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Super Raft

Old or young, visitor or local, there’s adventure for everyone on Body Glove’s Kona Explorer

It’s a cloudy morning over Kailua-Kona, and the water corralled by Kailua Pier is green glass. It’s 70 degrees and feels like rain. Whatever the weather might bring, I'm looking forward to a morning on the water, rediscovering the Kona Coast, with Body Glove’s super raft, the Kona Explorer.   

Walking past yellow barriers onto the pier, I admire the vessel. “A sixty-five foot, double-decker catamaran barely counts as a raft,” I think to myself. “At least I'll be covered when it rains and comfortably perched at the full-service bar, if in the event.” Twenty-five minutes early for my trip, I confidently follow the trail of wet slipper footprints and aromas of freshly applied sunscreen. But I notice, to my chagrin, the deck hands of the watercraft, casting off. The dual hulls are already cutting through the water laden with eager excursionists. It looks like I may have missed my trip.  

Tracking the vessel as it departs the pier, my focus lands on a crowd queuing in front of a smaller, more sprightly boat. Dare I say, raft? Three energetic crew are handing out snorkel gear, fitting fins to feet, and carefully guiding people over the inflated frame chafers. An atmosphere of adventure is palpable. Surely, this is the “super raft” I was searching for. Body Glove’s newest little brother of touring vessels, the Kona Explorer, is lighter, faster and naturally, more daring. As its name suggests, this 41 foot super raft goes where its bigger counterparts can’t, and in better time. To heck with the mini bar! This looks like fun, and I’m not jealous at all, to not have been booked on the catamaran’s guest list.  

Our skipper for the day, Captain Erika, not to be confused with Captain America – though she may enjoy the comparison – steps to the bow and briefs us on safety, what we can expect on the 4-hour tour and introduces her high-spirited crew. She demonstrates a fascinating, yet practical assortment of underwater hand signals that we can use while snorkeling, to not confuse “hey look at this fish,” for “help I’m drowning!”  We’re ready to go. 

Before I know it, we’re a quarter mile from our berth, with twin Suzuki 350 engines growling at the stern. Rock ‘n’ roll is blasting out of the speakers and at 30 knots, we’re catching air over the rollers. Above the din of crashing waves and music, the cry of Captain America can just be heard imploring, “Hold onto your hats! We only turn back for hats with heads in them!” Needless to say, I and the other 20 guests heeded her warning. 

As we push Northward, rounding Keāhole point, the historic Kona Coast comes alive. A shrouded Mauna Kea begins to peek around the rainy shoulders of Hualālai and the green, carved slopes of Kohala mountain race toward our bow. On our distant port side, the summit of Haleakalā on the neighboring island of Maui, appears to float above the horizon on a platter of cloud. Under the shade of the raft's large canvas roof, I’m taken aback by the beauty of Hawai’i. I am surprised by the power of rediscovery that this water bound approach has had on me, for the island I was raised on.

The Kona Explorer cuts through the surf, tracing each contour and cove of the West Coast from Koloko Point to Kiholo bay. Along the way, we’re greeted by a large pod of Hawaiian spinner dolphins, a solitary sea turtle and to our surprise and delight, sunny weather. While the muted emerald ocean transforms to turquoise in the sunlight, the captain and crew take their time along the route, sharing their knowledge of the island and the wildlife we encounter. 

We also chance upon a renegade birthday balloon, bobbing where it shouldn’t be, that is hastily fished out by one of Body Glove’s finest. The boat erupts in triumphant applause as the honu choking hazard is pulled up by the net. The crew of the super raft exude mālama pono – they take pride in stewarding the ocean, being mindful of their impact on the environment, and they don't hesitate to take action during a tour.

Catching up with Captain Erika at the first snorkel location, I ask her what keeps the Kona Explorer a unique experience for repeat customers and locals alike. She explains, “I’ll look over weather conditions and determine what’s the best for the day. For me as captain, it’s not doing the same thing on repeat. I really enjoy just getting to go and explore and doing something different every day. Giving our passengers something unique each time.”

Over the course of the next 2 hours, adventure ensues. Front flips and backflips are hucked from all sides of the boat. At each dive site we visit, snorkels encircle the raft like a shoal of neon fish and lunch and drinks are being served deck side. And what super raft adventure would be complete without Captain Erika doing doughnuts and stunt driving all the way back to Kailua Bay to the tune of Electric Light Orchestra’s, Mr. Blue Sky?

Learn more about Body Glove adventure tours and how they’re caring for our waters at