Riding the swells of the great Pacific tucked safely into a powered, rigid-hull inflatable boat, commonly called an ocean raft, is an experience that puts a whole new perspective on an adventure at sea. These stable, seaworthy, high-performance boats resemble rescue craft, which is one thing they’re used for. They’re also used for fun and adventure. They’re small, typically carrying no more than 35 passengers, generally less. One Big Island company, Sea Quest Raft & Snorkel Adventure, will take snorkel tours with two to six passengers, but most rafting companies carry more.
A rafting trip will almost always include snorkel stops in gorgeous spots like Kealakekua Bay and Honaunau Bay. Adventure X Rafting offers deep sea fishing along with snorkel tours. In a raft, you can enter sea caves and lava tubes, and get a good look at dolphins, sea turtles and whales from your just-above-the-water perch. Most raft companies will hug the coastline either to or from their snorkeling destination, providing a close look at geological formations, caves and lava tubes. The number of caves actually entered will depend upon the size of the raft and whether or not it has a shade canopy.
The waters off the South Kona coast are among the calmest in the state, which makes rafting here generally comfortable. Most rafting tours depart from Honokohau Marina, near Kailua-Kona and travel along the Kona Coast to snorkeling destinations. Kealakekua Bay, an underwater park and marine life conservation district, is a favorite destination of rafting companies. Morning and afternoon tours are available and generally take three or four hours to complete. Some boats are equipped with canopies for shade and ladders to provide water access. If access to an onboard bathroom is important to you, ask before you book. Some rafts are equipped. Others are not.
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