Learn more about Hawaii's islands and the top attractions/activities in each port of call.Palm-fringed beaches, pounding surf, active volcanoes, and other natural wonders: Hawaii is truly paradise in the Pacific, home to landscapes so astonishing they defy any need for embellishment or exaggeration.
Comprised of eight major islands and many smaller isles and islets, Hawaii is like no other place on Earth, and it remains one of travel's all-time bucket-list destinations. But its remote location – all alone in the middle of the ocean, more than two thousand miles from the U.S. mainland – can often make it seem as if it's too far out of reach – both distance-wise and budget-wise – to most would-be visitors. But getting to and from Hawaii is easy, and far more affordable than you might think, when you choose to visit via a Hawaii cruise.
Set sail for America's 50th State and you'll hit all of its highlights while saving a bundle! Virtually every Hawaiian cruise itinerary, regardless of length, will call upon at least three or four of the major islands – including Maui, Oahu, and the Big Island of Hawaii – plus can't-miss attractions like Pearl Harbor and Volcanoes National Park. And by cruising, you'll eliminate many of the complications and expenses that come with visiting Hawaii by other means like flights between the islands, rental cars, and budgeting for your meals/beverages.
All of the world's leading cruise lines set sail for Hawaii including:
Top Hawaiian Cruise Ports
Honolulu, Oahu. Hawaii's largest city, the state's capital, and your gateway to the other islands in the chain.
Kahului, Maui. Home to Maui's biggest harbor, this bustling port city boasts some of Hawaii's very best shopping.
Lahaina, Maui. From secluded beaches to its fine-art-loving Front Street, this historic town has a lot to offer visitors.
Kailua-Kona, Hawaii. The Big Island's hub, rich in royal history, gorgeous national parks, and some of the world's very best coffee.
Hilo, Hawaii. Several of Hawaii's most dramatic natural attractions are located here (or nearby) including Rainbow Falls and Mauna Loa, the world's largest active volcano.
Things to see and do in Honolulu, Oahu
Pearl Harbor National Memorial. Honolulu's must-see site commemorates the events of December 7, 1941 – Japan's surprise attack on Pearl Harbor – and honors the more than 2,400 Americans whose lives were lost that day.
The memorial encompasses several important landmarks, but most excursions will only include a visit to the USS Arizona Memorial; if time allows, you can tack on outings to the USS Missouri Memorial, the USS Bowfin Museum, and other significant locations. Regardless, you'll want to be sure to reserve your place as early as possible: these are among Hawaii's most-visited attractions, and tours always sell out quickly.
Polynesian Cultural Center. This living museum and theme park – six separate Polynesian villages spread across more than forty lush, tropical acres – is Oahu's most popular cultural attraction (and an excellent option for families and other groups). Highlights include live Polynesian music and dancing with fire knives, luau buffets, and a large marketplace featuring traditional Polynesian foods and handicrafts.
Kualoa Private Nature Reserve. 4,000 sacred and stunning acres – and three unique and fully immersive experiences for one all-inclusive price.
First, you'll tour famous film and television locations in the reserve's Ka'a'awa Valley, a.k.a. "Hollywood's Hawaii Backlot" (Jurassic Park, Lost, and many other notable movies/series have been shot here). Next, you'll venture deep into a jungle rainforest aboard a custom-built vehicle prior to concluding your outing with a tranquil "Taste of Kualoa Farm" trolley tour. Packages include an all-you-can-eat buffet lunch.
Flightseeing over Diamond Head and other Oahu attractions. Climb aboard a helicopter or a seaplane and view "the Heart of Hawaii" from the friendly skies! Aerial highlights include the Waikiki shoreline, the Koko Crater Trails, and Diamond Head State Monument, Oahu's majestic volcano crater.
Atlantis Submarine Adventures. Travel beneath the sea for an up-close encounter with Hawaii's amazing marine life. Your state-of-the-art, 48-passenger vehicle – the world's largest recreational submarine – descends deep into the waters of Waikiki, where you'll pass right alongside green sea turtles, tiger sharks, and giant rays and eels (as well as shipwrecks, sunken airplanes, and other reef structures).
Things to see and do in Kahului, Maui
Haleakalā National Park. Maui's mammoth centerpiece, well over 30,000 acres of spectacular natural scenery that's roughly divided between two sections.
There's the desert-like "summit" section, site of the Haleakalā Crater (unquestionably the park's chief attraction), and the coastal Kipahulu section near Hāna, home to bamboo forests, cascading waterfalls, and other scenic splendors. The park's seemingly endless series of trails make it a paradise for hikers, and its summit is one of the very best places for taking in a Hawaiian sunrise and/or sunset.
