We stayed in Honolulu overnight before the cruise and four nights after. Waikiki is quite busy, but please don't just stay on the main drag and think you've seen Hawaii. I didn't like Waikiki as much but that was mainly because it was very busy and touristy and commercial and there are a lot of people trying to sell you tours who can get very pushy and will literally follow you down the street.
There is an excellent place to eat though, Lulu's Waikiki. It's above Starbucks and an ABC shop and a lot of homeless people are outside on the footpath which is quite sad to see. There are actually a lot of homeless people in Waikiki, other US states on the mainland gave them a one way ticket to Hawaii.
There is also an excellent shave ice place called Uncle Clay's House of Pure Aloha. Uncle Clay serves customers himself and is lovely and will chat to you like you are family. They make the most incredible shave ice too, with all natural flavours, none of that artificial flavouring like in other shave ice places.
Rainbow Drive Inn is also a place worth a visit, Obama visits when he's in town and the food is yum!
We went to the Ala Moana shopping centre on the trolley bus. Their food court is unlike anything you have seen, a friend from the cruise who we ran into on the trolley bus on the way there recommended it to us and it was amazing! It took half an hour just circling, looking at our options. I got poke, and there is an amazing cinnamon bun place and a lolly shop next door.
The trolley buses are $2 each way, the pink line will take you to the Ala Moana shopping centre but be aware that the line for it to get back to your hotel is VERY LONG. We waited 45 minutes to get back, it's quite popular.
ABC stores are literally on every corner, good to get some cereal, milk and bowls and spoons from for cheap hotel room breakfast. They sell macadamia nuts, touristy Hawaiian souvenirs, food, alcohol, clothes, etc.
Our favourite tour of the trip. If you get RC as the guide and Tony as the driver, you are in good hands. They take you to the top of Mt Haleakala and you freewheel down the 29 switchbacks. Definitely worth the money.
Apart from that we didn't see a lot of Maui apart from the main drag.
We rented a Mustang convertible and drove around this side of the Big Island. We went to Volcanoes National Park and walked through a lava tube. Somehow we didn't find out about the second car park that took you straight to the lava tube, we parked in another one further away and entered a hike to get to the second carpark before we found the lava tube but we needed the exercise after all the cruise food.
We tried to get to a black sand beach and the waterfalls but we couldn't figure out how to get there and got a bit lost and by that time we had to drop off the rental car to get back to the ship on time anyway.
We did the kayaking and snorkling trip which was nice although I did get a bit seasick in the kayak so I didn't enjoy that part as much. We stopped for lunch on the rocks and then you can snorkel to your hearts content. The snorkeling was okay but not anything truly spectacular, although I think it's always fun just to see what's underneath you and how deep the water is.
You get the opportunity to go cliff diving, only three out of about 10 or 12 of us did it, I was the first! It was thrilling and a long enough drop to have a conversation with yourself, as one of the other divers put it! The water really slaps you when you dive in and it felt like a lifetime before I resurfaced but it was a once in a lifetime kind of thing.
Kona itself is actually quite beautiful - home to macadamia nuts and kona coffee! After our kayaking/snorkeling trip we walked around the main area. We got good shave ice from a place near where the tender boats for the ship dock, there are signs up everywhere so it's not hard to find. There's also a place that has great food and cocktails and they do shrimp buckets, the name escapes me.
The Directors Cut tour was great, on the bus they have a screen at the front where clips from films are shown and as they show you the clip, you drive past/through the area where that scene was shot. The timing was excellent! They also take you to beautiful Hanalei Bay where the Descendants was shot and some other movie. We didn't stay there long but if we go back again I'd stay and swim there all day - it's absolutely beautiful. It's definitely a tour for movie buffs!
Jungle Mountain Walking Tour Rating:
The Jungle Hike Adventure on Kauai at Kipu ranch was fun, a lot of Hollywood films have been made on that ranch, including The Descendants (we got to drive down the same road on the ranch that was in the film), Jurassic Park and the opening scene of Mash, to name a few. You get to zipline, the last zipline is the longest and the highest up. There are two swimming holes, one with a zipline into the water and a mini cliff dive, the second with a rope swing and incidentally the same swimming hole Johnny Depp and Penelope Cruz swam in when filming Pirates of the Carribean: On Stranger Tides. Closest I'll ever get to be to him in my life! The hike through Kipu ranch was very pretty although you can't stop and look around you too much because you really need to watch every step you take. I slipped and fell on wet rocks despite being really careful so be very cautious!