Yes, it is a pile of money to rent a boat from Kona Boat Rentals (KBR), but well worth the cost. We visit Hawaii about once a year but have never rented a boat...until now. We are not “boat” people although one of us piloted a boat on Lake Michigan in his youth. Consequently, we approach the ocean with a great deal of respect and have often contemplated the hazards of Kona’s tides and waves. We on this trip we decided to take the plunge.
We chose a day when the waters were calm - we which we recommend for novice boat operators. You have the option of arriving at the KBR office as early as you like, so we chose 7 AM. It takes about an hour for the staff to go through the safety and operating procedures of the boat. Most of these are common sense issues like not driving while drunk, turning the motor off while snorkeling, steering clear of fishing lines, and how to cast the anchor. Our staff member, Dave was very helpful and patiently answered all of our questions. You can buy ice at the office and even though they were out the day we rented, Dave found us a bag when he filled the boat with gas.
You can also fish during your trip although we opted not to on this trip. KBR has fishing equipment and you can keep anything that you catch. The depth finder on the boat can also be used to locate fish and we noticed that it worked well.
Each boat comes with a binder of all of the safety, piloting, and anchoring issues so you can refer to it if you forget anything. The binder includes GPS coordinates of destinations along the coast and maps. Each boat comes with a portable GPS unit, so that you can locate buoys and destinations. This is important because destinations which you may be familiar with from land look entirely different when viewed from the water.
On the day we were out, we saw bottle nose dolphins, pilot whales and a lot of flying fish. You can travel as far north or south of Kona as time allows and stay as close (no less than 30 feet of water) or far from shore as you wish. We swam in 500 feet of water and drifted next to Captain Cook monument while we ate our lunch. It is easily possible to avoid other boaters and spend a private peaceful day along beautiful and rugged Kona coastline.
Wear lots of sunscreen even on a cloudy day or you will be sunburned. KBR asks that you do not wear shoes on the boat. There are several storage areas on the boat for ice, food, and supplies. There are two padded seats near the controls and several other seats around the boat with cushions for passengers. There is a canopy over the padded seats so you can remain in the shade for the duration of the trip.
The only thing we would change is that we think that a porta potty should be available on each boat. While it is a hassle for the staff, any type of “litter” in the ocean should be strictly off limits.
Charges do not start accruing until your boat is in the water and you are ready to leave the dock. It is approximately $500 for 7 hours of time on the water, plus the cost of the gas you use which is about $4 per gallon. The crew fills your tank before you leave and when you return so that you do not have to take the time to do it.
The perfect end to the day is a Schooner at Harbor House across the parking lot from the KBR office (does life get any better than this?!).
This was definitely a highlight of our trip and we plan to do it again. It is well worth the cost and an experience you won’t forget!
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