10 finest Hawaii cruise ideas for getting probably the most out of your island-hopping journey

A Hawaii cruise solves one of many main hassles of island-hopping within the fiftieth state: Packing and unpacking as you’re taking a number of inter-island flights in a bid to expertise Oahu, Maui, Kauai and the Island of Hawaii (aka the Massive Island) in a single trip. Most Hawaii cruise itineraries go to all 4 of the primary islands and provide full days — and, in some circumstances, overnights — in port, so there’s ample time for sightseeing and studying about Hawaiian tradition.

However, in contrast with a weeklong, land-based go to to only one or two islands, you may end up hard-pressed to slot in every part you need to do in every port of name. It’s essential to make sure that your cruise ship and itinerary provide help to attain your trip targets — not hinder them.

Listed below are my high 10 Hawaii cruise ideas that will help you profit from your crusing and your time within the islands.

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Select your cruise based mostly in your love (or loathing) for sea days


There are a number of methods to cruise the Hawaiian Islands and the itinerary you select is dependent upon components comparable to the quantity of trip time you might have, whether or not you need to fly to Honolulu, your openness to spending as much as 10 days at sea and the time of yr you need to sail.

If you happen to love the precise “cruising” a part of cruising, lots of the main strains provide round-trip sailings from West Coast ports on itineraries lasting two weeks or extra. This implies you’ll spend in depth time on board your ship as you cross the Pacific Ocean, however solely 4 or 5 days in port within the Hawaiian Islands. Strains comparable to Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean, Carnival Cruise Line, Holland America and Viking provide 14- to 18-night round-trip sailings to Hawaii, often within the winter months.

If you happen to’d moderately spend nearly all of your cruise visiting the islands and sightseeing, a seven-night itinerary that sails round-trip from Honolulu or between a number of islands can be an choice. The preferred all-Hawaii cruise choice is on Norwegian Cruise Line’s Satisfaction of America, which sails round-trip from Honolulu year-round, departing and returning each Saturday.

On a a lot smaller scale, UnCruise Adventures affords inter-island sailings on the 36-guest Safari Explorer from November to April. The main focus is on exploring the pure wonders of Hawaii through lively, small-group land and water excursions, and itineraries embrace lesser-cruised islands comparable to Lanai and Molokai.

Keep away from the vacations and summer season months for fewer crowds

The busiest instances to cruise the Hawaiian Islands are the final two weeks of December by way of March, plus July and August. Count on bigger crowds in addition to larger cruise fares and resort charges should you journey throughout these durations.

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As a substitute, select a shoulder season crusing. Might and November are wonderful months to cruise the islands. The climate is right in Might and the summer season trip rush has but to start out. November can be a month with fewer crowds and usually favorable climate. If you happen to go to early sufficient in Might or late sufficient in November (into early December), you might even catch sight of the humpback whales that winter right here, particularly within the waters round Maui.

Associated: Greatest time to cruise Hawaii

E-book a pre- or post-cruise resort keep if embarking in Honolulu

In case your cruise embarks and/or disembarks in Honolulu, you gained’t even have a lot time to get pleasure from Oahu’s sights and points of interest except you arrive a day or two early or add an evening or two post-cruise. Extending your Hawaii trip with a resort keep can add to your leisure, provide help to alter to the time change and permit you to absolutely get pleasure from a lot of what Hawaii’s most populous island has to supply, from Waikiki Seaside, Diamond Head and Pearl Harbor to the scenic North Shore.

If you happen to’re actually strapped for trip time, a round-trip Honolulu itinerary can effectively ship a four-island expertise and allow you to see a little bit of Oahu with a disembarkation-day tour that mixes a Pearl Harbor or North Shore tour with an airport drop-off.

Plan your sightseeing prematurely


Not like some ports within the Caribbean and Mediterranean, Hawaii isn’t a vacation spot the place it’s simple to simply stroll off the ship and discover on foot. The ports in Honolulu, Kahului (Maui), Nawiliwili (Kauai) and Hilo (island of Hawaii) aren’t situated close to high sights, whereas Kona, additionally on Hawaii, is a young port the place ships anchor offshore and ferry passengers in tender boats to a dock, though some retailers and eating places are inside strolling distance.

