Starting to plan your vacation to Hawaii but don't quite know where to start? I can help you with that! I have put together a complete guide to Hawaiian island cruises that outlines the best (and most affordable!) way to see this beautiful series of islands. Island hopping Hawaii cruises offer a scenic option to discover most of the Hawaiian islands at a low cost.
In fact, you may end up paying more for your flights than the actual all-inclusive cruise! Can you believe that? If you time your booking right and carefully plan out your ultimate Hawaiian island cruise, you will be ready to see Hawaii on a budget.
Hawaiian island cruises are a great option for anyone looking for a relaxing overview of what Hawaii has to offer. If you prefer to have your entire vacation planned out, leaving you to enjoy your trip stress-free, island hopping Hawaii cruises are for you!
Make sure to grab one of our free cruise planners-- equipped with budgeting assistance, shore excursion planners, daily itineraries, packing lists, and more-- and buckle up, because we are going to go through all the ins and outs of Hawaiian island cruises!
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When is the Season for Hawaiian Island Cruises?
Hawaiian island cruises typically visit Hawaii on sailings in two separate time frames. You can frequently find the best island hopping Hawaii cruises during the September to mid-December and the mid-April to mid-June time frames.
These time frames offer the best weather on Hawaii cruises and tend to be the busier months of Hawaii tourism in general. This means that it can be fairly difficult to narrow down your cruise choices as many of these cruise lines have dozens of island hopping Hawaii cruises operating every month!
With so many must-see spots throughout the Hawaiian islands, the most popular months to cruise to Hawaii is during the months of April and May for those looking to snorkel or surf. Hawaiian cruises from mid-December through March can be pricier and more crowded and should be avoided if possible.
The best time of the year for humpback whale-watching in Hawaii is from November to mid-May, but this can also be the rainiest and more expensive months for flights. The best time to find Hawaii cruise deals is between Thanksgiving and mid-December.
There are a couple sailings running Hawaiian cruises during the majority of the summer from mid-June to mid-December as well, but these are far and few between.
How is the Weather on Island Hopping Hawaii Cruises?
The weather on Hawaii cruises differs by the time of year you are visiting. Therefore, you should cater what you pack and shore excursions based on your specific island hopping Hawaii cruise itinerary.
November to March
Hawaii's wet season typically falls between November and March, with an upwards of 4 inches of rain per month. Therefore, if you are cruising to Hawaii during these popular months, make sure to fully prepare with a rain jacket and umbrella to fully enjoy your Hawaii island cruise.
The sea conditions between mid-December and March include large waves along the north shores of all the Hawaiian islands, especially in the months of December and January. During this time you can see waves topping 40 feet, so if you are inclined to motion sickness, make sure to avoid this time frame or pack some extra Dramamine for during your time on one of the best island hopping Hawaii cruises.
April to Mid-June
If you decide to cruise to Hawaii during the months of April through mid-June, you can expect temperatures ranging between the mid-70s at night and mid-80s during the day. Spring marks the beginning of Hawaii's dry season, explaining why the majority of cruise lines operate island hopping Hawaii cruises during this time frame.
Planning your Hawaii cruise between the months of April and May is a great time for surfers and those looking to get into the water. This is because the weather is excellent, wave heights are manageable, and water temperatures begin to rise.
Another perk of visiting this island nation on a Hawaiian cruise is the influx of humpback whales in the area-- especially around Maui.
Mid-June to August
The final season for Hawaii island cruises is between the months of mid-June and August. Not many cruise lines operate during this time, with Norwegian Cruise Line being the only major line sailing with Pride of America.
The weather during this time frame typically run in the mid-70s at night and mid-80s during the day. These months also tend to be the driest time of Hawaii's dry season, so make sure to pack plenty of sunscreen, your favorite pair of sunglasses, and a protective sun hat!
