For such a small collection of tropical islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean – each navigable by car in one day or less, Hawaii is packed with tourist attractions and options for cruise travellers to keep themselves entertained or to learn about the local culture.
Shore excursions on Oahu (the main island Honolulu is based on), Maui, Kauai and The Big Island are extremely varied, whether passengers are keen to take it easy with some snorkelling or to push themselves with a semi-strenuous hike up a mountain, your cruise line will most likely have an option to suit you. Cruise Advice has taken a look at some of the best value shore excursions across the islands offered by a range of cruise ships.
Described as the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”, Waimea Canyon is one of the many popular natural attractions travellers flock to when visiting the Hawaiian islands. On this tour, guests are driven to a lookout point for sweeping panoramic views of the canyon before moving on to see some of the larger waterfalls and rock formations, all accompanied by the teachings of a local expert who shares his knowledge of the region.
After a lunch stop at a local restaurant, guests then go from the highest points of the canyon to the lowest, boarding a riverboat for a journey along the Wailua River Valley to learn about the significance of the region. Just before turning around for the trip back, a troupe of Hawaiian musicians perform a collection of traditional music before guests return to the ship.
When measured from the sea floor, the 4,200-metre Mauna Kea volcano is recognised as the highest mountain on Earth. On this tour, guests will venture right to the absolute summit.
Revered in Hawaiian culture as a sacred home to the Gods, Mauna Kea is a drawcard for astronomers keen to observe one of the world’s clearest examples of the night sky. Setting off from the ship at Hilo Port, the ascent of the mountain is taken in stages, with a number of stops along the way at Imiloa Astronomy Centre for a planetarium show. Further up at Pu’u Huluhulu, a short guided walk is taken among a native koa forest before continuing on to the Mauna Kea Visitor Information Centre. But you’re still not at the top.
Once you climb the entire 4,200 metres and reach the summit, the state-of-the-art Keck Observatory awaits, where guests can learn about the work being undertaken at the facility and the powers of the universe being explored by scientists working there.
If the activity of the ship and the pool area hasn’t been quite as relaxing as you’d hoped, this tour quite simply takes guests to the beach for the day.
Kaanapali Beach is one of the most famous stretches of sand outside of Waikiki and guests have four hours at their own leisure to walk as far as they wish, play in the sand or relax on one of the complimentary beach chairs exclusively reserved for guests with a free drink. If you wish to keep active, snorkelling gear or boogie boards are available to rent for an additional charge. Guests on this tour also receive discounts on food at nearby restaurants.
If central Honolulu and Waikiki doesn’t quite tick the box for you in terms of scenery, guests don’t necessarily need to leave the island to meet this need. The North Shore of Oahu is well known for its picturesque bays, surfing beaches, expansive resorts and dense rainforests which will certainly give you a taste of scenery in the state’s most populous island.
The tour begins with a drive along the coastal roads just outside of Waikiki, where a number of temples and monuments to Hawaiian history exist, including the Byodo-In Temple which reflects on more than 150 years of Japanese immigration to Hawaii. Further stops include Malaekahana State Beach Park, Sunset Beach, Haleiwa Beach Park and a final stop at the Dole Pineapple Plantation where the pineapple flavoured ice-cream is a must try.