For almost a year, Hawaii was basically a second home to me. I lived and worked onboard the MS Statendam and in 2000-2001, our itineraries alternated between Mexico Riviera and Circle Hawaii. Our Hawaiian itinerary began and ended at San Diego, California and the cruise was always a duration of two weeks. I still believe that cruising is the best and most convenient way to travel when you have a restricted time allowance. You only need to unpack your bags once and each night, whilst you are sleeping, the ship will take you to a new destination! Once you reach the islands, it is always so exciting to wake up each day and prepare to discover a new destination. A day of adventure always awaits.
As I worked six days a week with an of average of twelve hours per day, I mostly spent my day off each week lazing on the various beautiful beaches in Hawaii. However, I was occasionally able to join some of the ship’s tours and discover more of what these amazing islands have to offer.
If you are planning a vacation to Hawaii, whether it be by ship or not, I hope these tips and recommendations will help you to make the most of your time in this beautiful part of the world.
Island of Hawaii – The Big Island
Both the name of the entire state, and the name of the largest island is Hawaii, so to avoid confusion, people refer to this particular island as “The Big Island”. Built from five volcanos, the island is nearly twice as big as all of the other Hawaiian Islands combined; It’s sheer size means that it has much to offer. The island literally continues to grow in size, due to it’s active volcanos, as larva pours out into the ocean and hardens along the coast. Hilo (on the West coast) and Kona (on the East coast) are the two usual ports of call when visiting by cruise ship. The big island is where all the volcano action occurs, so this is where you will be able to see an active volcano or huge underground lava tubes; there are many tour options. There is also incredible sport fishing possibilities and if you would like to snorkle with large Hawaiian green sea-turtles, Turtle Bay (Kahaluu Beach) in Kona is a must-see!! Kahalu’u Beach is famous for it’s sea turtles and it’s gentle lagoon is also suitable for beginner snorkelers and children. A calm beach, warm sun, lots of seaweed to eat… I guess Kahaluu Beach is kind of like turtle heaven. Turtles are a protected marine species in Hawaii so remember to keep your distance while enjoying these beautiful creatures. There are many great hot spots where you can swim/snorkle or dive with the turtles. For example, whilst somewhat difficult to reach, Kiholo Bay is one of the best places on the Big Island for spotting Hawaiian green sea turtles.
By far my favourite Hawaiian island. We docked at Lahaina, where massive fig trees will be the first thing you notice along the shore. This town was the perfect representation of ‘Hawaii’. Just walk around this beautiful town, take it all in. Get somthing to eat at the famous ‘Bubba Gump Shrimp Co’ restaurant and perhaps visit the Whalers Beach Front Shopping Village Centre, literally positioned right on a beautiful beach (where my husband and I had our first date actually). This island also boasts Hawaii’s #1 ranked golf course, The Plantation Course. Attend a Luau, a traditional Hawaiian party with hula dancers, to really get a sense of the Hawaiian culture, and preferably at sunset. In Lahaina you can find a good Luau at the Old Lahaina Luau or the Feast of Lele. If you have time to explore further, take a drive to the West Maui Mountains, Haleakala crater (at sunrise or sunset), or the beautiful Iao Valley.
Most of the ships will stop at Honolulu, a beautiful city on this island and the capital of the State of Hawaii. It is enjoyable to simply take a walk along the boardwalk parallel to the beach, especially at sunset if you have the opportunity. Along the boardwalk you can find some great restaurants and shops on one side, or surfers on the other. From Honolulu I’d recommend you take a trip out to Pearl Harbour and visit the USS Arizona Memorial. This is a somber and emotional experience, yet important enough to designate your time to a visit here. From Honolulu, you could also take a trip out to Paradise Cove.
On the island of Kauai, do not miss the opportunity to see the Waimea Canyon Lookout. Basically the grand canyon, but greener! You could take a tour or taxi out to the lookout, but if you want to do this ultimate style, book a helicopter ride; An unforgettable way to see the canyon and get a bird’s eye view of the entire island and its impressive waterfalls. There are also lava tubes, pipes for underground lava rivers, and blowholes along the Na Poli coastline. The most impressive blowhole in all of Hawaii is Kauai’s Spouting Horn in Poipu. Ocean water enters the ancient lava flow tube until enough pressure builds to forcefully spew out the water. Mountain tubing is also a lot of fun for the whole family, however these tunnels are man made. This island truly is an emerald wonderland.
All in all, Hawaii is the ideal vacation destination. You will undoubtably relax, unwind and recharge. Many cruise lines, including Holland American Line continue to offer Hawaiian cruises; More information on these itineraries and planned destinations can be found here.
Note: There are additional small islands of Hawaii that I have not yet visited, so I have therefore been unable to comment on them.