After much thought and consideration, we decided to take Norwegian Cruise Lines Pride of America cruise round trip from Honolulu. They are the only cruise line that operates round trip Hawaiian cruises every week. It is true that you do not get to explore the islands as you would if you were staying on them, but the cruise gives you a good taste of each. The cruise itself did not have good reviews, however, it was perfect for us and we loved it. It does leave you wanting more, but when you only have a week and do not know if you will ever make it back, this is a perfect way to get a taste of Hawaii.
We arrived in Honolulu a little after 1:00 PM on a Friday afternoon. I called Charleys Taxi for a pick up as they offered the cheapest flat rate to Waikiki, which was $29 for all 4 of us. He was there on time and had to wait on us. I have no complaints with Charleys and we used them 3 times.
We arrived at the hotel a little before 3:00 PM. Our hotel was Waikiki Resort Hotel, which was just a short walk from the beach. The rooms were small, but other than that everything was fine and it was a good budget option for such an expensive area. The people were really nice and allowed us to check out late at 1:00 PM instead of 11:00 AM. This helped tremendously, and they let us do that free of charge. We had a tour the next morning to Pearl Harbor from 6:30 AM-12:00 PM, and could not take any bags, so we really needed the late check out.
We ate dinner and headed to a part of Waikiki Beach. I do not recommend Honolulu or Waikiki as a vacation destination. Drop in and see Pearl Harbor, but there is a lot of homeless people in town and it is very busy and not clean. I would not stay and it can give you a bad impression of Hawaii and ruin your expectations super quick. However, I did finally get to step foot into the Pacific Ocean!
Traveling from the East Coast, we were up around 24 hours before finally getting to bed!
For the next day, Saturday, we pre-booked a tour with ‘Roberts Hawaii’ for the “Pearl Harbor, USS Arizona, Honolulu City Tour” before our cruise departure. We were to be picked up at 6:20 AM. With our late check out, we left our stuff in the room and went to our meeting location. We joined our bus and headed to Pearl Harbor.
Pearl Harbor was great to see. Of course with our short tour, we did not have near enough time to see it all, but it was enough. We had about an hour to walk around and view things before our time to see the film and Arizona Memorial (8:15 AM) and then go to the gift shop. It was interesting and sad, but a great thing to see and experience. My son and I learned a lot from it. The film scared my 7 year old daughter, but it was to be expected. Pearl Harbor is a must see!
We were to meet back at the bus at 10:30 AM. We drove through the Punchbowl National Memorial Cemetery Of The Pacific, then around downtown for a city tour. The tour was good and enough. We were back at the hotel a little later than expected. We grabbed McDonalds to eat in the hotel. Charleys Taxi picked us up around 1:00 PM to head to the Pier for our cruise.
There was a long line, but it moved fast. Once we hit the building we went straight through from one stop to the next without a line and were on the ship in no time. There was a TON of people who did not already have luggage tags, who had to wait in a long line. Always take care of this before hand! We were on the ship fast, with no issues, I would say a little before 2:00 PM.
With about an hour to spare before our rooms were ready, we rested right inside and then headed up to the buffet for dessert as we had lunch after our Pearl Harbor tour. Our room was ready around 3:00 PM and our luggage arrived not too long after. We unpacked and were ready for the Muster Drill at 4:45 PM. We had dinner on board and then watched us sail away, which was at 7:00 PM.
Maui, Hawaii – Day 1
The great thing about this cruise was that there was not any Sea Days. Every day was a port, and some of those ports were over night stays! This gave us plenty of time to explore.
We arrived in Maui right on time! We woke up at 6:00 AM, got ready, had breakfast, and headed toward the elevators right before 8:00 AM. Before we got downstairs they announced that we could disembark. We had a Car Rental reserved through Dollar for this day. I highly recommend picking one car rental place for every port and signing up for their express program, as we did not have to wait in line at any port to rent. We walked off the ship and to the Dollar Car Rental shuttle line. We were on the first shuttle and were in our car by 8:30 AM.
Our first stop was Iao Valley State Park and we were there by 9:00 AM. A very pretty place with a short hike to view the Iao Needle. We walked up to the needle and then back a different route by a river. It was a great start to our day and so tropical.
We left Iao and started our drive to another part of Maui, Ka’anapali. We stopped along the road at a scenic lookout of the Pacific. This was a beautiful, scenic, drive!
Around 10:45 AM, we arrive at Whalers Village in Ka’anapali. We used the paid parking lot there, even though it said No Beach Parking. It had beach access and bathrooms. We bought some souvenirs at the ABC Store to get 3 hours of Free Parking. We used the bathrooms to change and headed to the beach.
Wow! This beach was beautiful. The color of the sky, sea and sand was so bright and blended beautifully! It was Paradise, but a windy one! Parking was just $9.00. We were there a little over 4 hours, parking is $3 per half hour, and we had 3 free hours.
