Recently I had the chance to do an evening cruise on the new 2023 Manitou Explore 24 and can honestly say I’ve never been on a more comfortable and modern pontoon boat. Manitou has managed to redesign many aspects of the traditional pontoon successfully without losing the core values of this popular, family-friendly boat type. Since the only family I really have (willing to join me) is my dog Bean, she came along for our little merry holiday sleigh ride on the water. Stocked with hot cocoa, music blaring, and in search of Christmas lights, we were ready to sit back and enjoy the many new amenities this pontoon has to offer.
Above: Laila Elise and her golden doodle dog “Bean” onboard a 2023 Manitou Explore 24 Navigator. Photo via Laila Elise/Manitou Boats.
Engine & Performance
The first thing we noticed right away was the Rotax S – the first outboard engine with stealth technology – and how it sits below the versatile MAX deck (which unlocks up to 38 square feet of multi-use space for storing coolers and toys, or for recreational use) while still providing all of the usual benefits of an outboard motor. You can barely see it when the boat is in the water.
Above: Laila Elise at the helm of a 2023 Manitou Explore 24 pontoon boat testing the vessel out on the water. Photo via Laila Elise/Manitou Boats.
Later, when we got out in the channel, we were cruising at about 30 knots and the 150hp was very smooth and quiet. We were still shouting at each other because we had the music so loud, but engine noise was definitely not an issue. You’ll also have a dual engine option on certain models in this line, for those of you who have a need for speed. The Rotax S is also the cleanest outboard in its class, with a 12% reduction in carbon emissions and a 98% reduction in carbon monoxide at idle compared to other traditional outboards.
MAX Deck Option
Above: The Max Deck feature onboard Manitou’s Explore pontoon boat series. Photo by Manitou Boats.
Manitou’s MAX Deck option unlocks up to 20% more functional space at the stern and is available exclusively on models powered with the Rotax S115 and S150. Easy access for recreational activities, space to store water toys, coolers and more is provided by this nice option.
Seating & Layout
The Explore 24, as with the other two Explore models from Manitou (the 22 and 26), is available in 3 main layout packages: Bench, Switchback and Navigator. We were on the Navigator for our tests, with two captain’s chairs midship. One of the things that always makes pontoon boats a great choice for families is the amount of space and seating you have on board. The Manitou Explore certainly does not disappoint in this area, with the deck space getting a more polished and modern makeover without sacrificing any of the comforts.
Above: Bean, a golden doodle owned by boater Laila Elise, eying a Christmas cookie onboard a 2023 Manitou Explore 24. Photo via Laila Elise.
All of the seats on the Manitou Explore 24 have a sharp, chic look and are also durable and easy to clean (we each spilled our cocoa multiple times solely due to clumsiness.) The switchback seating at the stern allows you to lounge either facing the bow, or facing the MAX deck and ocean view as you drift into the sunset without a care in the world. There’s also a 3-in-1 trifold bench that can either be a table, extra seating, or more open space.
Above: The 2023 Manitou Explore 24 deck layout as seen from above. Photo by Manitou Boats.
At The Helm
Above: The helm station controls onboard a 2023 Manitou Explore 24. Photo via Manitou Boats.
A new dashboard layout and design dedicates 4 unique sections of the helm to key functions, ensuring that phone charging, radio control, vessel monitoring, and vessel switching are accessible and intuitive. All three versions of the Manitou Explore come with Garmin 9″ touchscreen digital display integrated into the dash with digital switching and preprogrammed buttons. The 24 has 12 USB charging ports throughout the boat as well.
Sound System & Creature Comforts
Thirteen newly-designed cupholders and premium speakers have been integrated into the walls to offer an enhanced onboard experience without sacrificing space. A Fusion sound system (RA-210) is available with w/4x 6″ Fusion speakers pumping sound throughout the boat.
The weather was gorgeous for our ride so we didn’t need the bimini, but I could easily lift and lower it myself if I had needed to. The sport bimini on this Manitou Explorer is gas assisted, offers 12 feet of coverage and is rated for up to 55 mph so you can stay cool and comfortable as you and your family fly past the other pontoons on your local river or lake.
Stylish Aluminum Paneling
Another design element that really stood out was the automotive-inspired paneling on the exterior. Manitou’s innovative use of Class A aluminum panels give the pontoon a fresh, sleek and stylish look that is really going to put the pressure on other pontoon manufacturers to keep up that level of modern design going forward. They definitely take fit-and-finish on a pontoon to a whole new level.
An Evening Pontoon Cruise: Holiday Light Show
Above: Laila Elise and her golden doodle dog Bean on a holiday light cruise aboard a Manitou Explore 24 pontoon boat. Photo via Laila Elise/Manitou Boats.
As we wrapped up our cruise and started to head in well after sunset, the Manitou Explore 24 felt a little like Santa’s sleigh as we took a few cushy detours along the ICW following the call of holiday lights. A bit of chop had picked up, wind blowing as it usually does at that time of night, but that didn’t bother us at all as we sipped the last of the cocoa, ate a few Christmas cookies, and donned our holiday gear – just for the fun of it. For a brief moment there, I actually felt like Santa Claus.
Length Overal (LOA): 23’8″
Hull Type: V-Toon (Tritoon)
Hull Dry Weight: 4,118 lbs.
Capacity: 14 passengers
Max HP: 500 HP (twin 250 HP outboards)
Fuel Capacity: 90 gallons