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The Four Major Islands

Hawaii, USA

Cruises to Hawaii tend to focus solely on the islands of the group, because they’re so remote – you couldn’t team this one up with a cruise down the Alaskan coast. These days virtually no cruises depart from the west coast of the US mainland and travel the several thousand miles to the islands – such a trip would entail more than a week at sea. For the most part if you’re cruising in the area you’ll fly out to Honolulu and fly back from there, too.

Beautiful Hawaiian Coast There are, as the title of this article suggests, several islands in the Hawaii group, though cruise lines tend to concentrate on just four of them. If you’ve flown out you’ll start your cruise on Oahu, which is the most densely populated of the group and contains the state capital, Honolulu, and the main airport. If you like dining out and shopping in a chic tropical atmosphere, Honolulu is the place for you. It has a relaxed air, and although it’s a place mostly dedicated to servicing the tourist industry, it hasn’t suffered as much as some similar towns in continental America, notably in southern Florida. You can still have a good time in parts of Honolulu and imagine that you’re in a completely foreign country – which, to an extent, Hawaii is.

Hawaii Sunset Honolulu also has the distinction of being the largest city in the world. Before you start rushing to find statistics about Mexico City, it should be said that this claim to fame can only be made on paper. Honolulu is only the world’s largest city in the sense that it has longer legal borders than any other settlement. According to the state of Hawaii’s constitution any island that is not named as belonging to a county belongs to Honolulu. This makes all the islands within the Hawaiian Archipelago - which stretches all the way to Midway Island (1,500 miles northwest of Hawaii) - part of Honolulu city itself. Therefore the official borders of Honolulu are about 1,500 miles long – greater than half the distance across the forty-eight continental states. Don’t worry: you don’t have to walk around them all!

The islands retain their own distinct culture and ambience as well as native languages. Hawaii hasn’t been part of the US for that long – although there have been US Naval Bases here for years the islands were only granted state status in 1959, and, although local culture is highly Americanized, indigenous traditions remain strong.

After Oahu, the first stop on your ship’s itinerary will likely be Maui. This island has a much more untamed atmosphere than its more populous neighbor: it’s a place of deserted beaches and lush rainforest. If you’re feeling like a little more exercise than is afforded by lounging on the beach or the sun deck of your cruise ship you might consider the hike up Haleakala – the largest dormant volcano in the world. ‘Dormant’, by the way, means it’s not going to go bang the moment you step foot on the summit. Although there is quite a bit of volcanic activity in the state, you won’t come across much on this particular hill.

Kauai SunriseKauai, which has been nicknamed ‘the Garden Island’ is even more thinly populated than Maui. It’s a great place for waterspouts, and very many cruise ships organize windsurfing, snorkeling or sea kayaking expeditions on this leg of the journey. Those whose idea of a good time is more tied to the luxuries of super soft beach towels and swim-up bars might possibly be happier staying aboard and working on their tans. Those who do venture ashore will not take long to understand why Jurassic Park was shot here – the place is the very definition of a primeval forest.

Hawaian Beach The island of Hawaii itself is often confused with Oahu by outsiders. When you’re in the city of Honolulu you’re in Hawaii (the state) but not on it (the island). Although it’s by far the largest island of the whole group – having more than twice the area of all the others combined – it’s relatively inhospitable to large-scale human habitation. Oahu has claimed prize spot as the most important island as far as people are concerned because of its geological stability. The Big Island (as Hawaii island is usually known, to avoid confusion) has not been called the ‘Iceland of the South’ for no reason, though – it’s covered in faults, hot springs, wild jungles and unstable lava flows. Although it’s not an ideal spot for a city, It’s a great place for exploration and fun and games – once again, most lines will have a range of activities organized for cruisers here.

A thorough cruise around Hawaii – which from end to end is the biggest state by miles – can be as long as the longest European or Caribbean cruise. The four major islands present as much variety, in their own way, as all of the cultures of the Mediterranean or all the beaches of the Windward Isles.

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