Friendly Charters – Lani Kai

Knowledgable experienced and friendly captain. Solid value. Down to earth and non-touristy.

Rating: ★★★★★
*how we rate vendors

In a nutshell: Our favorite mid-sized boat.
Minuses: Does not cater to the high-end crowd.
Sound-bite: “…the crew was great. The trip was great and they even knew some of us by name by the time we left.” (Benmccloy – TripAdvisor 5/15)

Key Info:
Location: Maalaea Harbor, Maalaea
Phone: 808-244-1979
Toll-free: 888-983-8080
Price: $34-110

Friendly Charters snorkeling at Coral Gardens

Friendly Charters snorkeling at Coral Gardens

Getting on the Lani Kai is like someone rolled back the time machine to a time not so long ago when Maui’s tours were less commercialized. Friendly Charters is not misnamed – Lani Kai has to be one of the friendliest, non-touristy snorkel boats I’ve been on in recent years. This is the kind of operation where the crew gets to know you by name, and visitors return year after year.

The small size of the tour also means a less crowded snorkel. The crew will allow you freedom in the water, and always keeps an eye on snorkelers in case anyone needs assistance. All the gear you need is included, and they offer snorkeling instruction to anyone who needs it. Masks are of good quality, and prescription masks (-2.0 to -7.0) are also available at no additional charge.

Captain Marc and crew are always on the lookout for whales, dolphins, monk seals, sea turtles and other ocean life and incorporate whatever they encounter into your trip – this is a great alternative to a dedicated whale watch as you are virtually guaranteed to see plenty of whales in season.

Friendly Charters snuba

Friendly Charters snuba

The Boat
Friendly Charters sails the Lani Kai, a mid-sized 53 foot double deck power catamaran. The vessel carries up to 59 passengers (though they average 30-50 depending on season.)

The upper deck offers unobstructed panoramic views, which is a big plus on whale watches. Lani Kai also has a shaded cabin, snorkel stairways, swim steps at water level, showers and a water slide.

Tip: Booking activities directly can be cheaper.

Most places people find out about activities are online and local kiosk or concierge booking agents who earn a fairly hefty commission on each sale. Many activity vendors offer discounts for booking in advance directly though them. Friendly Charters offers a 15% discount for booking direct.

Money-saving tips

More Details
It really feels more like you’re going out with friends than a tourist operation. The crew is down to earth, and doesn’t rattle off a bunch of scripted touristy stuff mixed with sales pitches the whole time you’re in transit. The boat is well staffed with crew who gets around the boat tending to people as individuals. The crew is well engaged, not just showing up for work. I observed them going out of their way to ask folks if they needed whatever it may be, just like you might tend to family. Weather it be bringing you a drink, help with a mask, carrying food in the wind, they really paid attention to the all the guests and made sure that they were taken care of.

Captain Marc is a super experienced Maui captain. Laid back and funny – an approachable, all-around nice guy. Cracking jokes throughout the trip, looking for ocean life, and equally happy to talk story (he also makes a perfect mai tai!) Captain Marc also knows how to handle the boat like he’s been piloting it for a couple decades (oh, because he has!)

Typically you can brace for some sort of “up-sell” on most boats. But the extras for sale are offered in a low-key manner as well. If you want snuba, yeah, they have it – but they won’t pitch it to you beyond a brief explanation, answering questions and the cost. (Marcella is an awesome snuba guide, fyi.) Same goes for t-shirts, hats and rental wetsuits – all are available, and none will be pushed on you.

Complimentary food and beverages (Water, soda, juice, Mai Tais and beer) are offered throughout the trip. The catered fare is just like the rest of the experience: done professionally and uncomplicated. The morning snorkel offers continental breakfast (fruit, bagels, pastries) and deli-style lunch (veggie tray, bread & rolls, lunch meats, cheeses, pasta salad, fresh baked cookies.) Afternoon tours have the deli lunch as well.

Friendly Charters slide

Friendly Charters slide

One thing I often like to remind folks is that the crew relies on tips – so please be sure to tip them well if they’ve been serving you well.

Masks, snorkels, fins, no-fog, flotation devices, food and drink are all included in your ticket price.

Items available for an extra fee include snuba, wetsuits, t-shirts and hats.

Tours Offered
Morning Snorkeling Adventure
Molokini, Turtle Town & Whale Watching (in season)
5 Hours – Snorkel gear, Breakfast, Lunch, Beverages Included

Afternoon Snorkeling Adventure
Coral Gardens or Molokini & Whale Watching (in season)
3 Hours – Snorkel gear, Lunch, Beverages Included

Private Charters
Check the website

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