These 8 Cruises Make It Easy to Explore Hawaii on Your Next Vacation

Here are our picks for some of the best Hawaii cruises.

The islands of Hawaii are popular with families, couples, retirees, groups of friends, and really anyone who enjoys warm weather, tropical scenery, and the Aloha spirit of the 50th state. Each island offers a different climate, attractions, environment, and style, and even on the same island, there are major variations depending on location. On Oahu, for example, there's bustling Honolulu on the south shore and the more secluded surfing paradise of the North Shore. On the Big Island, the Hilo and Puna regions on the east coast are wet and heavily forested, whereas the Kona region, on the west coast, tends to be much drier.

Norwegian Cruise Line - Hawaii Inter-island from Honolulu
Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Visitors to Hawaii, especially first-timers, will want to experience as much of the islands as possible, and a cruise is one way to accomplish that. You can embark from any of several ports on the West Coast (or within Hawaii itself), and the convenience of not worrying about hotel changes or local transportation is a plus. Below are some of the best cruises to see Hawaii. Dates, prices, amenities, and itineraries vary, so picking a cruise requires some planning and research. That's always part of the fun, and we hope this list will inspire you to get started.

Holland America: 17-day Circle Hawaii - Round Trip from San Diego

This cruise on the 2,650-passenger Koningsdam departs from San Diego and spends five days at sea. The ship arrives in Honolulu early, giving travelers all day to explore. Optional activities include a trip to Pearl Harbor, a whale-watching excursion, a road trip around Oahu, and a scenic drive along the Windward Coast. After an overnight sail to Kauai, the ship docks at Nawiliwili Harbor. Guests can take a Wailua River cruise to the Fern Grotto, a tour of a coffee plantation, or a trip to Waimea Canyon, the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. Maui is the next island on the itinerary, with a luau, a drive or helicopter flight to Haleakala Crater, a scenic drive along the East Maui coast, or an underwater cruise on the Atlantis submarine. The final two stops, Hilo and Kona, are on the Big Island. Options include visits to Volcanoes National Park and Rainbow Falls. After four days at sea, the Koningsdam stops in Ensenada, Mexico, before returning to San Diego.

Royal Caribbean: 8-night Hawaii Cruise - Vancouver to Oahu

Royal Caribbean - 10 night Hawaii Cruise, Vancouver to Oahu
Courtesy of Royal Caribbean

This trip aboard the 4,905-passenger Quantum of the Seas offers passengers much to do during days at sea, including a surf simulator, bumper cars, a skydiving simulator, and a 360-degree observation deck. After departing Vancouver, British Columbia, the ship spends four days at sea before it arrives in Lahaina, Maui, for a day of exploring. Options include strolling through the historic town, visiting Haleakala Crater, whale watching, and swimming at Kaanapali Beach. The next stop is the Big Island, where guests can snorkel alongside dolphins and sea turtles or head to Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park, a Hawaiian heritage site with temples, ancient petroglyphs, and centuries-old aquacultures ponds. The final stop is Oahu, where passengers spend as much time as they want exploring Honolulu, Waikiki Beach, or the rest of the island before heading home.

Norwegian Cruise Line: Hawaii Inter-Island Cruise from Honolulu

Norwegian Cruise Line - Hawaii Inter-island from Honolulu
Courtesy of Norwegian Cruise Line

Spend a week exploring four of Hawaii's islands during this this cruise aboard the 2,186-passenger Pride of America, with onboard activities that include basketball, volleyball, video games, theater, hot tubs, spa, and shopping. Departing Honolulu on Saturday evening, the ship heads to Kahului, Maui for two days with options like a drive on the Road to Hana, a catamaran cruise to Molokini for snorkeling with sea turtles, a tour to Haleakala Crater, and more. Next is a day in Hilo on the Big Island where guests can see a volcano, rain forest, waterfalls, or a lush botanical garden. On the other side of the island in Kona, snorkeling, fishing, cruising in a catamaran, and a reef tour are among optional activities. On Kauai, passengers can enjoy a traditional luau, hike through a rainforest, go kayaking, or take in Waimea Canyon. The cruise ends the following Saturday back in Honolulu, where passengers can explore the city, nearby Pearl Harbor, or Oahu's North Shore.

