Lots to do in Honolulu pre-cruise, so be sure to come in a day or two early. We came in 2 days pre-cruise, rented a car - free shuttles from the Honolulu airport to all rental car agencies. Thursday afternoon we shopped, went down the beach and ate lunch before checking into our hotel. We opted to stay at the Pacific Beach Hotel right on Waikiki - it was an excellent choice, but ran $225/night after all of the taxes/surcharges. On Friday, we drove to the North Shore, went to the Polynesian Cultural Center, drove some of the coastline...and on Saturday morning to the Pearl Harbor Memorial. There is so much to see on the island of Oahu - but the traffic is horrendous in Honolulu, some of the worst in the USA. If you don't like heavy traffic ~ consider tour guides/buses.
We decided to rent a car for the 2 days (Sunday/Monday) that we were on Maui.. and so that’s what we did. There are a couple of free parking lots close to the port to park rental cars in, but one is definitely closer than the other one. A drive to Haleakala National park was a full day for us. (TIP:Seniors can get a pretty cheap National Parks Pass that gets them into all National parks free for life). The second day we did some souvenir shopping at a local Mall and drove to Lahaina to do some souvenir shopping. Monday was a lot of spotty on & off rain. We stopped often for photos and drove along a lot of the beautiful coastline.
We used a Private Guide for Hilo - Ricky's Tours. Ran $65 (+ tip for all day). Ricky picked us up at the Pier in his small tour van. He took us to Rainbow Falls, several stops at Volcanoes National Park, Lua Manu lava flow, "Mauna Loa",......then a quick stop at an Orchid Museum, a Black Sand Beach, and finally ending at the Mauna Loa Macadamia nut farm/factory before getting us back to the Pier. He also went out of his way to re-route the tour if he noticed a Robert's bus there with 200 other tourists, he'd take us elsewhere and bring us back later. He has lived in Hilo a long time and knows the history so lots of anecdotes along the way. He under-prices his tour in my opinion.
Kona is a quaint little town. This is a tender port, which means you ride a tender (life boat) from the ship to the shore with about 100 other passengers. There are all sorts of shops and restaurants walking distance from the shore - no need to make special plans if that's all you want to do. Everything from the ABC Store to the Kona Brewery and restaurant are all walking distance, and not too much past those is a Hilo Hatties. All sorts of free shuttles from the Pier .. even saw one going to/from Target and K-Mart... and even to Hilo Hatties. So you can walk or take a free shuttle.
KAUAI –gets 5.5 stars from me because I think the most beautiful of the Islands. We used a private tour guide for this Island also. Tread Lightly Kauai is operated by Jay Dorrance and he is a private 1 man show. He also meets right outside the security gates of the pier – short walking distance. We expressed interest in seeing movie locales, beaches, waterfalls and other photo ops and BOY did he ever deliver! We saw so much in that day.. the Wailua River, Opaeka’a Falls, the Hindu Monastery, Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge (where I got some of my greatest photos). We were even taken to Gilligan’s Island beach. Our day with Jay, left us knowing we’d made a new lifelong friend! His knowledge and passion for the island of Kauai was evident. I stayed on the ship for the 2nd day in Kauai – but the others in my part left for shore and said there were free shuttles “to all over”, there as well. There has to be a lot to see on this island and I look forward to going back one day.