In order to get to the islands, you’ve got to fly here. While this may sound painfully obvious, many people contemplate a Hawaii cruise to the islands. Here’s a tip—there isn’t a single speck of land between the west coast and Hawaii. And 2,500 miles of open water is a pretty monotonous stretch to cover. Once you’re on Hawaii, you can enjoy the best boat cruises and dinner cruises on the four major islands.
Kauai – Best Hawaii Cruise
Captain Andy’s Sailing Adventures is the biggest operator on the island, leaving from Port Allen, and they tend to run pretty tight ships.
They have three types of boats—their luxury catamaran (Southern Star), regular catamarans and their rigid hull rafts. The Southern Star is large (65 feet), plush and comfortable, and their 5.5-hour snorkel tour has a good BBQ lunch and free beer and wine for $179. If they take their full load of 49 people, it’s a bit tight. But otherwise, it’s an easy Hawaii cruise to recommend. Their 5.5-hour Na Pali trips in the smaller catamarans are $159. Snorkelling when conditions permit, but at lousy Makole. Deli lunch with free beer and wine.
Na Pali Cataraman (boat tours in Kauai)
Our favourite Hawaii cruise is probably Na Pali Catamaran. Their 35-foot power cat (no sailing) takes up to 18 people, has a slender enough profile to go into most of the sea caves, and plenty of shade. (That overhead protection comes in handy when the captain pilots the boat under a waterfall, but if you’re feeling adventurous, they will let you sit on the bow.)
$270 for a 4-hour tour, which includes snorkelling at Nu‘alolo. The crew seems to genuinely care about making sure guests have a good time and have their best Hawaii cruise experience. They encourage passengers to get up and move around the boat to take pictures and offer drinks (soda and juice) throughout the trip.
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Oahu – Best Hawaii Cruise
Star of Honolulu Dinner Cruise
Star of Honolulu is a huge, 232-foot, rock-steady (most of the time) ship with four decks that can hold 1,500 passengers. (Don’t worry, it won’t have that many, and it doesn’t feel as crowded as some smaller boats.)
The top deck is what they call their five star Hawaii cruise offering with a seven-course meal (they rotate the menu), live jazz, air conditioning and a wallet-choking $201 price. Below they have a steak and lobster dinner (no A/C) for $151, a crab and steak deck for $115 and a buffet deck that’s $97. They don’t guarantee anything below the top deck because they often host large groups and other things that can get in the way.
All Hawaii Cruises
All Hawai‘i Cruises—aka Captain Bob’s Picnic Sail—uses two 42-foot power catamarans for a three-hour excursion that includes a burger lunch at an offshore sunken island (really a giant sand bar). $133 includes pickup from Waikiki.
The sand bar is a cool place to hang out, and the crew will start a fun game of pickup volleyball. You hang at the sand bar for about an hour before they take you to a stand-alone reef for snorkelling, which is ripe with sea life. Overall, a reasonably good deal for a Hawaii cruise.
Maui – Best Hawaii Cruise
One of the best boats doing tours of the West Maui coast is Hula Girl. The crew (including hands-on owners) of this Hawaii cruise is particularly laid back and friendly, and the boat is well-designed with a luxurious, spacious feel, even when full.
They leave from Ka‘anapali Beach and go to Honolua Bay for snorkelling. (They usually sail back rather than the motor.) The 65-foot catamaran cuts nicely through the water, even in big seas. When they sail downwind, the trampolines up front are fantastic places to be for the best Hawaii cruise. SCUBA is available for $70 ($81 for an intro). One thing that is unusual on this Hawaii cruise is the food. It costs extra (so does the bar). So instead of a free but limited menu, you get a larger selection, and the quality is very good.
Calypso by Quicksilver Charters is the biggest, most tricked-out Hawaii cruise tour boat on Maui.
The 70-foot power cat has 4,000 square feet of space spread over three decks, two slides (the one of the front has an 8-foot drop into the water), a 15-foot-high jumping platform from the second level, and a glass bottom. It’s basically a floating playhouse that takes you on a 5.5-hour tour to Molokini and Turtle Town for $130. (It’s $90 for kids under 13; one kid 6 and under for free per paying adult.)
Big Island – Best Hawaii Cruise
Body Glove leaves from Kailua Pier and usually cruises to Red Hill 10 miles to the south (which has fairly good snorkelling, but not as good as Kealakekua Bay). The Kanoa II is a 65-foot catamaran that carries 105 passengers.
This Hawaii cruise has continental breakfast at boarding and BBQ lunch at the site. In addition to snorkelling, they have SCUBA (for an extra fee). Good boats, crew and location make this a good deal, and we recommend it as the best Hawaii cruise wholeheartedly when they’re not at max capacity—105 or less. (When they’re full, expect lines getting in and out of the water.) Lots of shade, waterslide, restrooms and a full cash bar on board. Fun noodles and see-thru boogie boards for the timid.
Fair Wind II
Fair Wind II uses a 60-foot power catamaran to bring 100 or so people. They leave from Keauhou Bay, 7.5 miles north and stay tied to their mooring for a couple of hours of snorkelling, BBQ burgers and general frolicking.
People seem to really enjoy this trip and make good use of the short water-slides into the water, the high dive platform and the cash bar. Restrooms, hose to rinse the salt off, shade, wheelchair accessible. Easy entry and exit from the water. Continental breakfast on board. It’s not as crowded on board as it looks from a distance.
You will be motoring at 10 MPH the whole way so the ride is pretty smooth. This is a good Hawaii cruise, especially for families with young kids and those who are wary about ocean travel.
Hawaii Revealed App
More things to reveal in the app:
- Reviews on Hawaii Resorts with their locations
- Reviews on every single beach on the islands
- Interactive maps of Kauai, Maui, Oahu and the Big Island
- Details to help plan your visit to Hawaii’s best sights, tours, activities and more
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