Monday, October 31, 2011

Cruising to Hawaii with a Stop at the Big Island

"A cruise to the Hawaiian Islands is a cruise to an enchanted land, especially the Island of Hawaii, itself. To avoid confusion with the name of the entire state, the Island of Hawaii is often called the “Big Island,” and what an appropriate name it is. Nearly twice as big as all of the other Hawaiian Islands combined, cruise ships usually make two stops here; one at Hilo on the east side, and then another in Kona on the west side. The cultural and geographical diversity of the island offers so much to see and do.  Here are my favorites!

One of the most magnificent national parks in the USA, Volcanoes National Park boasts having 2 of the world's most active volcanoes spewing molten lava, and for that fiery sight alone, Hawaii Volcanoes is worth the trip! Hiking is challenging and it makes me think this is what it would be like walking on the moon!  You can explore Crater Rim Drive by car or tour bus with its up-close views of sulphur banks and steam vents.  Along the way be sure to stop at the Jaggar Museum with its active seismographs that record volcanic activity of the islands. You'll learn how and why volcanoes erupt, the history of Hawaii's volcanic origins and how volcanology scientists conduct their research. Another not to be missed site particularly fun for kids is a walk through the Thurston Lava Tube.

A helicopter tour is a great way to get an overview of the island, especially the most current areas of volcanic activity. From an “in the sky” perspective you can view the bright orange lava flows and maybe even catch a glimpse of the lava spewing into the ocean. I have never seen anything so amazing! You’ll also see tropical rain forests and cascading waterfalls; all while the pilot explains the history and culture of Hawaii.

Pu’uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park is a site of major cultural and historical significance. This place of refuge has served as a political and religious sanctuary since ancient times and is home to the sacred Hale o Keawe Heiau, a temple that once housed the bones of deceased chiefs. The park has two major sections, the Palace Grounds and the Pu’uhonua O Honaunau, the Place of Refuge. Separating the two areas of the park is the Great Wall. The area is easy traversed on foot and a brochure and map for a self-guided tour is available at the Visitors Center. Bring a swimsuit, as there is a lovely beach adjacent to the historic site.

The town of Kailua-Kona along Ali’i Drive is fun to explore. It is a splendid mix of wonderful shops, restaurants, sidewalk cafes, art galleries, and souvenir stands. There are many historic sites in the area as well including Hulihe'e Palace, once used by Hawaiian royalty as a vacation home, but today operated by the Daughters of Hawaii as a museum. Also Ahu'ena Heiau, a well-restored religious site that was the personal heiau of King Kamehemeha the Great. It is located on the grounds of a hotel but the public may visit the site during the day. The area is also a hub for water activities such as boating, sailing, snorkeling, scuba diving, and deep-sea fishing.

Akaka Falls is a spectacular 420 ft waterfall. Usually waterfalls this tall and gulches this steep are associated with inaccessible terrain and can be seen only on helicopter rides, however Akaka is an easy walk on a paved trail. This is by no means an all day trip.  Actually, you shouldn’t need more than an hour here.  Look for it as an attraction on a multi-stop shore excursion or stop yourself on your way to Hilo.

Regardless of how you spend your time in port while on a Hawaii cruise, you’re bound to have a great time. With most cruise lines making two stops on the Big Island you will have lots of time to pursue whatever interests you.  I hope my suggestions give you some ideas. For help booking your Hawaii cruise call us at Direct Line Cruises or visit"

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