10 Best Cruises to Hawaii — From Luxury Sailings to Expedition Ships

A cruise around the 50th state is an excellent way to see as much of the islands as possible in a limited amount of time.

<p>Courtesy of Viking Cruises</p>

Courtesy of Viking Cruises

The islands of Hawaii are popular with families, couples, retirees, groups of friends, and anyone who enjoys warm weather, tropical scenery, and the 50th state's "Aloha" spirit. Each island offers a different climate, landscape, and style, and even on the same island, there are significant 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 Kailua-Kona region on the west coast tends to be much drier.

Visitors to Hawaii, especially first-timers, want to experience as much of the islands as possible, and a cruise is a great way to accomplish that, according to Pam Jacobs, travel advisor at Travel Store in Palos Verdes Estates, California. “People love the inter-island cruises because all meals are included, so it’s an economical as well as convenient way to see the islands. You unpack once and avoid getting in and out of airports and checking in and out of hotels. It’s the best way to island hop.”

Families and travelers with limited time enjoy the seven-day Norwegian Cruise Lines Honolulu to Honolulu round trip cruises, while retirees may opt for a longer cruise from the West Coast with more days at sea. You can embark from several ports on the West Coast, including San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, or Seattle. “Many Hawaiʻi cruises are part of longer voyages to the South Pacific, Australia, or around the world,” says Jacobs, a cruise and train travel specialist.

“The shore excursions on the cruises are the same things a tourist would do on land — go to a luau, play golf, visit an attraction like the Arizona Memorial, or just relax on the beach — and it’s all arranged for you,” according to Jacobs. One more bit of advice from our cruise expert: “Always arrive a day before your cruise to be sure you’re there and ready. You’ll have time to explore and relax before boarding.”

Below are some of the best cruises to see Hawaiʻi. Dates, prices, amenities, and itineraries vary, so choosing a cruise requires some planning and research. That's always part of the fun, so hopefully this list will inspire you to get started.

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

<p>Courtesy of Holland America</p>

Courtesy of Holland America

This cruise on the 1,432-passenger Zaandam departs from San Diego and spends five days at sea before arriving in Honolulu at 8 a.m. Optional activities include a trip to Pearl Harbor, a hike on Diamond Head, a road trip around Oahu, an evening at the Polynesian Cultural Center, and a day on Waikiki Beach. 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, and guests can choose a drive to Haleakala Crater, a snorkel adventure aboard the new Reef Explorer, or a drive to Maui’s Upcountry or rainforest. The final two stops, Hilo and Kona, are on the Big Island. In Kona, there’s an optional Atlantis submarine trip to explore coral gardens or a catamaran cruise. Options include visits to Volcanoes National Park and in Hilo, guests can tour Rainbow Falls or go for a zipline adventure. After four days at sea, you'll stop in Ensenada, Mexico, before returning to San Diego.

Royal Caribbean: 9-night Hawaii Cruise - Vancouver to Oahu

<p>Courtesy of Royal Caribbean Cruises</p>

Courtesy of Royal Caribbean Cruises

This trip aboard the 4,180-passenger Ovation of the Seas offers guests much to do during days at sea, with a rock climbing wall, FlowRider surf simulator, and Northstar, a 360-degree observation capsule 300 feet above sea level. “For travelers who have the time for these days at sea, the activities on the ship are a big part of the fun,” according to Jacobs. After departing Vancouver, British Columbia, the ship spends four days at sea before it arrives in Honolulu for a day of exploring Oʻahu with a visit to the Polynesian Cultural Center or Waikiki Beach. The ship crosses the International Date Line with a day at sea and then passes the beautiful Napali Coast of Kauai, famous for its dramatic cliffs rising from the ocean. The final stop is Oahu, and passengers spend as much time as they want exploring Honolulu, Waikiki Beach, or the rest of the island before heading home.

