Since my sister and I were nannying on this Seven-Day Hawaiian Cruise, we didn’t plan or expect to do much, but our schedule-less day in Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii was our favorite day of the entire trip.
We woke up bright and early to take a tender boat from our cruise ship to the big island snorkeling excursion. All sixteen of us went on this excursion to check out Kealakekua Bay’s coral reefs on Hawaii’s largest island. We were glad everyone came, because we were able to take turns swimming and watching children on the party boat.
Our snorkeling boat had diving boards, slides, floaties, and paddle boards. We barely had time to take advantage of these, because we spent so much time snorkeling in the magnificent blue water.
We chased little yellow fishies and saw more brain coral than we could have ever imagined. There were even a few eels and sea urchins far below us!
Even when we were riding back on the boat at the end of the day, there was wildlife to see. Dozens (if not a hundreds) of spinner dolphins followed our boat for a stretch, then flying fish jumped around and even jumped onto our deck! We got a full take of Kona’s wildlife from that boat.
Once we arrived back at the dock, my sister and I were told that we had the afternoon off to explore. We took off down the main street and made the most of our day having no idea what to do or where to go.
We started by visiting, Mokuaikaua Church, Hawaii’s first church. This was a random stumble-upon just off the main road, but when we went inside, I found all sorts of connections.
Just days before our arrival on the island, I had finished listening to an Audible book about Machu Picchu. The American explorer's father was the missionary who brought Christianity to the Hawaiian islands! I instantly recognized all of the founding missionarys' names and stories, and I couldn't believe that I knew so much of the church's history already! It was a nice and comforting way to start our wandering around the island.
We continued strolling around the town and crossed the street to Hulihe‘e Palace. The former summer home of several different royals, it is now home to several historic artifacts, but it would have cost us each $10 to tour the inside, so we just strolled around the lush gardens.
We then walked back up Ali’i Drive strolling in and out of gift shops before we decided to walk up Palani Road and have coffee from the famous Kona Coffee. We enjoyed our espresso on the balcony of the tiny shop and noticed a brewery wasn’t far away.
I love trying local beers and beverages when I travel, so when we arrived at Kona Brewery, I grabbed a flight of their various fruity beers. We enjoyed our libations from another porch to take in the salty air and sunshine.
We couldn’t stay long, since our cruise ship was departing soon, but we sipped on our beers and relished in the absence of children for our last few minutes of peace and quiet in Kona.
One of the last stops my sister and I made on our Seven Day Hawaiian Cruise was Nawiliwili, Kauai. We only had one day in Nawiliwili, so we made sure to make it memorable and pack in as much as we could.
The easiest way to get around Kauai from our boat was the Hop-On Hop-Off Bus. It’s a convenient trolley that makes 10 stops along the island.
We chose to get off at Wailua River for a boat tour of the canyon that would lead to the Fern Grotto where Elvis sang the Hawaiian Wedding Song in the movie, Blue Hawaii.
After a lovely display of Hawaiian song and dance, we got back on the boat while they continued to dance and sing. Before we knew it, we were back at the pier where we had purchased our tickets.
Smith’s Tropical Paradise was just across the parking lot, and we spent the rest of the afternoon feeding peacocks, nenes, and other little birds while walking across the magnificently kept, multi-acre park.
When the baby whom we were nannying fell asleep and we ran out of bird feed, we hopped back on the next Hop-On Hop-Off bus.
When we got on the ship, we had no time to waste before we had to get ready for the Luau dinner our host family had arranged through the ship's excursion offerings. Once dressed and ready, we exited the boat again and started toward the Kilohana Manor House.
We were greeted with leis and cocktails and were escorted on to a train for a ride around the old sugar plantation. We learned about the crops grown on site including bananas, sugar, and plantains!
After the quick ride around the property, we went inside for a tasting of the rum made on site with these ingredients.
You can check out what we tried here: Koloa Rum Company.
Now that we were all a bit buzzed, we were ready to sit down and enjoy a spectacular four-course meal. Since our party was so large, we had a private dinning area in the backyard of the property with perfect views of the sunset and our own private hula dancer!!
We were served platter after platter of rice, fruit, a variety of local fish, poi, and, of course, fried plantains for dessert.
When our bellies were full and the Luau was ready to start, we headed into the main dining hall to be seated for the show.
This performance was anything but traditional. Instead, it was an incredibly unique, Cirque Du Soleil inspired, contemporary luau that told a story of love and loss.
There were bright lights and other modern aspects on top of the traditional outfits, dance moves, and songs.
The kids had so much fun dancing to the songs, and since we were in the front row, a few of them were asked to join the performers and show off their moves!
Such happy memories were made on this island, and it was the perfect way to wrap up our week-long cruise. From here, we got back on the ship one last time.