The answer? When you’ve booked your Hawaii cruise, do a little analysis and determine what you need to see — and what one of the best ways is to try this. Your technique can embrace a mix of shore excursions booked through the ship or organized independently and exploration in a rental automotive.

For instance, in case your cruise overnights on Maui, you might need to discover the island by yourself in a rental automotive the primary day, visiting a seashore, a resort space or Upcountry and the summit of Haleakala, after which ebook a snorkel journey or a ship’s shore tour alongside the Street to Hana for the second day while you’ll must be again on board in time for sail away.

Kauai is well explored by yourself through automotive, whether or not you’re heading into the Waimea Canyon to go mountaineering or in search of out the right seashore. Hawaii Volcanoes Nationwide Park is simply 45 minutes from Hilo on the Island of Hawaii, that means you may drive there your self and go to extra areas, together with Chain of Craters Street, than on commonplace cruise ship shore excursions.

Associated: Keep away from these 10 errors when reserving cruise shore excursions

Select a handy rental automotive pick-up location

Choosing the rental automotive route will also be fairly cost-effective, because the each day charge might be a lot lower than the price of two excursions and provide main financial savings for a household of 4. Mixing your sightseeing up with impartial exploration may also alleviate “tour bus burnout.”

With a little bit pre-travel analysis, you may pinpoint the closest rental automotive location to the port. Some rental automotive corporations used to supply shuttles from sure areas to the port, however that’s now not the case.

For instance, there’s an Enterprise location that’s a simple 10-minute stroll from the cruise terminal in Kahului, Maui. The one draw back is that the placement is simply open Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to five p.m., so should you’re renting on a day while you’re overnighting in port and also you need to preserve the automotive to move to dinner or a luau, organize to return it to the close by Kahului Airport (OGG) location, the place automobiles might be returned after hours; then take an Uber or taxi again to the ship.

On Kauai, there are a number of nationwide rental automotive companies at Lihue Airport (LIH), which is a five-minute drive (by taxi or Uber) from the port at Nawiliwili Harbor. The cruise port in Hilo on the Island of Hawaii is about 8 minutes’ drive from Hilo Worldwide Airport (IHO), residence to Avis, Enterprise, Thrifty, Nationwide and different companies, whereas each Thrifty and Hertz have areas inside strolling distance of the tender pier in Kona.

Pack for each solar and rain

The Hawaiian Islands get a number of sunshine — 270 days on common yearly — however rainfall can be incessantly within the forecast. That is very true from December by way of March and most notably on the windward sides of every island, which mockingly are probably the most scenic areas identified for his or her lush landscapes and cascading waterfalls.

This variability is necessary to recollect when packing on your Hawaii cruise. Alongside these a number of bathing fits, cover-ups and solar hats, be sure you stash a journey umbrella and a light-weight rain jacket. The latter may also do double obligation as a protecting layer must you enterprise to the summit of Haleakala, the place winds might be fierce and the elevation usually drops temperatures into the 50s and 60s.

Associated: Hawaii cruise packing listing: What to pack for a tropical crusing

Don’t overlook to style native specialties

A conventional Hawaiian meal with Kalua pork, pork lau lau, lomi lomi salmon, loco moco and Spam musubi. RICK POON/GETTY IMAGES

Many cruise passengers fall into the lure of dashing again to their ship for lunch and dinner — why pay further to dine in port, proper? However should you all the time eat on board you’ll miss out on Hawaii’s distinctive culinary experiences. And most of them are fairly inexpensive.

If you happen to like sushi or ceviche, be sure you strive poke, which is uncooked fish (most frequently ahi tuna) marinated with soy sauce, sesame oil and inexperienced onions and sometimes served in a bowl. One other well-liked noon choice is the standard Hawaiian plate lunch (or combined plate), which consists of favourite Hawaiian meals comparable to loco moco (a hamburger patty topped with brown gravy and a fried egg), kalua pork (slow-cooked pork shoulder), lomi lomi salmon and even grilled Spam, served with scoops of white rice and macaroni salad.

