FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

Beyond the Beach: See Hawai’i’s Diverse Verdant and Volcanic Landscapes on an Island-Hopping Cruise

by Richard Newton

Sep 15, 2023

© Patrick Evans | Dreamstime.com

September 2023

Midway Atoll is the end of the Hawai‘ian Islands, literally. This is the ultimate fate of these low, sandy islets ringing a lagoon: Eventually these last remnants of a once large volcanic island will sink beneath the waves, completing a story that began 1,500 miles away. Midway, though not easy to get to, occasionally features in cruise itineraries. Holland America Line’s Westerdam offers a rare chance to glimpse the remotest of all the Hawai‘ian Islands with a scheduled stop in October 2024. You can still see the relics of the famous World War II battle here as well as a million nesting albatrosses and other seabirds.

From Midway Westerdam will cruise the length of the chain of small islands that stretch like a comet’s tail from the main cluster. After three days of sailing, the massive green slopes of Kaua‘i will finally come into view.

volcano

© Mnstudio

Kaua‘i (pronounced “cow-wa-ee”) is the lushest of all the islands … and also the wettest. Mount Wai‘ale‘ale, at the island’s center, reigns as the wettest place on Earth, with 450 inches of rain per year (the lowlands are much drier, and there’s even a near-desert on the west side). The rain runs down to the coasts, carving the spectacular valleys and canyons that have made this scenic island a favorite location for countless Hollywood movies and for tourists.

All of the main islands have distinctive characteristics, making island-hopping cruises exquisitely rewarding. Most cruises embark from Oahu, home to the state’s main international airport as well as Honolulu, Waikiki Beach and Pearl Harbor. There’s plenty of sightseeing to do even before you board your cruise ship. The itinerary for most voyages runs clockwise from Oahu to Maui, on to the Big Island (aka Hawai‘i), up to Kaua‘i, then back to Oahu.

Maui, the tourist paradise, boasts not only the best resorts (many currently open as of press time with many also hosting displaced residents) but also great hiking on the slopes of its two volcanoes and other outstanding amenities and offerings.

green sea turtle

© Shane Myers | Dreamstime.com

The Hawai‘ian Islands sit on what is essentially an island production line. An undersea hot spot gives rise to each new volcanic island, and then tectonic forces gradually move them all northwest. Midway Atoll lies at the oldest end of the process; the Big Island marks the youngest.

In contrast to verdant Kaua‘i, huge swathes of the Big Island prove starkly volcanic — the island is still forming. At its heart sits the great volcano, Mauna Loa. Measured from its base on the sea floor, it rises even higher than Everest. Take a drive to the upper slopes and you pass through eight climate zones, from tropical to polar. Between December and February you may see snowfall at the summit, and cold downdrafts often cool the surrounding lowlands. Believe it or not, it can get cold in Hawai‘i.

The Big Island’s west coast features archetypical beach resorts, while the interior offers a hiking paradise with trails that take in beautiful waterfalls and stunning panoramas of the wild cliffs of the northeast coast. In the south of the island, lava flows periodically ooze down from the slopes of Mauna Loa and nearby Kilauea, steadily increasing the island’s size. Few experiences match the sight of the lava meeting the sea in a turmoil of noise and steam. From your vantage on the freshly cooled lava fields, it looks like the end of the world. In fact, it’s the beginning.

Stairway to heaven

© Cory M Dorazio | Dreamstime.com

LODGING

Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea

The only AAA Five Diamond hotel on Maui, this swanky oceanside resort provided the backdrop for the HBO show The White Lotus.

3900 Wailea Alanui Drive, Kihei, Maui $$$$

Volcano House

Hawai‘i is not just about beaches. This unpretentious hotel immerses guests in the natural wonders of the Big Island’s rugged interior, offering amazing views of Halema‘uma‘u Crater.

1 Crater Rim Drive, Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, Pāhoa, the Big Island $$$

Waimea Plantation Cottages

Escape to secluded, simple cottages set within lush grounds on the south coast of Kaua‘i. The breathtaking Waimea Canyon is a short drive inland.

9400 Kaumualii Highway, Waimea, Kaua‘i
$$$

DINING

Eating House 1849

Overseen by award-winning chef Roy Yamaguchi, this 19th-century-style eatery offers an inventive menu reflecting the diversity of the communities of Kaua‘i.

The Shops at Kukui‘ula, 2829 Ala Kalanikau- maka St. A-201, Koloa, Kaua‘i
$$$

Mama’s Fish House

Reservations are required at this legendary, family-run restaurant, often booking four to six months in advance. It’s worth the wait: You’ll experience the best Pacific seafood.

799 Poho Place, Pā‘ia, Maui
$$$$

Merriman’s Big Island

Showcasing the freshest local produce, Peter Merriman has opened restaurants on four Hawaiian Islands, but this location — established in 1988 — is the original.

65-1227 Opelo Road B, Kamuela, the Big Island $$$

INFO TO GO

Three international airports serve the Hawai‘ian Islands: Honolulu (HNL) on Oahu, and Kona (KOA) and Hilo (ITO) on the Big Island. From each airport, scheduled domestic flights link to the other inhabited islands.

Maui Fires: How to Help

In early August, aggressive wildfires erupted on Maui. As of press time, the Lahaina fire was about 80 percent contained, but the island was left devastated and more than 100 people tragically lost their lives. Areas of Maui remain closed to tourists, including Lahaina, Napili, Ka’anapali and Kapalua, while other parts of Maui and the other Hawaiian islands continue to welcome tourists. We encourage travelers to check travel advisories and practice responsible tourism for any upcoming travel to Hawai’i. Please also consider aiding recovery and restoration efforts in Maui, where historic sites like the oldest hotel in the state were destroyed, by donating to the following organizations:

• Visit redcross.org, call 1 800 RED CROSS or text REDCROSS to 90999 to make a $10 donation

• The Hawai’i Community Foundation has already raised $1 million to help fire victims

Maui Food Bank provides safe and nutritious food to anyone in Maui County at risk of going hungry

Maui United Way set up a page for online donations

Maui Humane Society requests assistance for supplies and funding for displaced animals

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FX Excursions

FX Excursions offers the chance for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in destinations around the world.

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