
Jacob Abeytia, the Lead Steersman at Maui Pacific Tours’ Grand Wailea location, is a seasoned pro who lives and breathes canoeing, as well as the spirit of aloha. “The canoe connects us to our culture the ocean and our community. It’s a way of life,” he says.
He loves his job not only for the adventures it brings, but also for the people he meets along the way. “One time, we had eight humpback whales frolicking under and around our canoe for about 10 minutes,” he recalls. “We actually got covered by the mist of a whale spout!
“That’s the beauty of this job—the fact that it’s brand new every day. And that it gives me the chance to meet amazing people from across the world and to make incredible memories for people via the canoe.”
To learn more or book an outrigger tour, please click here.