If you happen to decide to discover the North Shore of Oahu, a tasty lunchtime indulgence is regionally farmed garlic shrimp served up by assorted “shrimp vans” parked alongside the Kamehameha Freeway.

For a day calm down, have a shave ice, which as its identify implies is a cone or cup of shaved iced drenched in candy fruit syrup, or get pleasure from a couple of slices of ripe, freshly lower Hawaiian pineapple or different tropical fruit comparable to mango, lychee or candy apple bananas. Different flavor-packed snacks to not miss are macadamia nuts and taro chips. Take pleasure in fat-laden carbs by making an attempt malasadas, tasty Portuguese fried donuts.

Critical foodies ought to make time to pattern the islands’ signature Hawaii Regional Delicacies. Developed over the previous three many years by a dozen high Hawaiian cooks that embrace Roy Yamaguchi (Roy’s), Peter Merriman (Merriman’s) and Beverly Gannon (Hali’imaile Common Retailer), the motion focuses on native and sustainable substances that emphasize Hawaii’s melting-pot tradition and fusion of Polynesian, Asian and Portuguese flavors. In case your ship is overnighting in Oahu or Maui, reserve a desk prematurely for dinner; Hali’imaile Common Retailer on Maui can be open for lunch.

Hunt down reef-safe sunscreen

Hawaii has been on the forefront in passing laws to guard susceptible coral reefs from bleaching and erosion attributable to sure substances in sunscreen merchandise. In early 2021, the state banned the sale of sunscreens containing the chemical compounds oxybenzone and octinoxate, so search for the phrases “reef protected” on any sunscreen you buy to be used in Hawaii.

Utilizing sunscreen within the islands is essential if you wish to stop extreme sunburn, which may occur shortly, particularly within the center a part of the day. Hawaii’s location (it’s about 1,300 miles from the equator) means the solar’s rays are extra intense than they’re in a lot of the mainland U.S. You’ll even be spending nearly all of your time outside, in order added safety it’s a wise concept to additionally pack an SPF-rated swim shirt or rash guard to put on whereas having fun with water-based actions.

Put together to hit the seashore

All seashores in Hawaii are, by legislation, open to the general public. That doesn’t imply, nevertheless, you could simply head to a resort, choose a lounger and act such as you’re a visitor. As a substitute, there are public entry factors for well-liked resort seashores, comparable to Wailea and Kaanapali on Maui, Waikiki on Oahu and Poipu on Kauai. You’ll be capable to stake a spot on the sand, usually to both facet of a resort’s seashore chairs — so carry alongside seashore towels and/or pareos in addition to water and snacks.

Don’t overlook Hawaiian historical past and tradition


It’s actually tempting to spend your time in port having fun with Hawaii’s pure magnificence and its myriad water-based actions, however be sure you take off your masks and snorkel now and again and get to know the islands’ distinctive historical past, language and tradition. Alternatives to be taught abound — and it’s enjoyable to have the ability to use a couple of key Hawaiian phrases whereas within the islands. Along with aloha, which suggests whats up and is used as a greeting, phrases you’ll doubtless hear are mahalo (thanks), hale (home), kama’aina (native particular person), ohana (household), honu (turtle) and pupu (appetizer). However probably the most enjoyable phrase to be taught to pronounce is the 21-letter identify of the Hawaiian state fish: humuhumunukunukuapua’a.

Cultural websites additionally give context to the Hawaiian lifestyle. When in Honolulu, you may delve deeper into the islands’ pure historical past with a go to to the Bishop Museum or head to Iolani Palace to see how Hawaiian royalty lived within the late 19th century earlier than the U.S. annexed the islands. The Royal Hawaiian Middle within the coronary heart of Waikiki additionally affords free cultural programming that features hula and ukulele classes.

On Maui, you may step again in time with a go to to the artsy Upcountry city of Makawao in what’s often called paniolo (cowboy) nation. And on the island of Hawaii, it’s doable to go to the Puʻuhonua Nationwide Historic Park, also referred to as the Place of Refuge, an historic non secular sanctuary for defeated warriors who can be shielded from demise there.

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