Nannying on a Seven Day Hawaiian Cruise
Exploring and Snorkeling on Kona
Two Days On Maui Hitting the Beaches and Hiking Haleakala Crater
I cannot believe that Haleakala National Park is not talked about more often. My sister and I had barely heard of it until a few days before we arrived. It might be because of its remote location or just because we had never planned a trip to or been to Hawaii.
I have to give a big, "Thank you!" to the family my sister and I nannied for on their Hawaii cruise for booking this excursion. Not only did my sister and I get to check a national park off our lists, the views from over 10,000 feet were unlike anything we had ever experienced. (You can read all about our week long trip in this post, here!)
The park is split into two sections: the Kipahulu District and the Summit District. We visited the latter of the two. The two districts are distinctly different from one another. The Summit District is a barren volcanic crater, while the Kipahulu District is a lush rain forest vibrant with native vegetation. After hearing about the Kipahulu District, I was upset our tour didn't take us there too!
We were constantly warned to respect and take care of the nature around us, because the area is sacred in Hawaiian culture, and we were made well aware of it. We were also heavily warned about altitude sickness, and we made several stops along our route to the summit to help us acclimate.
Our first stop was at the Park Headquarters Visitor Center. At this point, we were already over 7,000 feet above sea level and above the clouds.
Our next stop was the Kalahaku Overlook. We were getting higher above the cloudline, and at this 9,300 foot-high viewpoint, we could see the entire expanse of the island. We were also able to see into the volcanic depression for the first time.
The park's info-graphics do a wonderful job of explaining how this summit was created by layers upon layers of soil deposits that were then eroded. It also details how important the volcano was to the formation of the rest of Maui island.
Since we were chasing the sunset, we hurried and made our last stop at the summit. We had about 20 minutes until the sun set. With the remaining time, my sister and I decided to scurry up the Pa Ka’oao/White Hill Trail.
This is the highest peak of Maui, and it provided the most incredible view of the volcanic sediments below. The ripples in the loose rocks looked liked they were painted in perfect layers. It was amazing to see, but we only had a minute to view it, because the sun was setting on the other side.
We quickly made our way back down the trail and snagged an open rock to sit on for the ball drop. It didn’t take long for the orange and red hues to disappear under the white, pillowy clouds.
Once the sphere of light was down, we had to leave. The temperature drops quickly at those high altitudes, and the roads get really dangerous. They were windy and scary on the way up, and they were much worse on the way down.
We made it down the road happily and safely and were taken back to our cruise ship for the night.
We met up with the rest of our group, boasted about how great the trip was, and shared all of our incredible pictures and videos. This was just the first of many excursions on our incredible Seven Day Hawaiian Cruise!
Our first stop on the seven-day Hawaiian cruise was the port city of Kahului, Maui. We stayed in this luxurious beachfront city for two days and one night. The boat docked first thing in the morning, and we were up bright and early to babysit and watch a stunning sunrise over the hazy mountains nearby.
We had a full day of watching kids ahead of us, but thanks to the family we were nannying for, we had an excursion booked for that evening. The guided tour up to Haleakala National Park to see the volcanic erosion and watch the sun set above the clouds had been booked through Norwegian Cruise Lines.
We hopped on a tour bus just outside the cruise’s security checks and started our journey out of town and into the mountains. We got an incredible tour of the town of Maui as we were driving up the mountain. Our guide pointed out different landmarks, houses, and plant life as we passed along the way.
We made several stops as we progressed up the slope to become acclimated to the altitude, and our first stop was 7,000 feet above sea level. We continued up to the top getting higher and higher above the clouds. It was such an unbelievable feeling to see clouds from above while walking around the volcanic crater.
Once the sun set, we had to leave quickly. The temperature dropped drastically, and the long, windy road down was already difficult enough in a tour van, and the creeping darkness made it even more difficult.
The next morning, we woke up early again. This time, we were on our way to see the famous Maui beaches. We took another previously booked tour bus to Wailea Beach. Our group of 14 claimed beach chairs and umbrellas so that we each had to a place to sit. There was also enough room to lay out towels for the children.
We spent the entire day playing frisbee, making sand mermaids out of each other, and relaxing. We thought about renting kayaks or even taking a banana boat, but we decided to stay and wander up and down the beach instead. It was so nice to spend the day together enjoying the wonderful, sandy beaches of Maui.
We eventually had to pack up and take the bus back to the cruise ship, but we were lucky to have the children with us. They were looking behind us and saw that a humpback whale was breaching! Even though we never saw a full tail come up, it was so cool to see even part of a whale in its natural habitat.
I did not know this until we arrived, but Maui is the breeding ground for a majority of the world’s humpback population during the winter months! It seemed like everywhere we went there was so much to see and learn on this wonderful Hawaiian Island.
This is by no means a “what to do in Honolulu” blog post. Unfortunately, we were only able to spend a few short hours in this bustling, oceanfront city. Even if you combine our two stops in Honolulu, we spent less than 24 hours on the island.