The sea conditions during mid-June to August Hawaii cruises include a higher surf around Oahu meaning reduced visibility at sea. The ocean temperatures run around 80 degrees, a temperature ideal for eager cruisers looking to swim or snorkel. This is also the best time for first-time surfers to try the calm Hawaiian wakes.
September to November
This final time to enjoy island hopping Hawaii cruises is between the months of September and November. The Hawaiian dry season wraps up by the end of October, but you can still enjoy temperatures in the mid-70s at night and mid-80s during the daytime.
Once November and early December rolls around, temperatures will sit around the high-60s at night and the low-80s during the daytime. You will also see an increase in the amount of rainfall on the islands during any of the island hopping Hawaii cruises during this time.
The sea conditions during this time frame around completely unpredictable. The wave heights depend on the area of Hawaii you are in and the time you are passing by each of the Hawaii islands on a cruise. From late November to mid-December, many of the Hawaiian cruise locations throughout the island will be experiencing large ocean swells, so there may be an influx of warning signs and flags at the Hawaiian beaches.
How do I Plan a Hawaii Island Cruise?
First, you will want to get an idea of what your must-see attractions are. Most island hopping Hawaii cruises follow the popular itineraries of either departing from a California port, Hawaii-only, South Pacific Islands, and Repositioning cruises.
After you determine the itinerary you would like, then you need to focus on a specific cruise line for the best Hawaii cruise ever. Each cruise line offers a unique experience for every type of cruiser. Then, you can select a date with that perfect cruise line and itinerary to book and mark in your calendar!
I highly recommend booking a balcony or higher stateroom on your cruise ship as you will not regret waking up to the breathtaking Hawaii cruise landscape from your own private balcony. Also, make sure to avoid the loudest staterooms onboard to completely relax on your Hawaii cruise.
Once booked, you will receive access to more booking options like onboard packages, shore excursions, and stateroom upgrades. I highly suggest taking advantage of these pre-travel opportunities to have your vacation planned out before you leave on your Hawaii island cruise!
What are the Different Hawaii Cruise Itineraries?
There are way more Hawaii island cruises than you probably thought possible! With that, you may be wondering what the best itinerary is for your specific cruising goals. From repositioning cruises to South Pacific adventures, there are positives and negatives to every itinerary option in the cruising realm in regards to island hopping Hawaii cruises.
With that being said, all Hawaii cruises can typically be categorized into four categories-- West Coast to Hawaii sailings, Hawaii-only sailings, South Pacific sailings, and repositioning sailings.
Roundtrip West Coast to Hawaii Cruises
Most cruise lines understand how the flights to Hawaii can take up your Hawaii cruise budget VERY fast! Thankfully, cruise lines have curated fabulous itineraries leaving from the western coast of the United States, Canada, and Mexico visiting the islands of Hawaii frequently.
Carnival, Celebrity, Princess, and many more cruise lines offer seasonal cruises to Hawaii roundtrip from Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and Vancouver. These cruises typically run for a longer amount of time than the Hawaii roundtrip itineraries, typically sailing between 15 and 18 nights.
Roundtrip west coast reasons
Roundtrip Hawaii island cruises are perfect for anyone who wants to save on pre and post-cruise expenses AND are willing to tack on a few more vacation days.
If you are in love with days at sea like me, you are definitely going to love the roundtrip west coast Hawaii island cruises! There are typically have several days at sea on both the beginning and end of island hopping Hawaii cruises-- perfect for laying out around the pool, partying until dawn, and eating at the buffet to your heart's content.
Roundtrip West Coast Ports
While these sailings are coming from a relatively far way away on the best island hopping Hawaii cruises, they still stop at all the top Hawaiian cruise ports.
This means that you can expect at Hilo, Kailua Kona, Lahaina, and Honolulu on most Hawaii island cruises. You may also get the chance to enjoy sweeping views of the Hawaiian landscape at Mount Kilauea as a Hawaii cruise-by port!
If you are departing from Vancouver, there is a high chance that you may also see some of the popular Alaska cruise ports. These include Ketchikan, Skagway, Icy Strait Point, and the state's capital Juneau.
