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Boat Tours and Charters

Boat tours can cover the gambit from weddings to funerals, and being on the water is the best way to enjoy the Islands. Whether you want to see the fish in action or experience how they taste, there is a tour for you.

For a sailing experience in Oahu, you need go no farther than the beach in front of your hotel in Waikiki. Strung along the sand are seven beach catamarans that will provide you with one-hour rides during the day and 90-minute sunset sails. Look for $23 to $25 for day sails and $30 to $34 for sunset rides. They all have their little perks and they're known for bargaining, so feel free to haggle, especially with the smaller boats. Some provide drinks for free, some charge for them, and some let you pack your own, so keep that in mind when pricing the ride.

Hawaii Nautical. Catamaran cruises lead to snorkeling with dolphins, gourmet-dinner cruises head out of beautiful Kalaeloa harbor, and sailing lessons are available on a 20-foot sailboat and a 50-foot cat. If you're driving out from Waikiki, you may want to make a day of it, with sailing in the morning then 18 holes on one of the five golf courses in the area in the afternoon. Three-hour cruise rates with snacks and two drinks begin at $109 per person. Two-hour morning and afternoon snorkel tours of the West Side are also on offer, and include all gear, snacks, sandwiches, and two alcoholic beverages (starting at $109 per person). There's a second location at 91-607 Malakole Street in Kapolei. Kewalo Basin Harbor, 1125 Ala Moana Blvd., Kapolei, HI, 96814. PHONE: 808/234-7245.

Maitai Catamaran. Taking off from the stretch of sand between the Sheraton Waikiki and the Halekulani Hotel, this 44-foot twin-hull cat is the fastest and sleekest on the beach. There are a variety of tours to choose from, including a sunset sail and a snorkel excursion. If you have a need for speed and enjoy a little more upscale experience, this is the boat for you. Waikiki Beach, between the Sheraton Waikiki and the Halekulani Hotel, Waikiki, Honolulu, HI, 96815. PHONE: 808/922-5665 or 800/462-7975. COST: $28-$45.

Makani Catamaran. This 64-foot Makani catamaran is the tops in Hawaii for luxury, from its Bose stereo system to its LCD TVs to its freshwater bathrooms. It sails out of Kewalo Basin three times daily. Breakfast cruises start at $42, while "city lights" dinner cruises start at $53. Kewalo Basin Harbor, 1125 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu, HI, 96814. PHONE: 808/591-9000.

Na Hoku II Catamaran. The boat's motto is "Free drinks, easy crew." It features thumping reggae music and includes free booze in its $25 price tag ($30 for sunset cruises). The 45-foot catamaran is tied up near Duke's Barefoot Bar and sails five times daily. Make reservations in advance for the sunset sail (it's best to reserve in person with the representative on the beach); the boat fills up quickly. Waikiki Beach, between the Moana Surfrider Hotel and Duke's Barefoot Bar, Waikiki, Honolulu, HI. PHONE: No phone. COST: $25-$30.

Star of Honolulu Cruises. Founded in 1957, this company recently expanded its fleet to include the 65-foot Hoku Naia, docked on Oahu's west coast. It offers everything from snorkeling cruises in the pristine waters off the Waianae coast to gourmet-dinner cruises with live entertainment to seasonal whale-watching sails on one of two vessels. Popuar cruises teach you how to string lei and dance hula. Two-hour whale-watching-excursion rates begin at $30 per person, while dinner cruises start at $79 and go up to $179. The company has a second location at 85-371 Farrington Highway in Waianae. Aloha Tower Marketplace, 1 Aloha Tower Dr., Honolulu, HI, 96813. PHONE: 808/983-7827. FAX: 808/983-7780.

Sashimi Fun Fishing. A combination trip suits those who aren't quite ready to troll for big game in the open-ocean swells. Sashimi Fun Fishing runs a dinner cruise with fishing and music. The boat keeps close enough to shore so that while you're hooking reef fish, you can still see Oahu. The cruise includes a local barbecue dinner, and you can also cook what you catch. With hotel transportation included, the rates begin at $63 per person. Kewalo Basin Harbor, 1125 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu, HI, 96814. PHONE: 808/955-3474.

Tradewind Charters. This company's half-day excursions feature sailing, snorkeling, and whale-watching. Traveling on these luxury yachts not only gets you away from the crowds, but also gives you the opportunity to "take the helm" if you wish. The cruise includes snorkeling at an exclusive anchorage, as well as hands-on snorkeling and sailing instruction. Charter prices are about $495 for up to six passengers. Kewalo Basin Harbor, 1125 Ala Moana Blvd., Ala Moana, Honolulu, HI, 96814. PHONE: 800/829-4899.

Waikiki Ocean Club. The Waikiki Ocean Club is a yellow, blue, and green floating platform anchored off Waikiki. It's like an 11,000-square-foot playground with diving platforms, waterslides, trampoline, and floating bar and grill. Admission is $89 for adults, with activities like snorkeling, kayaking, paddleboarding, and parasailing costing extra. The platform holds up to 400 people and is open daily. There are eight pickup points throughout Waikiki. 1025 Ala Moana Blvd., Honolulu, HI, 96814. PHONE: 808/753-9446.

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