In that short amount of time, we did some incredible things before boarding The Pride of America cruise ship and after leaving it for the final time.
Porting in Honolulu, O'ahu, Hawaii
We stayed at the Hilton Hawaiian Village – Waikiki Beach Resort after enduring the flight from Dallas Fort Worth to Honolulu. The resort hotel was unlike anything we expected. There are five towers with over 10 floors each. We were welcomed by a lobby full of hundreds of people waiting to check in, eat at the al fresca restaurant, hit the beach, or dip into one of many pools.
When the sun went down, we began to take a stroll around the beach when we discovered there would be a fireworks show that night and rerouted our trip to make sure we could get back in time to watch.
We walked down the beach and stopped by the local food stand Sun’s Up near a rocky pier. We ordered some Samoan-inspired rice and noodle dishes and ate them on the rocky shore patiently waiting for the fireworks display. We finished our meals before the show started, so we went back and ordered some Dole Whips for dessert. It was the perfect sweet treat to accompany the upcoming light show.
We ooh'ed and ah'ed at the booming display till the end before meandering back to the hotel to call it a night.
The next morning, we woke up around 5 a.m. to catch the sunrise atop Diamond Head Crater. It’s a short trip to the top of the summit (only about .8 miles), but we didn’t quite make it to the top of the crater by sunrise.
Instead, we had a great viewpoint about halfway up the trail. The sun continued to rise over the choppy water as we made the rest of the ascent. When we got to the top, it was a bit crowded, but we enjoyed the panoramic views for as long as we could. Read more about our hike here!
After the same trip back down the mountain, we continued walking out of the park to a local farmers market at Kapi’olani Community College. We walked around the tents eyeing different meats, tropical fruits, and drinks.
We first chose to get specialty drinks out of fresh pineapples. I had regular pineapple juice while my sister had a pina colada. We then picked up a pack of empanadas and sat on the curb to enjoy the chicken and steak combinations we had chosen.
After our breakfast, we called an Uber to take us back to the hotel so we could really start our vacation. This morning to ourselves was a perfect tease of what was to come: unbelievable natural wonders, good weather, and even better food!
My sister and I's week-long cruise was nothing short of a Hawaiian Islands tour. We stopped in Maui, Kona, Nawilwili, Kauai, and passed by the Nepali Coast on Norwegian Cruise line's Pride of America. I've written about most everything we did, and you can find it all on the Hawaii page.
Porting back in Honolulu
After our cruise around the Hawaiian islands ended, we ported back in Honolulu and started our journey home. We had arranged a bus to take us from the dock to the airport where we were able to check in for our flight later that afternoon.
We had several hours to spare, so my sister and I broke off from the group and went to the Pearl Harbor National Monument.
The memorial itself is a beautiful tribute to those who served and fought for their nation not only in Pearl Harbor but all around the world during World War II. Standing on the shores, where hundreds of soldiers fought and died alongside their shipmates, was one of the most humbling experiences I'd had.
We spent as long as we could at the memorial before we needed to head back to the airport and catch our flight home. After a week on some of the planets most beautiful islands, our trip to Pearl Harbor reminded us of the reality we were heading back to.
Although a few hours on Oahu would never be enough, we managed to see and do as much as we could. We are forever thankful for the family who brought us along to help with their Hawaiian vacation. We couldn't have gone to any of Hawaii's incredible places if it weren't for them.
Seven Day Cruise Around Hawaii's Islands
Hiking Diamond Head Crater at Sunrise - Honolulu, Hawaii
Pearl Harbor National Monument
My sister and I had limited time in Honolulu before we boarded our cruise ship for a week long sail across the Hawaiian Islands. We made the most of our time with an early morning start. I am so glad we pushed through the jet lag and woke up early enough to complete this sunrise hike up one of Hawaii’s volcanic craters Diamond Head.
We left The Hilton Hawaiian Village – Waikiki Beach Resort around 6 a.m. and arrived at the trailhead after paying a $2 entrance fee thirty minutes later. The light was starting to break a little, and we realized we weren’t going to make it up the very steep, almost mile long trail before the sun rose.
The entire stretch of Oahu's coastline, from Waikiki to Koko Head, is visible from the fire control station. Being that high above the city of Honolulu made me realize that it's bigger than I had thought. The city sprawls across the mountain ranges and stretches clear across the island.
We stayed on top as long as we could before realizing we needed to head back down into the concrete jungle. We quickly descended the same path not stopping to take nearly as many pictures.
We made it to the parking a few minutes later. We were both happy and energized for the rest of the day and week from catching the sunrise on this hike.
Talkin' 'bout Tacos:
I'm Taylor, aka Tacos! I am sharing my journeys and experiences from across the world hoping to inspire travel and adventure in all who read!