Related: Ultimate Guide to Alaska Cruises
Island Hopping Hawaii Roundtrip Cruises
By far the most popular itinerary running island hopping Hawaii cruises are roundtrip out of Hawaii. Norwegian Cruise Line's Pride of America offer roundtrip Hawaii cruises year-round through their ship Pride of America. These itineraries tend to be port-intensive as they run around 7-nights roundtrip.
If you prefer a smaller cruise line, check out Un-Cruise Adventures, who offers seasonal island hopping Hawaii cruises around the islands. Both Un-Cruise and Norwegian offer overnights in various ports as well.
Hawaii Roundtrip Reasons
A roundtrip cruise from Hawaii is the perfect Hawaii cruise itinerary for those who love spending time in port! These island hopping Hawaii cruises are heavily port intensive, which is great for spending your short amount of time on the islands efficiently.
The Hawaii roundtrip itinerary will also typically include one or two overnights on the more popular islands of Kauai and Maui. This means that you can discover more of what these islands have to offer, whether chilling by the beach, catching the high surf, or hiking through the scenic mountains.
You may also get to visit more underrated and out-of-the-way cruise ports on your port-intensive cruise adventure-- a perfect opportunity to try any water sports and seek out Hawaii's natural wildlife. If you do not have a passport and are a US resident, this is a great tropical escape that you can actually take part in.
Hawaii Roundtrip Ports
If you choose to sail with Norwegian Cruise Line (NCL), you will be departing from Honolulu, Hawaii. The perks of sailing a NCL Hawaii cruise is their frequent promotion of Free at Sea, which sometimes offers free flights!
Their inter-island itinerary sails to Kahilui, Hilo, Kona, and Nawiliwili. This will include overnight ports in both Kauai and Maui typically, a perfect way for you to extensively experience everything these islands have to offer on island hopping Hawaii cruises.
South Pacific Hawaii Cruises
The South Pacific region of the world covers a massive area, so what better than a South Pacific cruise to explore it? If you are looking to visit Hawaii but also enjoy the nearby island nations, this Hawaii cruise itinerary may be for you!
This magnificent and beautiful area of the world is nestled in the southern hemisphere of the Pacific Ocean. This region stretches between Australia and South America, leading to most of these island hopping Hawaii cruises to be repositioning in nature.
When most people think of the South Pacific, their minds more than likely think of the popular honeymoon destinations of Tahiti and Bora Bora. Well, let me tell you, there is much more to the South Pacific region than these well-known islands.
South Pacific Reasons
The South Pacific Hawaii cruise itinerary is best for those who want a taste of Hawaii but want to see all the surrounding island nations while you are in the area. South Pacific cruises are frequently referred to as the most romantic option for cruising on the market.
These Hawaii cruises visit some of the most romantic destinations in the world, while allowing you to enjoy relaxing, exhilarating, active, and rejuvenating excursions along your island hopping cruise adventure.
You will also visit a variety of island landscapes on a South Pacific cruise-- including rainforests, historic landmarks, and pristine white sand beaches.
South Pacific Ports
One of the most popular area of the South Pacific region to visit on cruises is French Polynesia. Here, you will visit the romantic and rejuvenating islands of Bora Bora and Tahiti. You may also see New Zealand and Tonga on your Hawaiian island cruise that sails to South Pacific cruise ports.
While you will probably not have overnight ports on island hopping Hawaii cruises, you will more than likely have the chance to explore Hilo, Nawiliwili, Kahului, and Honolulu. Most of these South Pacific cruises are not roundtrip from one cruise port, so this is an optimal Hawaii cruise itinerary to experience to the most destinations possible!
Hawaii Repositioning Cruises
One of the best ways to see Hawaii is on your way back from a far away destination! Many repositioning cruises visit Hawaii on their way from Asia or Australia to the United States during the times cruise lines switch their cruise ships home ports.