Then we headed down the road to Nakalele Blowhole. We did not hike all the way down, I did not feel safe as there have been deaths, my kids were running around, and they were in sandals. You could see it from the top, but we walked a little further down to a good overlook. It was really cool, and the view was amazing.
Then we headed back the way we came to the airport to park our rental car. There was free parking at the ship in the past, but it had been torn down. We parked at the airport at 5:30 PM for $13 for the night and took a cab back to the ship.
Maui, Hawaii – Day 2
We woke up about 1:45 AM. Yes, you read that right.
I had called around the day before to find a cab since we could not park our car near by. I called her back for a pick up. We had to walk to a nearby mall though, because they could not get inside the port. We were back at the airport and leaving by 3:00 AM. Why? To head to Haleakala, apparently the “House of the Sun”, for the sunrise.
Hundreds of people do this, why? I have no idea. Yes it was pretty. However, it was freezing and it was just a sun rising. Personally, I do not think it was worth it, but that is just my opinion, and many love it. Maybe we just did not get the spectacular sunrise many get, I don’t know. I had high expectations from other peoples experiences, but kind of wish that after Ka’anapali yesterday, we had driven up to see the sunset instead.
We arrived up there about 4:00 AM or a little after and were able to park at the Summit, which has limited parking. There were not many people there, but about 5-10 minutes after we arrived, people were lined up to get in and someone was directing people where to park and shortly the lot was closed. From reviews, we chose to watch the sunrise from across the parking lot from the normal viewing area, and I am glad we did because it was super crowded over there.
We sat on some rocks and waited, and waited, and waited. Maybe I was just too miserable to enjoy the moment. I could not feel my hands, nor get comfortable. I am glad I was not standing. And yes, I was prepared. I had on two shirts, a big wind resistant jacket, pants, and was covered in a towel.
Now, don’t get me wrong, if getting up at 2AM, freezing, and waiting hours for a sun to appear over the clouds seems like it would be your thing, then go for it! 🙂
Afterwards we walked to the car, cranked up the heat, and warmed up. Then we walked around a bit. There was a nice view. We did not stay long because it was so cold. This is where I also wish we would have visited at another time. We also checked out the visitor center and bought some souvenirs.
Then we drove down and went to the Kalahaku Overlook, which is only accessible going down. My kids and mom were too miserable to get out, but I did and walked to the overlook. It was a nice view of the craters.
If you do make it up there, be sure to stop by the Visitor Center for a free souvenir!
We headed down back into town and ate at McDonalds.
Everyone was cranky by now but we continued on to Kamaole Beach 1. We changed clothes and hit the beach, it was about 11:00 AM. It was pretty and we got in a better mood, however, about 1-2 hours later the lifeguard asked everyone to put up their umbrellas because it was about to get windy.
Literally the second he stopped talking, the wind hit. My mom and I were almost knocked away by huge waves out of no where, our sand toys took off across the beach, and people were fighting their umbrellas in the wind. It was insane! We tried to deal with it but the ocean was crazy, and my kids could no longer get in safely. My daughter lost a toy in it, and the wind kept blowing sand over everything. Therefore we, packed up, cleaned up, and went to clean out the car and turn it in and head back to the ship.
Hilo, Hawaii – Day 3
Today was all about Volcanoes National Park. This place truly was amazing and like nothing you will see anywhere else that I am aware of. This National Park was one of the trip highlights. Hilo and Kauai were my favorites. Again, we were up and ready to get off the ship in time to catch the first rental car shuttle.
We were able to rent our car with no line due to being express. Our rental was the exact same as it was in Maui, just a newer year. We were at Volcanoes around 9-9:15 AM. Our first stop was the Visitors Center for some shopping and restrooms. We listened to a park ranger talk about activity and she had said Red Active Lava was becoming viewable again, so expect crowds as word was getting out. This was exciting, but I did not get my hopes up.
So, we left the visitor center and headed right. Our first stop was the Steam Vents stop. This was super cool. Make sure you venture past the man made vents in the parking lot, down the trail, to the natural ones and a view of the Halema’uma’u Crater.
Next stop was Kilauea Overlook, which was another look at the Crater. Then we headed to the Jaggar Museum,where we were told we may or may not see some Lava.
We did!!! We saw several splashes coming up from the Crater.
Next we headed to the Kilauea Iki Overlook. I would love to do the 4 mile hike down across this solid lava lake.
Then we headed to the Thurston Lava Tube. A short hike (.5 miles I think) down through a rain forest and then into a Lava Tube.
We then headed to Pu’u Pua Overlook and Devastation Trail. Devastation Trail is where you can see life trying to return where an eruption once occurred.
