I requested this activity for an anniversary present from my wife after reading the overwhelmingly favorable reviews on this site. It's not inexpensive, but I'm a firm believer that you get what you pay for. (Also, it's comparable to what you can expect to pay if the folks from The Pearl Factory get their hooks into you when your refusal skills are at a lull.)
We did the 6-hour East Maui Waterfalls & Rain Forest Hike. Kahi was everything I could have hoped for in a guide, as an affable native resident of 54 years to the island who gained his knowledge of the rainforest while knife hunting pigs with his cowboy grandfather. In addition to the flora and fauna (almost entirely flora, truth be told, but that's Maui for you,) he gave us information about the north coast, sugar cane, and the town of Paia that we wouldn't have easily come by elsewhere.
Our tour began when we were informed that Maui has nothing venomous, no snakes of any kind, no ticks or chiggers, and nothing like poison oak, ivy, or sumac. Basically, a few mosquitos were our biggest threat. Then I felt a tinge that there might not be enough threats for the price when I realized that our party included an 11 year old girl who texted during most of the ride up, our guide hadn't changed out of his flip flops, and plenty of other people were passing us on the trail, which was really a gravel road that cars could drive on.
However, once Kahi started explaining about all the plants and picking things for us to sample, all thoughts of buyer's remorse evaporated. In addition to passionfruit, I ate a fern that tasted like a walnut, a flower that tasted like a mushroom, and an ant that tasted like honey. I was also astonished to see an agave plant the size of a 2-car garage or an elephant ear plant with a leaf the size of an end table. I got the sense that the people who passed us wished that they had a guide to get all the information they were missing out on. There was literally something new and interesting every 20 feet. Also, I was quite unprepared for how amazingly good a rainforest smells, especially immediately following the rain. It was like every impressive floral arrangement I've ever encountered, only all encompassing, somehow without being overpowering.
The tour-provided water socks also made a big difference. Different from aqua-socks or reef shoes, the fibrous soles of these footwear provided excellent traction on slippery rocks, which can make a huge difference between a miserable outing and a fun one. Once again, I sensed envy from people on their own, and several people asked where they could get them (Kahi's answer: Wal-mart, $15.)
Swinging from the rope swing and splashing in the cool water was definitely the highlight of this excursion, and probably my whole trip. Also, having the option to jump off a high waterfall into a pool made up for walking that was a little on the easy side, and it was reassuring having a guide to tell me where the deepest parts of the pool were.
The tour concluded with a third (and highest) waterfall that Kahi said most people miss because it's right by the road and they think they have to hike a ways in to get to the waterfalls. We were returned to our hotel at 3:30, exactly 6 and a half hours after we were picked up. I'm 34 and consider myself pretty fit (I walk my dog where there are a lot of hills and I cycle regularly) and I felt like this was exactly the right level of exertion, especially being on vacation, and even more especially with a wife who isn't as into exertion as I am (and I suspect we're not the only couple in this situation.)
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