Updated: May 21, 2015
REVIEW: Reef Dancer Glass Bottom Boat in Maui:Any trip to Hawaii wouldn't be complete without some snorkeling or viewing all the fish and sea creatures that live in the water. Yes, snorkeling is fun, but for younger kids it can be a hard activity to master. This year (December 2010), we venture to Maui and wanted to take the kids on a glass bottom boat tour so they could see the sea life in it's natural habitat and not just at an aquarium. My daughter is 9 and my son is 5 so they were looking forward to the boat tour out of Lahaina. My wife and I had done a little research on which glass bottom boat tour we wanted to try and we ended up doing the Reef Dancer America II which departs from the Lahaina harbor daily. We drove up from Wailea for the 2:15 PM departure and the weather that day was just perfect with sunshine and calm water. The calmer the water the better viewing experience you will have underneath.
What to Expect on the Glass Bottom Boat Tour - There are 2 types of tours available each day, you can do the 1 hour tours which depart at 10AM, 11:15, and 1PM or go with the longer 90 minute glass bottom boat which departs at 2:15PM. The hour long boat trip is roughly $35/adult and $19/kids ages 6 to 12. Our son road for FREE so that was nice. The 90 minute tour has rates that are $45/adult and $25 for kids. They ask you to be at the harbor area about 20 to 30 minutes early. We parked near the Old Lahaina park with the huge banyon tree in the middle. Off to Slip #6 we went - it was easy to find and they have a big sign so it's hard to miss. We paid for the tickets and waited for the previous boat to come back into the slip. One of the main reasons we decided on the Reef Dancer was because of the design of the boat. It's more like a submarine than the traditional glass bottom boats. You literally sit down below and have a full, surround viewing area as the vessel makes it's way. They take a quick picture before you depart and then you head downstairs into the underwater cabin for most of the trip. They have one employee down below with all the people and he/she narrates what you are seeing and then 2 divers are also out in the water and they bring different items up to the windows for you to see up close. We saw things like sea stars, sea urchins, and a few other creatures. Along the way you see fish, turtles and if you are lucky eels or an octopus (we saw neither of those). The underwater cabin is air conditioned and the seating was ample for us as the boat was maybe half full. If it was crowded it could be a bit claustrophoic for those that don't like cramped spaces. Our kids liked the viewing area and we saw plenty of fish. They provide a nice little brochure with all the variety of fish and sea life that you might see. After about 30 minutes down below we came back up to the top of the submarine style boat and sat up top where they provided drinks and snacks. They pretty much slowed the engines and we watched at the water surface for lots of turtles coming up for air. Great photo opportunities and during whale migration season you can even see those as well. The crew was friendly and very informative on any questions we had. The pictures I took from down below didn't turn out that well as the flash screwed up the actual photo. The viewing windows were clean, but photos don't come out too good. The Reef Dancer website is at http://mauiglassbottomboat.com/ and you can order tickets online (they want them ordered 1 week in advance). I have included a few photos below of the Reef Dancer to give you a better idea of the size and design of the boat/submarine.