We had an amazing personalized "Halfway to Hana" tour by Pono! Our full-day tour was filled with so... read more
We had an amazing personalized "Halfway to Hana" tour by Pono! Our full-day tour was filled with so... read more
Pono is a one of kind guide. He is so knowledgeable about the history of the island, and knows all... read more
I was so excited and inspired to share our experiences about Open Eye Tours on Maui with Pono Fried that I wrote it during our first moment of spare time once we were able to use our computers on the airplane! It’s a longer review because I wanted to share what makes Open Eye Tours unique from other tour companies in Maui. If you do book with him, please tell him Sheri says “Aloha” (“hello”...it can also mean goodbye) and Mahala nui loa (which means thank you very much).
My 18 year old son and I did a lot of research on the highest rated private tour guides for our cruise vacation. We decided to find out more about Open Eye Tours for our Maui tour after seeing how highly rated this company was. Pono, the owner, provides the ultimate in customer service. He is the owner and only guide, so his personal reputation is based on satisfied reviews of clients.
Pono prepares a lot to customize tours so we can prioritize the sites that we wanted to see to make sure we could fit in as much as possible before our luau reservation. He sent us an email with a menu of a long list of descriptive tours by theme or area, which makes you want to order from each "entree" (LOL). He can also customize a tour based on our interests from a questionnaire that he sent us to fill out. We wanted to “focus” mostly on a photography tour (pun intended) because we wanted to capture, savor and share our beautiful memories of our time spent in Hawaii with family and friends. I knew right away when I first messaged Pono and spoke with him on the phone that this would be the highlight of our vacation.
We like to see and experience as much as we can so a customized tour was perfect for us. We could see things at our own pace and see more than what group tours see. I read in reviews that it’s best to have a tour on the Road To Hana because if you rent a car, you can miss some of the sites because you’re too busy trying to drive carefully on the very long curvy road. (It has over 600 curves and also many one lane bridges to maneuver over). Also, tour guides can share the culture, language and unique areas from the usual tourist sites.
Pono greeted us with a flower lei which was beautiful and smelled so good! He also gave my son a polished, shiny black Kukui nut lei which is what is traditionally presented to males as he sang a beautiful Hawaiian chant which made us feel welcome. I knew we would enjoy an enriching experience with Pono that filled all of our senses…We saw the beautiful ocean, waterfalls etc, heard birds, waterfalls, the crashing of waves, Hawaiian music in his car and musical instruments that he demonstrated and let us play them also in addition to traditional Hawaiian legends. We tasted many new types of fruit (although it depends on what season you go as to which fruits are available from Pono’s own farm. (I wish we had them available here on the mainland!). We touched the fruit, black sand, treasures on the beaches and plants, and also smelled the fragrant lei, ocean, fruit and authentic food during lunch.
Pono was able to communicate in Hawaiian so it was interesting to hear him speak to a former student of his at a place where we ate. He also shared Hawaiian legends and stories that related to areas that we visited.
Since we booked an Old Lahaina luau dinner that we needed to get to on time, we decided to book the halfway to Hana tour since I saw photos of areas we'd like to photograph (we took some great photos of some unique areas that aren’t visited by other tours). The Road all the way to Hana can take a long time and many of the highlights are closer to the halfway point. There are so many different sites to see on the way to Hana that a customized tour by Pono brought us to “secret” places where buses and many other tours aren’t able to go. I knew our experience was above and beyond what other tours see and where we could take some special photos.
He took us to some unique trails that tours aren't able to go to. He showed us a sleeping grass plant which looked like a fine very small fern...when you touch it, it furls up and closes! He spoke about plants that you could eat and medicinal plants. We saw a beautiful overlook of cliffs and the ocean where I took a panoramic photo. We went to a private black sand beach where there were very few people and he serenaded us on his ukulele by the ocean. We had a picnic with many different fruits from his very own farm, what a treat...literally:).
We learned the names of new fruit and tasted them in addition to a coconut dessert and delicious mango bread (items may vary depending on the season) which accompanied a meal that was included in the tour.
We went to a beautiful out of the way coastal black lava rock area with gorgeous turquoise water and waves crashing high in the air. We absolutely loved taking photos there and Pono also took photos of us. He found some of nature’s gifts from the beach and gave them to us. (just don’t take any lava rocks which are said to bring very bad luck!) We loved this out of the way scenic area which he shared with us...absolutely beautiful turquoise water! He stopped off at a beach so we could take photos of a beached Hawaiian Monk seal and a green sea turtle which is very rare to see!
Pono pointed out some smaller natural waterfalls streaming down rocks on the side of the road where we were able to stop at our own leisure unlike tour buses and we wouldn’t even noticed them in a bus. We saw a larger waterfall also. We stopped at the eucalyptus tree forest which was also great for photos.
On our way to the Old Lahaina luau, Pono also showed us some other sites where we stopped for photos.
He concluded the tour with a nice Hawaiian chant and translated it for us and then gave us a gift bag (which varies since it is customized). The parting gifts made us feel that we were visiting with a friend who gave us part of the “island” to take home with us.
As we look back at our beautiful photos, I am glad that we were able to take Maui home with us since we fell in love with the island and it’s beauty even more. When I asked my son what his most memorable experience was, he said he loved the tour with Pono. (although I do a lot of research before trips to make sure that I get the best rated tour companies/guides so we did enjoy all of them because they each offered something different with very nice and knowlegable tour guides and the natural beauty of Hawaii which was our dream vacation.) I only wish we could have toured with Pono longer, but I highly recommend Pono for a truly unique sensory and cultural experience which you’ll remember with a big warm smile!
