My boyfriend and I recently booked a private charter to celebrate a special event. We had an amazing time! If you know anything about me, you know I love to plan. Planning a private boat charter correctly will make your experience so much more enjoyable. In this article I’ll share some tips for booking a carefree private boat charter on Oahu, Hawaii.
What is a Private Charter?
If you’re visiting Hawaii, one of the main attractions is to book a sailing cruise. There are many different types of cruises to choose from, including snorkeling cruises, dinner cruises, and sunrise/sunset cruises. If you’re traveling alone or with a small group, usually you’ll opt to purchase individual seats on a cruise with a bunch of other people (strangers).
However, if you want to have an amazing and private experience for you and your partner, or a private group, you may consider booking a private charter when on Oahu. With a private charter you are reserving the entire boat for your group.
Private Boat Charter Cost
Every charter company is different. Some charters are owner operated by the captain and boat owner. Others are large companies with a fleet of boats. Prices vary and hourly rates are better when you book longer trips (4+ hours). On average, expect to pay $250-300 per hour as the base charter cost.
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5 Tips when Booking a Private Boat Charter on Oahu
After booking a private boat charter on Oahu, here are a few tips to avoid some of the delays I ran into:
TIP #1: Private Charters can be Cheaper than Groupon!
With a private charter you’re paying for time on the boat, not per person. If you are going with a group you can spread the cost across all guests and the private cruise actually becomes more affordable than other group cruises! For example, if you book a 3 hour private snorkel cruise, it may cost $600-900. But if you spread that across 10 people, that’s only $60-90 per person! Here is a copy of my 2-hour charter receipt:
TIP #2: Book Far in Advance
Every day there are literally hundreds of cruises sailing from all shores of Honolulu. As a result, reservations fill up quickly. Even if you book a week in advance, you will be limiting your options. I recommend you book at least 2-3 weeks in advance so you have time to ask questions, get the best pricing, and make the choice that best fits your schedule.
TIP #3: Get a Boat Large Enough for your Group
Every boat is different in size and has a limit to the number of guests it can hold. We booked a 42′ sailing boat. That sounds huge, but even with just the two of us and the captain space was a little tight.
TIP #4: Choose the Departure Location Wisely
Most cruises and charters depart from the Kewalo Basin Harbor near Waikiki. But you can charter a boat from any side of the island. When booking a charter, make sure you lookup the departure location and time before booking. This could make your relaxing dream cruise into a stressful morning or afternoon. For example, if you are staying in Waikiki and book a charter on the north shore, you should probably plan for 90 minutes drive time, and another 90 minutes back!
TIP #5: Understand What's Included in the Charter
Some charters include amenities like food, alcohol, and snorkel equipment. Other charters you pay only for time on the boat, everything else is additional. Make sure you understand what you are getting when you book. Also, don’t forget to tip!
Pros & Cons of Private Boat Charters
Booking a private charter definitely has its benefits. Here are some of the pros and cons when comparing my experiences on a private charter vs a commercial group cruise.
- Sail with friends and family instead of strangers.
- Arrange special events/accommodations you wouldn’t get on a standard cruise.
- Can be cheaper than commercial cruises with a large group.
- Have a private/romantic experience.
- Expensive for couples/small groups.
- Just your group with the captain/crew. All eyez on you!
Recommended Private Charter Booking Sites
There are a lot of websites where you can book a private boat charter. When searching for my charter I contacted captains and booking agents from various websites. When choosing a booking site, make sure they offer these basic services:
- Total cost before confirming (including tax & gratuity)
- Clear directions to departure and parking information
- Overview of the experience
- Information about the boat with photos
Below are companies I had the best experience communicating with:
GetMyBoat.com – search for private charters, fishing charters, jetski rentals, board & paddles, overnight charters, and more. Create a free account and communicate directly with boat owners and booking agents.
Sailo.com – search for boat rentals with or without a captain. If you have a boating license, you may be able to rent a boat just like you would a car and take it out yourself.
ManaCruises.com – purchase all-inclusive snorkel, tasting, and sunset charter packages
Do you have any other helpful tips when booking a private boat charter? Let me know if the comments!