“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”

Cruising Hawaii

Visiting five islands in Hawaii aboard the Norwegian Cruise Lines Pride of America was a marvelous experience. I had previously (long ago) visited Maui and Kauai, but that involved several flights and changing hotels (and a lot of golf). As always being able to experience many adventures but only unpack once was awesome.

You know, my group trips are truly working vacations for me. The first day, as everyone is arriving and settling in is always tense. Did everyone’s flights go smoothly and arrive on time? What about their ground transportation? Are all the first-night hotel rooms satisfactory? Where are we going to meet for dinner and will everyone touch base first? In short, what issues will I need to resolve? Happily, this one went pretty smoothly. There was just one room issue (getting king-size accommodations changed to two doubles) and the hotel was perfectly cooperative in every way and so beautiful. I never know which hotels can be trusted to represent their rooms and amenities truthfully, so getting to see them in person is a big relief (usually).

On arrival night the group had a lovely dinner at Duke’s Dining Room at Waikiki Beach. The next morning, before we boarded the ship, we all went sailing and snorkeling in Turtle Canyon in Waikiki with Diamond Head in the background. And yes! there were turtles! Snorkeling among my favorite sea animals was an amazing adventure for me and maybe the most memorable part of this trip.

Our first port of call was Kahului, Maui. We spent a day riding the Hulahula Hopper to experience local attractions such as the Alexander and Baldwin Sugar Museum, Baldwin Beach, Paia Bay, and the town of Paia, a former plantation village now known as the Windsurf Capital of the World. That night was the Old Lahaina Luau in a splendid beachfront setting. A stunning sunset started the evening, followed by a show full of marvelous entertainers. Then the magnificent staff served 500 dinners of delicious traditional Hawaiian food, followed by more island entertainment.

We overnighted at Maui and devoted the next day’s excursion to hiking in the beautiful Iao Valley. It was much cooler in the valley (the second wettest spot in the islands) than down at the shore where it was really HOT!

We docked at Hilo early the next morning.We rode through an oceanfront rain forest with spectacular tropical flowers at every turn on the way to hike around Akaka Falls and sample the wild-growing strawberry guava berries.   Then, on to Rainbow Falls, stopping along the way to take pictures of enchanting bay views.We also visited a local produce stand to sample fresh pineapple, coconut, white guava, and the mysterious apple bananas. Rainbow Falls is  one of the Big Island’s tallest and most beautiful waterfalls. Strolling through the banyan trees to view the falls, we clearly saw the rainbow.

NCL’s description says Kona offers the quintessential Hawaii experience; sunny, warm weather and crystal blue waters to entice visitors with a variety of surfside fun, snorkeling amongst a kaleidoscope of tropical marine life, kayaking, and deep-sea fishing. Unfortunately, we opted for the Gold Coast and Cloud Forest Death March where we saw few trees and the worst guide I’ve ever experienced told us not about the sights we were seeing as we staggered across the volcanic rock, but about his love life and his former job as a gorilla keeper. The town of Kona, however, was charming and the water beautiful, the people extremely pleasant.

At Kauai we docked early and ten of us went right out to experience the Best of Kauai Tour. Our guide  Sam was very knowledgeable with a great sense of humor and full of interesting facts about what we were seeing–the exact opposite of the guide at Kona. We went first to Waimea Canyon (the Grand Canyon of the Pacific) carved by the Waimea River cascading from Kauai’s central peak, Mount Wai’ale’ale, one of the wettest places in the world. The canyon is up to 3600 feet deep, carved into pinnacles of volcanic rock in hues of red, green, and brown with waterfalls that throw up frequent rainbows amid a lush background of tropical vegetation. While there, we snacked on apple banana lumpia, like eggrolls filled with shredded cabbage and chunks of apple banana, that we bought from vendors–delicious!  We took a boat to “the most romantic place on Kauai”, the Fern Grotto, a volcanic grotto  festooned with countless ferns, and learned the hula on the way back from a lovely dancer. We ambled along the Wailua Heritage Trail to overlook the village of Kamokila and the spectacular Opaekaa Waterfall. 

We spent our second day at Kauai kicked back around the pool aboard ship, relaxing and just reveling in the island breezes and tropical sunshine. After six days of sightseeing and excursions, we really needed the rest!

Before we even disembarked in Honolulu we were greeted by a double rainbow. There was a parade that welcomed us back from our adventures; no, really it was the Aloha Festival Floral Parade celebrating the flowers of the islands. We got to our hotel for our last night’s stay and enjoyed another wonderful dinner at Duke’s. What a marvelous final day. 

 

P.S. The Hawaii state fish is the Humuhumunukunukuapua’a. We snorkeled with them, too!