Aloha! Are you thinking about a trip to Hawaii? Having been several times myself, I understand the lure - beautiful beaches, peaceful, relaxing surrounds, stunning scenery, awesome sunsets, great food and so much more. And with so many wonderful islands to experience, how do you choose?
The answer is simple - explore multiple islands on a cruise. Whether this is your first visit or your tenth, cruising is a relaxing way to see the islands. Enjoy a week or more island hopping, visiting top ports and small bays, exploring national parks, experiencing local culture. Unpack once, no airport hassles - you know, just old fashioned down time.
When it comes to cruises, you have a number of choices. Many of the bigger ship cruise lines have itineraries that include Hawaii, either as part of a longer Pacific Island itinerary (including Tahiti and Fiji) or part of a world cruise. A number of lines also have round trip itineraries between California or Vancouver and Hawaii, perfect for those who enjoy sea days. Norwegian has a ship in Hawaii year round offering a week long itinerary, starting and ending in Honolulu. Or you may want to consider a small ship yacht experience with only 36 guests on board.
The most known islands of Hawaii are Oahu, Maui, Lanai, Molokai, Kauai and Hawaii, the Big Island. The larger cruise lines make stops in Oahu, Maui, Kauai and Hawaii - bigger ports with access to top tourist sites.
A city of just under 1 million residents, Honolulu is Hawaii's largest city - a large urban center, like many others, except that it sits on one of the most beautiful and famous beaches around - Waikiki Beach. The cruise port is right downtown, which makes it easy to explore the area, and shop. Waikiki Beach is about two miles from the port - an easy walk for those so inclined or one can hop on a city bus, shuttle or cab. Diamondhead National Park is a 20 minute ride from the port, past Waikiki - a great place for those who would like to hike to the top for a fantastic view of the city and Waikiki. The USS Arizona Memorial is approximately 20 minute from the port, in the opposite direction from Waikiki. For those who want to venture out of town a bit, go to the North Shore to watch the surfers or visit the Polynesian Cultural Center. Keep in mind that it takes a little over an hour to reach the North Shore, but it is well worth the trip. Oahu offers a wide range of experiences, in Honolulu and beyond - enough to keep you busy for several weeks.
Maui is consistently rated as Hawaii's best island, as rated by the readers of Conde Naste. Personally, I agree. Maui is my favorite island too. Most cruises stop in the historic whaling town of Lahaina, charming albeit a bit touristy. Maui though offers so many different things to see and do. When time allows, Haleakala National Park is by far my favorite. The volcano's peak is just over 10,000 feet high, and while the drive takes a bit of time, you won't be sorry. You start off in lush tropical landscape and end up at the summit, overlooking a vast desert and the world's largest dormant volcano. Absolutely amazing. Be sure to take a light jacket or sweater - it can get quite cold. Closer to town, you can choose to explore the beautiful resorts in Kaanapali, walk the beautiful beaches, take a boat tour to snorkel (with lots of opportunities to see turtles) or maybe even take in a round of golf in Kapalua. The Iao Valley with its iconic Iao Needle landmark and multiple tropical gardens lush is another beautiful park area worth seeing.
Photos courtesy of Maui Visitors Bureau
Kauai is called the Garden Island for good reason. Did you know that Jurassic Park was filmed here? I'm sure you are familiar with the setting - green and lush, from the mountains on down to the ocean. Kauai is best known for Waimea Canyon, a deep canyon with dramatic and stunning views, called the "Grand Canyon of the Pacific" for its steep cliffs and beautiful colors. The Napali Coast also offers stunning scenery of awe inspiring cliffs, best seen from a ship, flightseeing or kayaking along the coast.
The Big Island
Hawaii is the youngest of all the islands in the chain, and home to one of the most active volcanoes (Kilauea) in the world as well as the tallest sea mountain in the world -Mauna Kea, which is 33,000 feet high. Cruise ships stop in Hilo, Kona or both. Hilo is the gateway to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which may provide a great show from the unpredictable Kilauea. As I sailed away from the island on my last visit, Kilauea was quite active. Seeing the lava moving at night was a spectacular site. Kona is where most visitors fly in/out from. It is a major resort destination, where the Ironman World Championship starts and ends (in October), and home to the Kona Brewing Company.
Small ship yacht cruises offer the opportunity to experience Hawaii from a different perspective. These cruises are more active and adventure oriented, stop in smaller, quieter ports and leave time for plenty of hiking, kayaking, paddle boarding, snorkeling and whale watching. Casual and laid back, you can relax on the deck or go up to the bridge and chat it up with the captain. Can't do that on a big ship!
The itinerary also includes the Big Island (adding in Honomalino Bay and a night dive with manta rays) and Maui, but replaces Oahu and Kauai with visits to Lanai and Molokai. Both Lanai and Molokai are laid back with a lot fewer visitors than the other islands. Molokai has no traffic (or even a traffic light!), and offers the opportunity to meet and interact with the locals and learn about traditions that few visitors get to experience.
Pictures courtesy of Un-Cruise
I've had the opportunity to visit Oahu, Maui, Kauai and Hawaii. I have stayed in a condo, hotels, and my last visit was on a 14 day cruise from California. While lots of sea days may or may not be to your liking (I love sea days), I do highly recommend island hopping by cruise. A seven day cruise circling the islands is fun and relaxing - paradise. Give it a try!
Need help determining which cruise line and itinerary is for you? Let me help you! Call 602.540.7338 or email. Let's get started! Mahalo!
Laurie Marschall - Owner and Founder