Then we headed to Chain of Craters Road. At the beginning there were several stops to view Craters and Dry Lava Fields, signs marked the year of each Lava Field. We stopped at two I think, but I’m unsure which ones. We continued the drive, it was really pretty and green. Trees of all kinds all around, very tropical. And then….NOTHING. Nothing but black dry lava fields as far as you could see. It was unbelievable.
At one stop, we walked on an old road that was covered in Lava.
We continued to the end of the road and viewed the Holei Sea Arch, where the ocean pounded into lava enough to pound it away and form an arch. Very pretty!
We then drove back. I really want to return to this park and do some of the hikes! This was one of 3 places where I really hated the time limits you are stuck with being on a cruise. But overall, I’m glad we did the cruise to get a taste of each island. Now I know, if I get the chance to go back, where I want to go and what I want to do!
Kona, Hawaii – Day 4
This is a place I was told there is no need to get a car, as it is not as easy as the other ports, and there is a lot of shopping right there. You tender, so you get to ride in the ships lifeboats to Kona, which was cool. We walked around and window shopped. I think the ship should spend less time here, and get to Kauai a little earlier! I am not a shopper and was ready to move on to the next island.
Kauai, Hawaii – Day 5
We were scheduled to be in port at 10:00 AM, however, they made an announcement about 9:45 AM that we could get off the ship. This caused us to not catch the first rental car shuttle so we had to wait. I still was able to pick up the car as scheduled at 10:30 AM and we headed to Waimea Canyon. Roosters and Chickens run this island, it was really neat.
The drive to Waimea Canyon and Koke’e was worse than up to Haleakala. It was like a roller coaster! But it was so pretty. Kauai is beautiful! This is the 2nd place I wanted more time, but we had a lot scheduled and unfortunately the last rental car shuttle was at 7:00 PM, even though we were there over night. If I could go back, I would have kept the car overnight for sure.
Anyway, we stopped at the Waimea Canyon Overlook and the Puu Hinahina Lookout. Both offered great views, the first with a waterfall. I think if you take a tour, you only go to Waimea Canyon Overlook. We did the Puu Hinahina overlook on the way out, after Koke’e, because the lot was full on the way in. Also on the way out we stopped at a falls overlook.
If you have time after Waimea to keep driving the winding road, you can go into Koke’e. However, be prepared to drive for no reason as very often both view points are blocked by fog/clouds. We got partially lucky, as Kalalau Lookout was visible when we arrived, but not when we left. Therefore the last lookout, Puu O Kila was completely obstructed. Kalalau Valley was beautiful though and is part of the Na Pali Coast.
We ate at Brick Oven Pizza for lunch, which was quick and good. Then we headed to Spouting Horn Park to view the blow hole and arrived about 3:30 PM. The blowhole was not as active as Nakalele, but was a pretty view and there were some sea turtles hanging out in the cove nearby.
The whole area of Poipu was beautiful! We arrived at Poipu Beach late, about 4:15 PM. Considering it was so late, and we had to have the rental back by 6:00 PM, we didn’t even change into our swim suites.
For some reason, I did not have high expectations for this beach. I was wrong. It has a sandbar “Tombolo” connecting two beaches. On the other end across the Tombolo was a rocky area. I wanted to walk to it to take some pictures. I was like, “let’s just walk across the sand bar”. The sandbar is above the water, however, when two waves meet coming from each direction, it splashes high. Our clothes got soaked.
We made it though and it was beautiful with the waves crashing into the rocks, the beach behind you, the ocean in front of you. It was a great experience. I really wish we had more time here also. There were also Sea Turtles swimming right off the beach, and eventually one came onto the sand. Apparently this is also a popular area to see Monk Seals, but we didn’t see any. All around, this is a really neat, beautiful, area, and I hated that we only had about an hour there.
Kauai, Hawaii – Day 6
Since we were departing from Kauai at 2:00 PM and I turned our car in yesterday, we just went to a beach near the ship called Kalapaki. It is $20 to park your rental car overnight and you leave early on Friday. This is why I turned our car in Thursday, however, I wish I had kept it, even if it meant just turning it in on Friday, so that I could have had a longer day on Thursday. There was nothing special about Kalapaki. However, it was not windy and the kids had fun. We left at noon to catch the free shuttle back to the ship.
Na Pali Coast, Hawaii – Day 6
The ship left at 2:00 PM for a sail by of the beautiful Na Pali Coast. We had a big overcast of dark clouds, so unfortunately we did not get the bright vibrant colors of the coast, but at least it was not covered in fog. We also saw a whale in the distance.
And that was our cruise! It was a wonderful experience and went by too fast. I really hope I get a chance to go back to Hawaii again to get a more in depth experience. I do still recommend this as a great way to get a taste of Hawaii in just one week! Prior to our trip, when we were thinking of visiting just one island, I could not figure out which one to go to! I love that we visited multiple islands and were able to see many sites! Now I know, if I ever go back, exactly what I want to see and do. I loved Hawaii!