Shaka Guide Takes Drivers on Immersive Audio Tours of the Islands

2023 SmallBiz Editor’s Choice Award winner: Co-founder Andrew Fowers says the phone app tours are like “podcasts on steroids.”
05 23 Hb Best Of Small Business Hero 01 Shaka Guide
Photo: Aaron Yoshino

Shaka Guide‘s phone app tours are like “podcasts on steroids,” says co-founder Andrew Fowers.

“Taking the podcast experience, connecting it with a location,” he says, “becomes a really powerful combination for an immersive audio experience.”

Shaka Guide is a Hawai‘i-based company that launched in 2016 and provides GPS-guided audio tours for O‘ahu, Hawai‘i Island, Maui, Kaua‘i and, more recently, Utah, Arizona, Nevada and Colorado.

Location-based storytelling is the heart and soul of the company, Fowers says. “It’s about understanding place,” including its history and unique features.

“On the mainland, we’ve launched tours that are talking about the stories of Indigenous people: how they used to live there and what their stories are. And that’s important to help preserve and perpetuate this type of information, through audio.”

The O‘ahu tour bundle covers six locations, including Downtown, Waikīkī and the North Shore, with each tour running from one hour to 10. The bundle highlights places like Banzai Pipeline, Leonard’s Bakery and ‘Iolani Palace; it provides any fees and prices along the way, a packing guide, and reminders to mālama ‘āina and to pause for the full experience, such as taking in the sights, sounds and salty smells as surfers ride big ocean waves.

Fowers says Shaka Guide encourages exploring while respecting the land. “We try to define that balance between tourism and sustainability. Where those two meet is where we hope Shaka Guide will be.”

Growing Shaka Guide did not come without challenges, including the strain of keeping up with new technology like GPS enhancements and surviving the pandemic.

“It’s about the attitude of welcoming failure and not giving up, and just continuing to innovate and push toward your dreams without letting failure get the best of you,” says Fowers.