UnCruise Adventures: Hawaiian Seascapes

Kayaking off Maui coast with UnCruise Adventures
Courtesy of UnCruise Adventures

This eight-day cruise aboard the 36-guest Safari Explorer begins in Kona, on the Big Island, with a champagne welcome from the captain. The next two days feature a hike up the slopes of Hualalai with a naturalist guide, night snorkeling among Giant Pacific Manta rays, and plenty of opportunities for swimming or kayaking. On Maui, guests can stroll through historic Lahaina, snorkel among coral and sea turtles, or kayak in a marine sanctuary. Lanai is the next island, where guests can paddleboard or kayak past 1,000-foot-high sea cliffs, go snorkeling, or visit the quaint Lanai Culture and Heritage Center. On Molokai, guests can learn how taro is cultivated and turned into poi, or they can hike to a spectacular waterfall in Halawa Valley. At the Molokai Museum, a lesson on the island's history is followed by a pa'ina (feast), complete with traditional music. Passengers disembark the next morning at Kaunakakai, where they can either transfer to Molokai Airport or extend their stay.

Princess Cruises: 16-day Hawaiian Islands - Round Trip from San Francisco

Princess Cruises - 15-day Hawaiian Islands - San Francisco Round Trip
Courtesy of Princess Cruises

This cruise aboard the 3,080-passenger Crown Princess departs San Francisco in the late afternoon. Swimming pools, hot tubs, miniature golf, Discovery at Sea programs, movies, dancing, and shows ensure plenty to do during the four days at sea on the way to Hawaii. Shipboard programs for youths, teens, and families provide something for everyone. On the Big Island, guests can zipline through the rainforest or ride to the top of Mauna Kea, the world's tallest mountain. Next is Oahu, where activities include a tour of Pearl Harbor, snorkeling in Hanauma Bay, and a tour of the only royal palace in the United States. On Kauai, there are hiking, snorkeling, and kayaking adventures. On Maui, guests can sail on a catamaran, Zodiac, or submarine. After four days at sea, passengers get a day to explore Ensenada, Mexico, on the Baja California peninsula, before the Crown Princess sails back to San Francisco.

Celebrity Cruises: 13-night Hawaii Cruise - Vancouver to Oahu

This cruise on the luxurious, 2,918-passenger Celebrity Edge departs Vancouver and stops briefly in historic Astoria, Oregon before continuing onto Hawaii. During the six days at sea, passengers can play blackjack in the casino, take a yoga class in the fitness center, or enjoy cocktails while hovering over the ocean on the Magic Carpet. In Hilo, guests can explore waterfalls, volcanoes, wineries, and gardens on the lush coast of the Big Island. The ship cruises to Kona on the other side of the island for another two days of snorkeling or other onshore activities. The next two days are spent in Lahaina, Maui, home base for a cruise among dolphins and whales, a plantation tour, or a traditional luau. The ship cruises to the final stop in Honolulu, where guests are free to enjoy Oahu at their leisure before heading back to the mainland.

Disney Cruise Line: 10-night Hawaiian Cruise from Vancouver Ending in Honolulu

Disney Cruise Ship Wonder
Courtesy of Disney

With an itinerary that includes both Maui and Mickey, this cruise aboard the 875-stateroom Disney Wonder is perfect for families and Disney lovers alike. Departing from Vancouver, you’ll spend the next six nights at sea, with entertainment ranging from Broadway-style musicals with Disney characters to a Marvel-themed superhero academy in the Oceaneer Club for kids. The first stop is Hilo on the Big Island, where guests can visit volcanos, rain forests, and the famous astronomical observatories at Maunakea. The next day is spent in Honolulu, with options like a tour of the Dole Plantation or a hike to the top of Diamond Head for a spectacular view over Oahu. More breathtaking nature awaits on the island of Kauai, including pristine beaches, jungles, and waterfalls. The last day of the cruise is spent in Kahului, Maui, where guests can learn about Hawaiian arts and culture, go on a scenic bike ride along the Skyline Trail, or relax at Kanaha Beach Park. The next day, the Disney Wonder returns to Honolulu, where passengers can transfer to the airport or extend their stay.

Viking Cruises: Hawaiian Islands Sojourn - Round Trip from Los Angeles

Viking Star
Courtesy of Viking

This 17-day voyage from Los Angeles takes place aboard the Viking Star, an all-veranda small ship that carries a maximum of 930 guests. The first stop is the Big Island, where guests can view Kilauea by helicopter, visit waterfalls, or explore Hilo Bay by kayak. The next stop is Oahu, followed by Kauai, where excursions range from an ATV tour of the island to snorkeling along the South Shore. On Maui, highlights include Haleakala National Park, whale watching, and exclusive access to the private Lona Ridge Estate for a lesson in making a traditional lei. The ship then sails on to Ensenada, Mexico, where passengers can indulge in wine tastings, e-bike tours, and ATV adventures in the Guadalupe Valley. The Viking Star returns to Los Angeles the next day.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles