The Four Major Islands
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.
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,
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.
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.
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.