Hāna Highway (a.k.a. "the Road to Hana"). This incredibly scenic driving route, situated along Maui's northeast coastline, begins in Kahului; its "official" endpoint, however, remains in some dispute (there are many who would argue that the route, in spite of its nickname, extends well beyond Hāna). But what's not up for debate are the breathtakingly beautiful landscapes – and the dozens of amazing adventures – that you'll encounter along the way.
The ride is not for the faint of heart, though (the highway's dramatic twists and turns are legendary), so you'll want to consider leaving the wheel to an experienced local/professional driver.
Go golfing on one (or more) of the world's best courses. Looking to hit the links while you're in Hawaii? If so, then Maui is the place to be. The island is home to several of the game's most highly regarded courses including the Bay Course at Kapalua (designed by Arnold Palmer and architect Francis Duane), the Wailea Golf Club's Gold Course (the award-winning creation of Robert Trent Jones II), and the Plantation Course at Kapalua Bay, consistently rated as Hawaii's top golf course and the home of the PGA TOUR's annual Sentry Tournament of Champions.
Shop ‘til you drop. Kahului is Maui's busy commercial center, and several of the archipelago's biggest and best shopping spots are within a short walk of the pier including the Maui Mall and the Queen Ka'ahumanu Center (both destinations are also home to good restaurants, movie theatres, arcades, and other diversions).
The Maui Swap Meet, open weekly, is another highlight. And when you're done? Laze along the secluded shorelines of beautiful Kanaha Beach Park, one of the ports best-kept secrets.
Things to see and do in Lahaina, Maui
'Iao Valley State Park. This sacred location, less than an hour's drive from downtown Lahaina, offers outdoor enthusiasts more than 4,000 verdant acres to explore. Its best-known feature is the iconic 'Iao Needle, the green-mantled rock spire that rises more than one thousand feet into the air. There are any number of trails that you can follow that will lead you to the Needle, but the park's most popular is the half-mile Lookout Trail and Ethnobotanical Loop, which passes through a gorgeous botanical garden.
Attend a luau. You can attend a luau – a traditional Hawaiian feast accompanied by traditional Hawaiian song, dance, and other entertainments – in pretty much any port of call that you'll visit on your Hawaii cruise. But Lahaina's are among the island's biggest and most lively; examples include the "Drums of the Pacific" luau at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa, located just steps from cliff-lined Ka'anapali Beach, and the "Old Lahaina" luau, available seven nights a week at an oceanside location along Front Street, Lahaina's leading thoroughfare.
Book a snorkeling or scuba-diving excursion in Lahaina Harbor. You won't have to travel far to discover the aquatic treasures hidden among Maui's colorful reefs. A wide range of exciting water-based activities, including snorkel and scuba-diving outings via catamaran, are available within (or just beyond) Lahaina Harbor, which is where your cruise ship will dock. It's also one of the islands' premier whale-watching locations throughout the winter and spring.
Tour the town's historic streets aboard a Segway®. See Lahaina's most celebrated attractions in a unique and contemporary way! Never ridden a Segway before? No problem: your excursion begins with a thirty-minute training session, and communication radios keep you connected to your tour guide throughout. Once you're on your way, you'll hit all of the town's highlights including its famed banyan tree, the Jodo Mission, Hale Pa'ahao Prison, and Kamehameha Iki Park.
Things to see and do in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii
Hualālai Volcano (Hidden Craters Tour). The Big Island of Hawaii is Hawaii's "youngest" island, geologically speaking – and it's still growing (literally), broadened by the lava from its active volcanoes, which flows to the island's shorelines, cools, and hardens into molten rock.
One such volcano is Hualālai, located east of Kailua-Kona, and visitors to the Big Island can tour its upper slopes. To get there, you'll hike through a pristine cloud forest and navigate a portion of a lava tube; upon reaching the summit, you'll stand on the edge of the volcano's dramatic craters, where you'll gaze into their depths and soak up stunning views of the Kailua-Kona coast.
Kohala Waterfalls. Journey off-road into some of the Big Island's most jungle-like terrain (much of it private, and strictly accessible via guided excursion) to view over a half-dozen magnificent waterfalls sprinkled along Kohala's northern coast.
Your tour includes transportation to and from Kona, a visit to an ancient Hawaiian taro-farming site, a picnic lunch at one of the island's most panoramic lookouts, and a refreshing plunge-pool swim at the base of the final waterfall that you'll visit.
Tour one of Kona's famous coffee plantations. Kona is one of the globe's leading coffee-producing regions, and its bold and flavorful beans are beloved the world over. You can learn more about this rich Hawaiian tradition – and sample a freshly brewed cup – at any one of Kona's many coffee plantations, orchards, and estates. The most authentic (and expensive) beans are harvested in Kona's north and south, but you'll find places to tour throughout the Big Island; leading examples include the Mountain Thunder Coffee Plantation, Hula Daddy Coffee, and Greenwell Farms.