Hawaii repositioning cruises are fairly easy to find, and can be extremely affordable! These Hawaii itineraries can frequently cost as low as half of a direct flight's cost. These cruise itineraries will offer the largest variety of cruise ports-- from the deserts of Australia and the culture-filled streets of Japan, to the tropical paradise of Hawaii and the arctic glaciers of Alaska.
Hawaii Repositioning Reasons
Repositioning Hawaii cruises are ideal for those trying to get from point A to point B without breaking the bank. If you have a lot of time scheduled for your vacation, this style of Hawaii cruise can be the most cost effective.
In addition, you will have the opportunity to visit plenty of South Pacific and Hawaii cruise ports without the added stress of flying out of the expensive African airports. You can also see cruise ports that you never planned on, whether on your way to the United States or heading over to Asia.
Ultimately, repositioning cruises will offer an overview of what Hawaii and the neighboring islands have to offer by stopping into a few ports. If you are looking to get a good look at Hawaii's top cruise ports, repositioning island hopping Hawaii cruises could be for you!
Types of Hawaiian Island Cruises
No matter what type of Hawaii cruising experience you are looking for, I guarantee you will find it through one of these main and not-so-main-stream cruise lines.
From 3-day weekend trips to 180-day world cruises, these island hopping Hawaii cruises are worth every penny. There are plenty of Hawaii cruise deals available for eager cruisers booking through a travel agent or directly with the cruise line.
Make sure to diligently research to find the best Hawaii cruise for you!
Mainstream Cruise Lines for Hawaii Cruises
Just about all the main cruise lines offer sailings to Hawaii:
- Royal Caribbean International -- Royal Caribbean offers spectacular itineraries up to Hawaii and to the Caribbean's most popular cruise ports at extraordinarily low prices. With this cruise line offering countless amenities for all types of cruisers, Royal Caribbean offers dozens of island hopping Hawaii cruises every year.
- Norwegian Cruise Line -- Norwegian (NCL) leads the cruise industry when it comes to Hawaii cruises, boasting new discoveries around every turn. NCL prides themselves on offering exhilarating wildlife and cultural shore excursions during their NCL Hawaii cruises through both Pride of America and other excellent ships.
- Celebrity Cruises -- Celebrity Cruises offer their passengers a slightly more luxurious experience tailored to each guests' dream Hawaii cruise. This cruise line is popular for it's over-the-top vacation experience traveling to the diverse South Pacific and Hawaii cruise ports!
- Holland America -- Holland America offers plenty of island hopping Hawaii cruises during the Hawaii cruising season. Whether cruising around the South Pacific or on your way from Australia to San Diego, you are guaranteed to enjoy their luxurious experience on your Hawaii cruise!
Lesser-known Cruise Lines for Hawaiian Cruises
Active travelers may be looking for expedition-style voyages or cruises on a smaller ship to enjoy more time exploring Hawaii.
- Seabourn -- Seabourn offers a couple of island hopping Hawaii cruises every Hawaii cruising season. Their stunning cruise ships bring passengers to the sweeping landscapes of Hawaii. They also bring intelligent historians onboard to explain the fascinating history and culture of Hawaii.
- Regent Seven Seas -- Regent Seven Seas explores Hawaii through immersive experiences on their island hopping Hawaii cruises. This cruise line balances cultural, active, and foodie activities as they navigate through the warm climate of the South Pacific and Hawaiian cruise ports.
- Oceania -- This small and luxurious cruise line offers a variety of intimate Hawaii expeditions on their cruise ships. Their ships visit plenty of other South Pacific destinations on their Hawaiian island cruises. That, paired with the personalized cruising experience curated by Oceania, offers some of the best experiences for longer sailings at sea.
- UnCruise Adventures -- This cruise line is unique as they only offer a few island hopping Hawaii cruises every year. UnCruise prides itself on offering the top personalized Hawaiian experiences for each of their passengers. From watching dolphins and whale from the boat to hiking to waterfalls and lava pools in port, you will not regret booking island hopping Hawaii cruises with UnCruise Adventures.
