James and I love Valley Isle Excursions. Not only do they have A+ tour guides, squeaky clean excursion tours, and sweet, door-to-door service (in most cases, they can pick you up at your hotel or condo — or so close it’s walkable), but they are owned by one of the sweetest men I’ve ever met on Maui.
I met Ray nearly four years ago when he first expressed an interest in sponsoring Top Maui Restaurants (Valley Isle Excursions sponsored both the 2010 and the current 2012 edition). I fell in love instantly. This guy sits in what amounts to an automotive repair shop — the van yard for the tour company — everyday and personally takes phone reservations for his tours. He personally handles every detail of the business. He knows which tour guides are on which vans, and what time they leave, and at which hotels they’ll stop — and what kind of soda they carry in their vans. (If you need a special drink or snack due to dietary restrictions, Ray’s the guy who remembers to get it for you and makes sure the driver has it in the van BEFORE they leave to pick you up.)
The tours go out every day of the year — which means Ray works all the time. That’s why I was stunned when he told me he farms taro in his yard upcountry in the evenings.
This is highly unusual — it’s difficult to plant and care for taro when there’s no natural flowing water nearby, like a stream. But Ray takes seriously his kuleana (right, and responsibility) to make taro a central part of his life. It’s a sacred plant, central to Hawaiian cultural and spiritual life. And so, it is important to him, as it to so many others in Hawaii.
Ray embodies — at least to me — a way of living that is best expressed by the Hawaiian word “pono.”
Pono, like so many other Hawaiian words, isn’t easy to translate directly into English. We don’t have one word that means “being in perfect balance with all that is,” or “in perfect relationship with divinity” or “doing what is right in all the right ways.” Google “pono hawaiian meaning” and you’ll find dozens of pages dedicated to trying to explain this concept.
Integrity might be the closest word I can find. James and I are big on integrity in our marriage and our work life — and when we’re out of it, we feel terrible. This may be why I so respected Ray when I first met him. Everything about him — the very energy he put behind his words — exuded integrity.
Valley Isle’s tours are pono. They are also delightful, fun, restful, and deliciously beautiful. It’s not pono to have dirty windows — so you’ll always find sparkling clean views.
From the bottom of my heart: if you are looking for a guided tour to Hana, Maui, do me the honor of choosing Valley Isle Excursions. You will not be disappointed, and you will be contributing to a beautiful ohana’s (family’s) livelihood. Ray doesn’t let tour guides drive their own vans until they’ve trained for two months and proven that they understand — and can handle — the kuleana of being part of his work family. These are beautiful people, and they offer one of our favorite excursions on Maui. A++. Book now — they book months ahead.
Mention “Top Maui Restaurants” for specials!
Valley Isle Excursions, 808-661-TOUR (8687)