Wife, daughter, son-in-law and I took our third Road to Hana tour this year. Based on previous experiences and research, the tour companies all provide a sampler of views, activities, waterfalls, etc., pretty much stop at the same places, provide morning and lunch time meals of some type, take the same amount of time to circle the island (i.e., Hana highway to the east coast to the winery and then home). Vans are typically 12 passenger affairs with individual seating in captain's chairs and plenty of through-the-window viewing. Bathroom breaks are scheduled/done at various stops. Valley Isle nicely provides these elements.
We believe that the quality of the tour truly depends on the tour guide du jour. Based on trip advisor reviews we asked for Joe. What a fortuitous choice! He was born/grew up on the Big Island and has lived on Maui for decades. He has an astonishing fund of knowledge about all things Hawaiian, and shares it with warmth, self-deprecating humor, and genuine interest. His specific knowledge about flora, fauna and the history of the area was consistently impressive, presented in a matter-of-fact, obviously unrehearsed, and detailed manner. He was helpful, personable and pleasant for the 12 hours he was behind the wheel - a hugely impressive accomplishment, especially considering he had to deal with a bunch of us tourists during that entire span. Through the day, we encountered a lot of people (not tourists!) who exchanged greetings with Joe. Many called him Uncle Joe, which suits him well. Thanks for making our day, Uncle Joe!
p.s.I played golf in Wailea with a guy who was thinking about taking an organized Road trip with his wife. When I recommended Uncle Joe (and Valley Isle), he asked how much to tip the tour guide. Told him our tip to Joe is a private affair, but noted that a 20% tip seems a bit low to truly acknowledge the personal services provided by a very capable person for 12 straight hours.
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