Pay a visit to Anaeho'omalu Beach. This long, picturesque crescent of black-and-white sand is arguably the Big Island's most beautiful beach.
Named for the ancient fishponds that you'll pass as you make your way to its shoreline, but more commonly referred to as "A-Bay," Anaeho'omalu is especially notable for its placid, bay-sheltered waters; unlike much of Hawaii's surf, A-Bay's is calm, making it an exceptionally good spot for kayakers, paddleboarders, snorkelers, and other watersports enthusiasts.
Things to see and do in Hilo, Hawaii
Volcanoes National Park. Essential. Hawaii's most-visited attraction, the Volcanoes National Park is the site of Hawaii's two most important and impressive volcanoes: Kīlauea, one of the world's most active volcanoes, and Mauna Loa, the biggest "shield volcano" (i.e. highly fluid volcano) on Earth.
The park is enormous – well over 300,000 acres of incredible land – so there's only so much you'll be able to see in a single day. Plan ahead and make the most of your time there: highlights within the park, beyond its two world-famous volcanoes, include the Kīlauea Iki Crater, the Thurston Lava Tube, the Sulphur Banks Trail, and the Chain of Craters Road.
Waipi'o Valley. Breathtakingly beautiful and historically significant – it was, for many years, the full-time home of Hawaiian royalty – Waipi'o Valley is yet another terrific option for lovers of the great outdoors.
Surrounded by enormous cliffs, some of which are close to 2,000 feet tall, the valley is home to Hawaii's tallest waterfall (Hiilawe Falls) and the Hamakua Heritage Corridor (a memorable route along the coastline, which culminates in the panoramic vistas available via Waipi'o's famous lookout). You can explore the valley on foot, via horseback, or aboard an all-wheel-drive vehicle, but be mindful: portions of the land are privately owned, so take care not to trespass.
Rainbow Falls. If Kohala hasn't already sated your appetite for incredible waterfalls, then Hilo surely will! There are many beautiful examples worth exploring here – including the Akaka Falls and the Kahuna Falls – but Rainbow Falls is a standout: its morning mists, when they catch the sun, throw off colorful rainbows that circle/ring the base of the falls. And while the waterfall itself is comparatively modest (less than 100 feet tall, as opposed to its neighbor in Akaka, which tops out at more than 400), it's easily accessible, there's no admission fee, and there are other natural attractions close by.
Mauna Kea. This dormant volcano is the highest point of elevation in all of the Pacific; measured from its base at the bottom of the ocean, it's the tallest mountain in the world.
It'll take about two hours' worth of driving to reach Mauna Kea's summit, but it's worth it: the views, needless to say, are staggering. You'll just want to keep in mind that it can get chilly up there (Mauna Kea is occasionally dusted with snow), and the extreme altitude can also be a challenge (once you reach the summit, you'll be breathing in nearly half as much oxygen as you were at sea level)!
Five Must-Try Hawaiian Foods
Poke. Fresh, raw seafood, cut into bite-sized pieces and marinated in the flavors of your choosing (e.g. sesame oil, soy sauce, Hawaiian sea salt). Pronounced "poh-keh," and the traditionalists will tell you that it's only the real deal when it's made with either 'ahi (yellowfin) tuna or cured octopus!
Manapua. Hawaii's version of the Cantonese cha siu bao, a barbecue-pork-and-bean-filled bun. Steamed or baked, as it is in China, but typically larger than its Cantonese cousin; Hawaiians will often substitute chicken, sausage, yam, and other fillings in place of the pork.
Loco moco. A contemporary favorite. There are all sorts of variations, but the most common version of the dish consists of white rice topped with a hamburger patty, a fried egg or two, and brown gravy.
SPAM® musubi. A grilled slice of everybody's favorite indestructible canned meat, placed atop a block of white rice and wrapped, Japanese-style, in nori (seaweed). Inexpensive and made for eating on the go, you'll find it for sale everywhere, from the finest restaurants to the corner convenience store.
Shave ice. Similar to a snow cone, Hawaii's popular desert is made – as its name suggests – by shaving bits from a block of ice, which are then placed in a conical paper or plastic cup and topped with syrupy flavors like kiwi and passion fruit, pineapple, coconut, mango, and li hing mui (salty dried plum). Often served with a scoop of ice cream or adzuki bean paste at the bottom of the cup, or drizzled with sweetened condensed milk.