Popular Ports for Hawaiian Cruises
No matter which cruise line and itinerary you ultimately decide on, you will likely visit a mix of these fantastic island hopping Hawaii cruise ports.
Many cruises to Hawaii and the surrounding area offer trips to these popular ports of call that are consistent with most itineraries. Like mainstream Caribbean cruise ports, these ports cater to the tropical cruise market. If you are looking for more than touristy attractions and activities, make sure to get out of the main port area and explore.
Honolulu serves as the main cruise port serving out of Hawaii for island hopping Hawaii cruises. As the beautiful capital of Hawaii, Honolulu boasts brilliant sand, bright blue skies, and tasty Hawaiian drinks.
The top outdoor attraction in Honolulu is Manoa Falls. There are plenty of cruise shore excursions that will bring Hawaiian cruise passengers to this massive, 150-foot tall waterfall that empties into a majestic, glimmering rock pool. To learn about Hawaii's royal past, head over Iolani Palace, known as the "Kingdom of Hawaii".
If you would like to swim with wildlife during your time in Honolulu, head over to Dolphin Quest Oahu where you can swim with dolphins!
To discover some of Hawaii's exquisite natural wonders, make sure that Lahaina, Maui is on your Hawaiian cruise itinerary. Once the capital of the Kingdom of Hawaii, Lahaina now welcomes over two million people annually.
Lahaina is known to be home to some of Hawaii's top beaches. Head over to Ka'anapali Beach to discover over three miles of breathtaking white sand while engaging in water sports. Alternatively, check out Napili Beach for a more laidback vibe exploring a crescent-shaped cove popular for snorkeling.
If you prefer to spend time on land, hike the 1.76 mile Kapalua Coastal Trail where you will stroll past black lava rock, beautiful white beaches, and colorful tropical plants.
Located in central Maui, Kahului is a wonderful port on any of the island hopping Hawaii cruises.
The number one thing to do in Kahului is taking the Road to Hana. This is the best route to discover picturesque views of Maui's coast, bringing you through the lush rainforest and along the towering waterfalls. If you prefer to stay in one spot, head over to Kaanapali Beach-- one of Maui's most beautiful strips of coastline stretching 3 miles.
Another great outdoor adventure spot to explore while in the Kahului port is Haleakala National Park. This park sits on 30,000 acres of land and is home to the world's largest dormant volcano!
The next popular cruise port for island hopping Hawaiian cruises is Hilo-- located on the lush, wetter side of Big Island. From hiking to waterfalls to searching for lava, you will definitely find a perfect shore excursion during your time in Hilo.
The number one Hawaii waterfall that you should consider visiting is 'Akaka Falls-- a 422 foot tall waterfall easily accessible through a short hike. To learn more about the Hilo culture, book a coffee and chocolate tours to the local farms. If you would like to rejuvenate on your Hawaiian cruise, book a shore excursion to Coconut Island which is a perfect spot to relax and swim for a couple of hours.
Further Hilo exploration can happen at the nearby Kaumana Caves Park which is a 25-mile long lava tube created by the flow from Mauna Loa in 1881.
Kailua Kona, Hawaii
Kailua Kona is the capital of Big Island offering plenty of outdoor activities for eager Hawaiian cruisers. This fabulous cruise port welcomes sunny weather most of the time!
Kealakekua Bay is a perfect spot to explore Kailua Kona's breathtaking coastline. Here, you can find a remarkable coral reef which is known as one of the best snorkeling spots in all of Hawaii. Later, head over to the Pu'uhonoa o Honaunau National Historical Park where you will step back in time to understand Hawaii's rich history.
Another great Hawaii shore excursion is the nearby petroglyphs. These spectacular stone carvings offer a fascinating view into Hawaii's past, dating back to the 16th century.