Norwegian Cruise Line: 7-Day Hawaii Inter-Island Cruise from Honolulu

<p>Courtesy of Norwegian Cruises</p>

Courtesy of Norwegian Cruises

Spend a week exploring four of Hawaii's islands on this cruise aboard the 2,186-passenger Pride of America, the only ship sailing to four Hawaiian islands in seven days year-round. “These Norwegian Cruise Line trips are a dependable way to see the islands with their convenient weekly departures,” Jacobs says. “You can see the other islands and spend some time in Oahu before or after your cruise.” Onboard activities 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

<p>Courtesy of UnCruise</p>

Courtesy of UnCruise

“The UnCruise expedition-style cruises focus on the destinations rather than the ship,” according to Pam Jacobs. “The experience is immersive, eco-friendly, and there’s always great camaraderie with the small groups.” This seven-night cruise aboard the 36-guest Safari Explorer begins in Kona, on the Big Island, with a champagne welcome from the captain. The following 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 day four in 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, take a bike excursion, 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 following day 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

<p>Courtesy of Princess Cruises</p>

Courtesy of Princess Cruises

This cruise aboard the 3,080-passenger Ruby 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 visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. 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 have a day to explore Ensenada, Mexico, on the Baja California peninsula, before the Ruby Princess sails back to San Francisco.

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

<p>Steve Dunlop/Celebrity Cruises</p>

Steve Dunlop/Celebrity Cruises

This cruise on the luxurious, 2,918-passenger Celebrity Edge departs Vancouver and stops for the day 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, on day eight, 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 and then spends a day passing the Napali Coast of Kauai, where steep cliffs rise from the ocean and sea caves and waterfalls can be seen from the ship. After another day of cruising, the final stop is 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

<p>David Murphey/Disney Cruises</p>

David Murphey/Disney Cruises

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 Nawiliwili on the island of Kauaʻi, where guests can visit Waimea Canyon State Park, called “Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” or explore a restored sugar plantation in Old Koloa Town. The next stop is Kahului, Maui, where you can spend a day at the beach, the Maui Arts & Cultural Center, or Botanical Gardens. In Hilo on the “Big Island” of Hawaiʻi,” guests can tour Mauna Kea Observatory or see active volcanoes at Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park. The ship arrives in Honolulu for disembarkation, and passengers can transfer to the airport or extend their stay.

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

This 17-day voyage from Los Angeles takes place aboard the Viking Neptune, an all-veranda small ship that carries a maximum of 928 guests. After five days at sea, the first stop is the Big Island, where guests can view Kilauea by helicopter, visit waterfalls, or explore Hilo Bay by kayak. The next port is Oahu, where guests can tour by helicopter, hike Diamond Head, attend a luau, or more. On Kauai, excursions range from an ATV tour of the island to snorkeling along the South Shore. On day 10 in Maui, highlights include Haleakala National Park, snorkeling, and a visit to Maui Ocean Center. The ship then sails to Ensenada, Mexico, where passengers can indulge in wine tastings, e-bike tours, and ATV adventures in the Guadalupe Valley. The Viking Neptune returns to Los Angeles the next day.

Carnival Journeys: 15-day Hawaii Journey from Seattle

This cruise aboard the 2,124-passenger Carnival Spirit spends five days at sea after departing from Seattle. Pickleball, casino games, parties, comedy club, and the WaterWorks, the ship’s onboard waterpark, provide plenty to do. In Honolulu, on day seven, guests can spend the day on Waikiki Beach, visit the Polynesian Cultural Center and the USS Arizona Memorial, or attend a traditional luau. The next day in Maui offers a chance to snorkel or head to the top of Mt. Haleakala. In Kauai, an optional helicopter tour takes guests over Waimea Canyon or the Napali Coast, and the next port is Hilo, on the slopes of volcanic Mauna Loa. After two days at sea, the ship visits Victoria, British Columbia, before returning to Seattle.

For more Travel & Leisure news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

Read the original article on Travel & Leisure.