Your tour begins at Kailua Pier, right in the center of Kailua-Kona village across from Courtyard King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel. Departures are at 11am Mondays and Fridays, 12:30pm Wednesdays. Boarding Marian, a 36-foot (10-meter), custom-designed glass-bottom boat is easy: Just step up a couple of steps to the boarding ramp and down a couple of steps to the main hull and viewing area. All guests sits around four large viewing boxes with comfortable cushioned seats where no one can block your view. Your expert naturalist guide goes over the safety features on board, and then off you sail.
The reefs in Hawaii are “fringing reefs,” meaning they are right next to the coastline. Marian was specially designed to get over the very shallow waters and right up to the shoreline, putting you within inches of the reefs. Your naturalist tells you all about the processes taking place on the reef: how the beautiful white sands are formed, the strange mating practices of fish, and how coral reefs resemble cities at war. The crew have been diving these waters for 30 years, so there's no end to the stories they've collected. Cruise over a pinnacle inches from the glass, a great photo opportunity. As boat goes off the shoreline, you'll see how quickly the ocean bottom plunges deeper and deeper. You might get a chance to view frolicking spinner dolphins or seasonal humpback whales. Feel free to move about the boat, look out from the bow, or relax in your seat and look through the elliptical windows. As you crusie along, you’ll enjoy vistas of the rugged shoreline and slopes of Kona. Historical sights include Hulihee Palace; Mokuaikaua Church, the oldest Christian church in Hawaii; Kamakahonu, where King Kamehameha I made his home in his final years; and ʻAhuʻena Heiau, his personal shrine. You might want to walk around the village later to explore these sights. Your tour ends as you cruise back to Kailua Pier.
This tour is a must for anyone who wants to see and learn about Hawaii’s reefs, and you don’t even have to get wet. There are no age or size restrictions, so it's great for families. Remember to wear comfortable shoes and clothing and bring a camera. Sunscreen and a hat are always a good idea, too.