The garden island of Kauai is a spectacular paradise filled with towering mountains, fertile valleys, and pristine natural beaches.
The best place to pick up some souvenirs during your time in Nawiliwili on your Hawaii cruise is at Kalapaki Beach. Later, make sure to visit the Kauai Coffee Plantation which earns the name as the largest coffee farm in the United States. This remarkable plantation sits on over 3,000 acres boasting over four million coffee trees! Alternatively, head over to the Menehune Fishpond found along Huleia River as a freshwater pond easily explored by kayak.
If you prefer a more adventurous experience while in port on island hopping Hawaii cruises, check out Wailua River State Park to tube, kayak, waterski, or boat on the waters.
If you are sailing to some of the other South Pacific islands on your Hawaiian cruise, there is a high chance that you will be stopping in Papeete, Tahiti's capital city.
Tahiti is home to some of the South Pacific's most beautiful natural wonders, but the breathtaking waterfalls Les Trois Cascades are a must-see! These waterfalls are located in the northeastern region of Tahiti Nui and are absolutely stunning. Alternatively, check out La Plage de Maui, the only white sand beach on Tahiti Nui ideal for snorkeling and swimming activities.
Learn about Papeete's marine wildlife at the Huahine Natural Aquarium which will bring you up close and personal with the natural wildlife found in the Pacific Ocean.
Moorea, French Polynesia
If you get the chance to stop in Moorea, you are going to fall in love with this tropical paradise on your island hopping Hawaii cruise. This beautiful cruise port is just a spectacular as it looks in photos.
A great way to explore Moorea is kayaking the Moorea Lagoon on a transparent kayak. You will be surprised by the amount of stingrays and black-tipped reef sharks you see on your adventure! Later, get into the water to snorket with sharks at the Looganarium. If you are looking for an adrenalin-rushing experience on Hawaiian island cruises, this is it!
If you are looking for more of a relaxing experience during your time in the Moorea cruise port, head over to Tema'e Beach. Here you can lay out in the sun or head into the waters for a rejuvenating day in port.
Bora Bora, French Polynesia
As a small island found northwest of Tahiti in French Polynesia, Bora Bora is world-renowned as the top honeymoon destination. However, you do not need to be staying a couple weeks to experience a good part of what Bora Bora has to offer.
The top beach to visit is Matira Beach, often mentioned as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. This is a perfect place to relax alongside dreamy palm trees on island hopping Hawaii cruises. If you prefer to get active, hike out to Mount Otemau-- a black-rugged mountain that reaches an upwards of 2,385 feet in elevation. Later, check out the Tahiti Pearl Market which boasts some of the most beautiful and precious pearls in the world.
Finally, check out the Bora Bora Aqua Safaris if you are into the popular watersports of scuba diving and snorkeling. Through these excellent tours you can discover the unique and colorful marine wildlife Bora Bora has to offer.
Hawaii Cruise-by Ports
Mount Kilauea, Hawaii
A popular Hawaii cruise-by port is Mount Kilauea, an active volcano that has been standing tall for over 100,000 years.
Many cruise lines spend a few hours passing by this fascinating natural wonder on their island hopping Hawaii cruises. You will more than likely be able to learn a bunch about Mount Kilauea's history onboard through informational sessions-- make sure to check your daily planner!
As the youngest of all of the Hawaiian hotspots, this iconic volcano lights up the sky and offers plenty of unique rock formations like the world-renown Holei Sea Arch.
Napali Coast, Hawaii
The Napali Coast is one of the most spectacular sites in all of Hawaii, boasting emerald cliffs, vast valleys, and cascading waterfalls.
While most tourists visiting Hawaii would have to book an expensive water tour to see this breathtaking landscape, many island hopping Hawaii cruises will visit the Napali Coast during their itineraries. Here, you will notice extraordinary coastlines highlighted by over 17 miles of Kauai's natural landscape.
This rugged terrain has remain largely untouched by humans, which you will likely learn about onboard during your cruise informational session.