Preteen overlooking Honolulu cityscape Blasius Erlinger

A Hawaii cruise solves one of many main hassles of island-hopping within the fiftieth state: Packing and unpacking as you are taking a number of inter-island flights in a bid to expertise Oahu, Maui, Kauai and the Island of Hawaii (aka the Huge Island) in a single trip. Most Hawaii cruise itineraries go to all 4 of the primary islands and supply full days — and, in some instances, 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 would possibly end up hard-pressed to slot in all the things you wish to do in every port of name. It’s worthwhile to make certain your cruise ship and itinerary assist you to attain your trip targets — not hinder them.

Listed here are my prime 10 Hawaii cruise ideas that will help you benefit 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 elements similar to the quantity of trip time you have got, whether or not you wish to fly to Honolulu, your openness to spending as much as 10 days at sea and the time of yr you wish to sail.

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

For those who’d quite 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 most well-liked all-Hawaii cruise choice is on Norwegian Cruise Line’s Pleasure of America, which sails round-trip from Honolulu year-round, departing and returning each Saturday.

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

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

The busiest occasions to cruise the Hawaiian Islands are the final two weeks of December by way of March, plus July and August. Anticipate bigger crowds in addition to greater cruise fares and lodge charges in the event you journey throughout these durations.

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As an alternative, select a shoulder season crusing. Might and November are glorious months to cruise the islands. The climate is good in Might and the summer season trip rush has but to begin. November can be a month with fewer crowds and usually favorable climate. For those who go to early sufficient in Might or late sufficient in November (into early December), it’s possible you’ll even catch sight of the humpback whales that winter right here, particularly within the waters round Maui.

Associated: Finest time to cruise Hawaii

Guide a pre- or post-cruise lodge 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 sights until you arrive a day or two early or add an evening or two post-cruise. Extending your Hawaii trip with a lodge keep can add to your leisure, assist you to regulate to the time change and will let you totally 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.

For those who’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 straightforward 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 positioned close to prime 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, perform a little research and resolve what you wish to see — and what the easiest way is to do this. Your technique can embrace a mixture of shore excursions booked by way of the ship or organized independently and exploration in a rental automobile.

For instance, in case your cruise overnights on Maui, it’s possible you’ll wish to discover the island by yourself in a rental automobile the primary day, visiting a seaside, a resort space or Upcountry and the summit of Haleakala, after which guide a snorkel journey or a ship’s shore tour alongside the Street to Hana for the second day if you’ll have to be again on board in time for sail away.

Kauai is well explored by yourself by way of automobile, whether or not you’re heading into the Waimea Canyon to go climbing or searching for out the right seaside. Hawaii Volcanoes Nationwide Park is simply 45 minutes from Hilo on the Island of Hawaii, which means you’ll be able to drive there your self and go to extra areas, together with Chain of Craters Street, than on customary cruise ship shore excursions.

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

Select a handy rental automobile pick-up location

Choosing the rental automobile route can be fairly cost-effective, for the reason that each day price may be a lot lower than the price of two excursions and supply main financial savings for a household of 4. Mixing your sightseeing up with unbiased exploration may alleviate “tour bus burnout.”

With a bit pre-travel analysis, you’ll be able to pinpoint the closest rental automobile location to the port. Some rental automobile corporations used to offer shuttles from sure areas to the port, however that’s now not the case.

For instance, there’s an Enterprise location that’s a straightforward 10-minute stroll from the cruise terminal in Kahului, Maui. The one draw back is that the placement is barely open Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to five p.m., so in the event you’re renting on a day if you’re overnighting in port and also you wish to hold the automobile to go to dinner or a luau, organize to return it to the close by Kahului Airport (OGG) location, the place autos may be returned after hours; then take an Uber or taxi again to the ship.

On Kauai, there are a number of nationwide rental automobile 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), dwelling 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 plenty of sunshine — 270 days on common yearly — however rainfall can be regularly within the forecast. That is very true from December by way of March and most notably on the windward sides of every island, which paradoxically are probably the most scenic areas recognized for his or her lush landscapes and cascading waterfalls.

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

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

Don’t neglect 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 additional to dine in port, proper? However in the event you at all times eat on board you’ll miss out on Hawaii’s distinctive culinary experiences. And most of them are fairly reasonably priced.

For those who like sushi or ceviche, you should definitely attempt poke, which is uncooked fish (most frequently ahi tuna) marinated with soy sauce, sesame oil and inexperienced onions and usually served in a bowl. One other fashionable noon choice is the normal Hawaiian plate lunch (or combined plate), which consists of favourite Hawaiian meals similar 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.

For those who choose to discover the North Shore of Oahu, a tasty lunchtime indulgence is domestically farmed garlic shrimp served up by assorted “shrimp vehicles” 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 just a few slices of ripe, freshly lower Hawaiian pineapple or different tropical fruit similar 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.

Severe foodies ought to make time to pattern the islands’ signature Hawaii Regional Delicacies. Developed over the previous three a long time by a dozen prime 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 components 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.

Search out reef-safe sunscreen

Hawaii has been on the forefront in passing laws to guard weak coral reefs from bleaching and erosion attributable to sure components 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 secure” on any sunscreen you buy to be used in Hawaii.

Utilizing sunscreen within the islands is vital if you wish to forestall extreme sunburn, which might 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 open air, in order added safety it’s a sensible thought 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 seaside

All seashores in Hawaii are, by legislation, open to the general public. That doesn’t imply, nonetheless, which you can simply head to a resort, choose a lounger and act such as you’re a visitor. As an alternative, there are public entry factors for fashionable resort seashores, similar to Wailea and Kaanapali on Maui, Waikiki on Oahu and Poipu on Kauai. You’ll be capable of stake a spot on the sand, typically to both aspect of a resort’s seaside chairs — so deliver alongside seaside 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 you should definitely take off your masks and snorkel on occasion and get to know the islands’ distinctive historical past, language and tradition. Alternatives to study abound — and it’s enjoyable to have the ability to use just a few 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 study 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’ll be able to 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 Heart within the coronary heart of Waikiki additionally presents free cultural programming that features hula and ukulele classes.

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

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