Top Hawaii Cruise Departure Ports
At present, cruisers can set sail for Hawaii from a convenient selection of departure ports located along the Pacific Coast including:
Things to Know Before You Cruise to Hawaii
Pack for all kinds of weather and all kinds of terrain. Hawaii enjoys warm temperatures year-round, but the winter months, which are among the most popular months for traveling to Hawaii, tend to be rainier. And since many of the islands' leading attractions can be damp and/or rugged, you'll want to be sure to bring comfortable and waterproof footwear.
Hawaii's hurricane season mirrors that of the Caribbean (June through November, approx.), but big storms are rare here. You'll always want to take care when you're in or on the water, however (e.g. swimming, boating, etc.), because of Hawaii's notoriously strong ocean currents and its powerful surf; swells are at their largest in winter, and that's especially true along the state's north-facing coastlines.
And here's another tidbit that you may not be aware of: with the exception of a handful of areas that are under the control of the federal government, all beaches in Hawaii are open to the public. So don't be deterred by that looming hotel or all-inclusive resort: when it comes to the state's sandy shorelines, you're free to come and go as you please (it's the law).
Last but not least, you'll want to keep it in mind that "island time" is very much a thing. Islanders, as a general rule, keep to a pretty laid-back pace – and you'll find that's often true of your bartenders and other wait staff, too (as well as your taxi, car, and bus drivers; many of Hawaii's roads can be a challenge to navigate, and the locals operate their vehicles with both courtesy and caution). So be patient, and go with the flow (just be sure to factor in some additional minutes when you're planning your time ashore).
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If you book a cruise that departs soon (within 36 days), your gift card code will be sent to you after you return home. Use your gift card to prepare for your adventure or to enhance your next vacation experience!
Total Price (minus port charges & taxes)Gift Card Value$0 - $1,250$25$1,251 - $2,250$50$2,251 - $3,000$75$3,001 - $3,500$100$3,501 - $4,000$125$4,001 - $4,500$150$4,501 - $5,000$200$5,001 - $7,500$300$7,501 - $10,000$400$10,000+$750
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Total Price (minus taxes, fees, port expenses, & port charges)Cash Back$0 - $750$25$751 - $1,500$50$1,501 - $2,250$75$2,251 - $3,000$100$3,001 - $3,500$125$3,501 - $4,000$150$4,001 - $4,500$200$4,501 - $5,000$300$5,001 - $7,500$400$7,501 - $10,000$600$10,000+$1,000
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Up To $750 To Spend Onboard †- Book Online or Call!Onboard Credit: Up To $750 To Spend Onboard † - Book Online or Call!Spend it in your ship's spa, shops, and specialty restaurants or apply it towards shore excursions! Simply book a qualifying voyage, then prior to departure, complete and submit the redemption form found on your invoice, and we'll credit up to $750 to your onboard account, which you can use while you're sailing. Please see our grid below for bonus amounts. Restrictions apply, see terms below for details. Amount of bonus varies & is based on your booking price (found in your invoice as "Total") MINUS taxes, fees, port expenses, and port charges †
Total Price (minus taxes, fees, port expenses, & port charges)Onboard Spending$0 - $1,250$25$1,251 - $2,250$50$2,251 - $3,000$75$3,001 - $3,500$100$3,501 - $4,000$125$4,001 - $4,500$150$4,501 - $5,000$200$5,001 - $7,500$300$7,501 - $10,000$400$10,000+$750
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We'll Waive Your Deposit- Book Online or Call!Book Now, Pay Later: We'll Waive Your Deposit - Book Online or Call!Put your dream vacation on the calendar now, and pay for it later! When you book select 3+ night sailings, we'll waive the booking deposit for the first 5 staterooms on your reservation.
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Advanced Deposit offer is valid for new individual cruise reservations for sailings departing by 12/31/20. Offer is limited to sailings of 3 nights or longer booked at least 110 days prior to departure (or 140 days for Disney, 7-night or longer Norwegian sailings, and 15 night or longer MSC sailings); maximum $500 value and not valid on bookings requiring non-refundable deposits. Deposit must be paid 10 days prior to final payment due date; if changes are made benefit will become void and the cruise lines full deposit is required; changes resulting in a new cruise line booking are considered a cancellation, subject to cruise line’s cancellation policy, our $24.99 processing fee, and $100 cancel fee. Credit card used at time of booking will automatically be charged when the deposit remainder is due. Offer limited to 5 deposited cabins max. for 1 sailing. Offer is not applicable for redemption bookings. Additional restrictions apply.
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Book an eligible stateroom on any qualifying sailing and receive a free upgrade! In some cases, you'll be upgraded to a more desirable location aboard your ship. In other instances, you'll be upgraded to a stateroom with extra space and/or a better view. It's also possible that you might receive all of these benefits. Select your sailing date to see which upgrades are available.