My wife and I spent four nights on Kauai, and 4 on Maui. It was a magical vacation. Our time on Maui was filled with great weather and 2 excursions; whale watching (spectacular), and a Guided Tour of The Road to Hana. Pono shared his amazing knowledge of island culture, native fruits from his own garden, and countless stops to experience unparalleled beauty. All the while sharing stories about himself and learning about us. An entire day of great moments. Thank you Pono!!!
Well - he did it again. We went back to Maui and of course had to spend a day with Pono. Our family has come to expect it each time we travel to HI.
This trip Pono took us up into the Maui upcountry. We sampled so much wonderful food, including fresh fruits from Pono's garden.
Also - we have made the trip up Haleakala several times to try and catch a beautiful sunrise. Out of three tries - none have been stellar. Pono suggested we try catching a sunset, even though for some asinine reason he can't take folks on tours there, he still suggested we take the time on our own to go. It was breath taking!
But most importantly - we learned - we learned a lot about the history and culture of Hawaii and it's people.
This tour was absolutely amazing. My husband and I wanted to take a trip prior to starting our family and Maui was our destination. The experience we had with Pono was unbelievable. He was so knowledgeable about the Island's plants, culture, and stories. It was amazing to have someone there to tell you stories and legends and facts about how Maui came to be. He was friendly and was an excellent person to spend the day with. He was so personable it felt like you were visiting an old friend within minutes. He made us lei's from his garden and brought an array of fruit with him for us to try, as well as sang traditional songs with his ukulele. He took excellent photographs of us on our tour that are prized memories for my husband and I to share with our future child. The customization of the tour made us feel like we were getting to see the side of Maui we wanted to, not simply the overpopulated tourist traps. It was an amazing experience and I would recommend anyone to go see him on their trip to Maui! Thanks for an amazing experience.
My 16 year old granddaughter and I are back home in Queensland, Australia now, but will remember two recent amazing experiences on Maui which surpassed all the others. One of them was the private, customised tour we took with Pono on the 19th November. It was a BIG day but such a fabulous day. We were looking forward to it long before we boarded our flight to Hawaii and were not disappointed. Following a fabulous helicopter ride over Haleakala with Blue Hawaii, (still worth a recommendation after 35 years!), we were greeted by New York born 'Pono' who placed fresh leis of fragrant Plumeria picked from his organic farm that morning, over our heads while singing a traditional Hawaiian greeting in a pitch perfect tune ... in front of a crowd of smiling people waiting their turn for a helicopter ride.We had exchanged emails with Pono prior to our visit during which time our likes and preferences were noted so that Pono could design a tour which we would love. Despite being a very modern miss who can't live without her IPhone or IPad, my G/daughter loves anything romantic and often wears laurels of flowers in her hair at home and she is very musical. At our greeting, Pono presented her with a matching headpiece of Plumeria for her to wear with her lei. A wonderful, gentle and aromatic welcome indeed. The result of her experiences with Pono on this day resulted in her putting away her electronic gadgets while she connected with nature in wonderment just like when she was a small child.
There were too many wonderful moments throughout our day with Pono to note here: and I want to leave some surprises for you should you book a tour with him, but I asked my g/daughter at day's end, 'What was the highlight of your day with Pono ?'. Her answer was one that surprised me. She said, the food and the music. The food she referred to, included fruits collected from trees Pono's planted himself on his organic farm many years ago. When we stopped for refreshments in the morning our senses of sight, sound and taste were in for a treat. Between where we sat and the wild ocean waves which pounded the shoreline, lay massive twisted, sunbleached sculptures of driftwood befitting a modern day, expansive art gallery. Photo opportunity! Many varieties of fruit from Pono's farm were offered. Freshly baked banana bread also, still warm from the oven and yummy coconut pudding presented chilled in shiny black lacquered Japanese boxes with elegant red writing strokes. There was pure water, hot drinks and chilled sugar free coconut juice and more. While we were nibbling, and sometimes gobbling down delicious morsels of this and that, Pono pulled out several authentic Hawaiian musical instruments and explained how each was made. Then he invited us to choose one of them and encouraged us each to play a little tune, after demonstrating how to use them...the we all played a tune together. Here, he played the flute in a very different way which we had never seen before. No doubt you'll laugh at this as we did. Good, clean, fun in a stunning natural environment.
Soon after, we were taken to a secret Hawaiian healing place on the very top of a soaring high cliff. I can't divulge too much because it IS a secret place; but my most memorable moment was lying back in a fast flowing mountain stream deep within The Valley of the Kings a short distance away. The water was cool, tingling. Invigorating. I emerged feeling 30 years younger. A most wonderful restorative experience.
No crowds, No queues, and very interesting information on many subjects keep one interested and alert all day long. The hours flew by.
We have no hesitation in recommending anyone who wants a truly memorable experience in the Hawaiian Islands to contact Pono and do what we did. We'll never forget it. Thank you Pono.
As we head back to the mainland, my family and I want to thank you so much for the wonderful island tour you gave us this week. The knowledgable insights you gave us to Maui and its cultural history were fantastic. We enjoyed everything from the picnics to the views, and from the Hawaiian music to the beautiful aromatic leis. But most of all we appreciated the personal touch you used to effectively tailor the day to the types of experiences we hoped to enjoy. We look forward to another day with you in the future when our travels bring us back to Maui.