Hawaiian Turtle in water

Set Sail in Hawaii

One of the toughest things about planning a trip to Hawaii is deciding where to visit. Flights between the islands can get pricey and eat up valuable vacation time. So how do you cover a lot of ground without coming home feeling like you need a vacation? Small ship cruising has a huge advantage when it comes to travel because you can unpack once and wake up just about every morning in a new spot.

Hawaiian Turtle in water

Swim with the Fishes

The Hawaiian Island chain forms the largest marine sanctuary in the world. So being on and in the water is a natural fit. It’s even better if you can dive in at a spot where the people don’t outnumber the fish and this is where Un-Cruise Adventures shines. All those island nooks and crannies make for secluded locations folks on land simply can’t get to. The Safari Explorer only carries a maximum of 36 guests and they take care of everything, from snorkel gear and towels to great guides in the water pointing out fish you might miss on your own. In the week I spent onboard, we snorkeled off Maui, the Big Island and Lanai.

Manta Rays in Hawaii

Mingle with Mantas

All of the excursions, food and alcohol throughout the week are included in cost when you book your trip, so there’s no worrying about budgeting when you’re at sea. Some of those excursions are once in a lifetime opportunities like a night snorkel with manta rays. With wing spans that can reach more than 20 feet across, being in the water with them is something you won’t soon forget.

Manta rays are known to frequent a couple locations off the Big Island, one of which is just off shore of the Kona International Airport. The light from the airport attracts manta rays favorite food – plankton. Add in divers and snorkelers that bring in even more light and dinner is served on a nightly basis.

Everyone comes together with their lights in one location. Divers sink to the bottom about 35 feet, snorkelers stay at the surface and the manta rays cruise around eating.

They are sometimes called devilfish because the lobes attached to each side of their mouths look like horns. And when they swim toward you, it might appear as if they want to eat you, but they’re harmless to humans.

Whale watching season in Hawaii

Whale Watching

During whale season any visitor to Maui can jump on a boat and go whale watching with very little effort. There are countless boats, running tours almost every hour to watch humpback whales. One evening when the Safari Explorer was anchored not too far from Lahaina, I jumped out of bed because I could hear the spouting and sure enough there were two humpback whales jumping in the waves.

It doesn’t take long for passengers to get spoiled by the common sightings of their ocean neighbors. You could be headed to a snorkeling spot in one of the Explorer’s skiffs, launching a kayak or going paddle boarding and a whale will pop up and make a splash.

The itineraries are more guidelines. Because the ship doesn’t have to dock in a port at a certain time, everything is flexible, so travelers can get the most out of wildlife encounters.

Kayaking in Hawaii

Land Ho

You will make landfall, and you’ll get to see some of the big name locales like Maui’s Lahaina, but again it’s the rarely visited locations like Molokai that seem to stand out. Tourism is almost non-existent here. The island is simple, with no frills. But it does have the Halawa (Ha-lava) Valley. Home to the first Polynesians to live on Molokai. Tsunamis in 1946 and 1957 caused most to leave, but there is one family that still lives off the land growing Taro (tair-oh), using water from streams and still adheres to traditional cultural practices.

The price of Un-Cruise Adventure weeklong sailings range from $3,600 to $7,900 depending on the week and the type of room you choose. That includes everything except gratuities for the dozen or so crew.

Dana was a guest of Un-Cruise Adventures, but as always her thoughts and opinions are her own.

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