HILO. Very nice, green jungle coastline and a good road. (Incidentally,I am going to rate ALL ports a 4 or 5 because we find good stuff WHERE-EVER we go). We rented a JEEP 4WD and went North, so we stop WHEN we want and WHERE we want. About $150 bucks for the day. Took a peek at Akaka Waterfalls...where the HAL tour bus was. Snooped around a abandoned Sugar Cane Plantation plus found a delightful little beach with crashing surf and funky volcanic cliffs. Also, wound thru Hamakua botanic garden road/trail that some HAL van tours went to. We did NOT do the Volcano area to the South of Hilo. We spent $180 bucks total.
LAHAINA,Maui. Tsunami-time for us. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Again, we rented a JEEP 4WD and headed for the most remote, twisty, turny roads we could find. Fantastic Photo ops North, and white-knuckle trails made this special. Then the TSUNAMI from Japan headed for Hawaii...just prior to the ROTTERDAM leaving port. The Captain hoisted anchor as the Tsunami sirens sounded onshore and the locals red tail-lights could be seem going UP !! The Tsunami and the ROTTERDAM met at approx. 0310/am with the ship pointed directly at the wave. My wife slept right thru it. It was about 3' feet high. Some damage reported at certain areas all 'round Hawaii.
HONOLULU. We were fortunate to be picked up at the Pier by friends who live near Honolulu..so we got the Royal tour to the South 'round Diamond Head, then delightful time spent yakking and lounging and going out for Chinese. How fun. Honolulu is a BIG city with Freeways and Hi-rises.
NAWILIWLI, KAUAI. Rented a JEEP 4WD and went to Waimea Canyon. A semi-arid spectacular red-cliff canyon similar to Copper Canyon in Northern Mexico. Talked to wild-pig hunters along the way. Then took in a Coffee Plantation w/ gift shop, snooped around an abandoned Sugar Plantation and then bought t-shirts. Great day!!
FANNING ISLAND. To many, this tiny little atoll was their cruise high-light. A destitute cluster of isolated people were making the best of it somehow. Kids everywhere!! No electricity, very little agriculture, and a maximum of 5' feet elevation above sea level makes one wonder what the future will bring for this remote speck in the ocean. Drop-dead blue water, pigs tied to palm trees and thatched huts on stilts....and did I mention?...LOTS of little kids!!
RAROTONGA & RAIATEA. Again, rented JEEP 4WD and headed for the volcanic Jungle interior on both islands. Spent time deep in the jungle and also at pre-historic Polynesian 'Marae' stone religious grounds. Beautiful,gorgeous scenery, followed by much anticipated Cold beer. Lots of stunning pics. Wife liked the little village 'shops'.
BORA-BORA, TAHITI, AND MO'OREA and RANGIROA I am putting these together because this is where we snorkeled and spent all our time in or on the water. Which is the way it should be done if one is physically able. HERE'S THE DEAL: If you get off the boat..we found you're going to find Somebody, Somehow, that will take you out to the shallow reefs to snorkel or SCUBA. No reservations, no $money$ up-front, no BS. Period. That's why we don't do HAL tours. It's all the locals have to do!! Wonderful snorkeling in gin-clear water with little fish, mantarays (and black-tip sharks if you are so inclined). To be honest... much of the live coral of years ago is now in tough shape in all of Polynesia. Global warming? Virus?? I dunno. But, nonetheless, my wife says these days of swimming and snorkeling were the highlight of the cruise. Try to hook up with a small out-rigger boat, motorized. Also, get hooked up at the pier somewhere with a snorkel adventure that includes a beach-side BBQ lunch and beer. Everyone who did it LOVED it. I couldn't argue. We brought our own Snorkel gear and Tough beach SHOES. You'll be sorry if you don't bring the shoes...Coral cuts hurt. Again, this is why most people came on this cruise. Jump in the water...no experience needed. Good times.