The island chain of Hawaii is made for hopping, which is easy to do, thanks to the number of cruises that ply the Pacific waters here. The varied terrain of the islands — from active volcanoes to quiet beaches — is a major draw, as are the rich culture and unique traditions that make this state like no other in the union.
Most cruises include the Hawaiian Islands on longer trips between Alaska and the Caribbean or points in Asia or Australia/New Zealand (foreign-flagged ships must also visit a non-U.S. port if they’ll be calling here). Norwegian Cruise Line is the only major line offering weeklong cruises in the Hawaiian Islands that depart from Hawaii, with the Pride of America doing round-trip journeys out of Honolulu.
What We Love
Natural Treasures: You get it all, from stunning white beaches to rugged mountains, moonlike volcanic landscapes, rain forests, and waterfalls.
Hawaiian Culture: Hawaiians are proud of their culture, which survives alongside the modern world in a vibrant arts scene that includes traditional Polynesian dance, music, painting, sculpture, and crafts.
Best Known For
Beaches: There are so many amazing stretches here, from the golden sands of Oahu’s Waikiki Beach, with the Diamond Head crater as the backdrop, to the black sand of the Big Island’s Punalu’u Beach and Maui’s gorgeous Ho’okipa.
Surfing: Oahu’s North Shore is the place to watch daredevils on their boards. Or sign up for a surf lesson yourself — they’re offered all over the islands.
Pearl Harbor: The USS Arizona Memorial is a striking tribute to the sunken ship and the crewmen who lost their lives.
Find a Cruise
Hilo, The Big Island: The marque attraction here is Volcanoes National Park, with two of the world’s most active volcanoes: Kīlauea and Mauna Loa. Check out the lava tubes and the rivers of red-hot molten lava oozing into the sea. If you’re contemplating a splurge on a helicopter tour, this is the place to do it.
Nawiliwili, Kauai: There are many breathtaking sights on this island, including some really good beaches (Poipu Beach and the beaches on the Na Pali Coast), but the top spot is definitely Waimea Canyon, aptly called the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.
Don't Say We Didn't Warn You
Hawaii Is Expensive: From lunch to sunscreen to car rentals, nothing is cheap here.
Heidi Sarna is a Singapore-based contributor to ShermansCruise who has also written for Condé Nast Traveler and USA Today.