Skip to Content

Aloha! Best Hawaii Cruises for Families

Whale watching. Festive luaus with hula dancers. Drool-worthy shopping at Waikiki.

And an incredible live volcano.

Say aloha to Hawaii!

Hawaii Family Cruises

More cosmopolitan and developed than Fiji and French Polynesia, the Hawaiian islands have something for everyone. 

There are lots of fun things for kids to do too. (So Hawaii is a better option for a family cruise, than say cruising French Polynesia.)

Indeed, Hawaii family cruises are a great way for families to explore the Hawaiian islands – and have a fabulous family vacation too!

Hawaii Cruises for Families
A Carnival cruise ship off the Hawaiian island of Kauai

Hawaii family cruises

It’s always fun to watch Hawaiian hula dancers

Hello Oahu!

Hawaiian island cruises often start or end in Honolulu, the state capital on Oahu.

Pearl Harbor:

The top attraction in Honolulu – and most poignant – is Pearl Harbor, where a film shows the 1941 attack and a boat trip takes you to the wreck of the USS Arizona battleship.

On your Hawaii family cruise, you’ll no doubt see a shore excursion that takes you to Pearl Harbor.

Surfing in Waikiki:

Who wants to learn how to surf?

Fancy catching a wave instead?

Ever since Duke Kahanamoku and fellow “Waikiki Beach Boys” introduced surfing to the world in the 1920’s, Waikiki Beach has been known as one of the best spots in Hawaii to learn to surf.


Or you could surf the stores at Ala Moana, the world’s largest outdoor shopping center.

Polynesian Cultural Center:

Polynesian Cultural Center
How do they do those fire dances? (Credit: Polynesian Cultural Center)

And let’s not forget the Polynesian Cultural Center.

This Polynesian-themed living museum in northern Oahu offers fire and war dances, spear throwing activities, canoe rides and many more experiences.

In fact, because there are so many kid-friendly things to do in Honolulu and beyond, Oahu is perhaps the best Hawaiian island for families.

What’s sweet and healthy to eat on your Hawaii cruise? The pineapples, mangos, lilikoi and other Hawaiian fruit!

Visiting the garden island of Kauai on a cruise

Hawaii cruises for families
Kauai is known as the “garden island” (Credit: Kauai Visitors Bureau)

Blooming with bougainvillea and bird-of-paradise flowers, Kauai is nicknamed the “garden isle.”

There are many great things to do in Kauai on a cruise.

For one, Kauai is the place for a helicopter ride over jungle scenery where King Kong and Jurassic Park were filmed (choose a “no doors” chopper for great pics).

Wandering around the Allerton and McBryde Gardens is also a delightful way to spend a few hours on the island.

Or maybe you and the kids just want to hit the beach? Kalapaki Beach – one of the best Kauai beaches for swimming – is just a short walk from Nawiliwili Harbor, where cruise ships dock.

What to do in Maui on a cruise

Bottoms up! Whale watching is popular on Maui
Bottoms up! Whale watching is popular on Maui

If you’re wondering what shore excursions to do in Maui vs Kauai – and you love whales – be sure to set aside Maui for whale watching. It’s the best Hawaiian island for viewing whales.

In winter, thousands of humpbacks migrate from Alaska to Maui to mate and give birth.

You’re pretty well guaranteed to see them on a whale watching tour – they may even breach just feet away from you! Some boats have hydrophones so you can listen to their whale songs too.

Where else to go whale watching? There’s also epic whale watching in Cabo San Lucas from December to March

Hot stuff on the Big Island of Hawaii

Walking through the Thurston lava tube in Volcanoes National Park feels like you're inside the belly of a prehistoric monster
Walking through the Thurston lava tube in Volcanoes National Park feels like you’re inside the belly of a prehistoric monster

When your Hawaii cruise hits the Big Island of Hawaii, you must visit Volcanoes National Park.

Standing at the rim of the Kilauea Caldera, you inevitably see clouds of smoke and steam spewing out of the enormous (over two miles in diameter) grey-black depression.

After sunset, a vivid red glow illuminates the plume billowing into the night sky.

The moon-like landscape is constantly changing because the volcano is active, so you might even see red lava flowing when you visit.

Kids (and adults) also like walking through the cool dark tunnel of the Thurston Lava Tube – it feels like you’re inside the belly of some giant prehistoric monster.

Best Hawaii cruises for families

The Hawaiian islands also have dream courses for golfers (the PGA and LPGA host many events here), Hawaiian luaus (try the pit-roasted suckling) and beaches galore.

You won’t run out of things to do for you or the kids!

Hawaii cruises for families
A dream beach, right? (Credit: Visit Maui)

Cruises to Hawaii typically sail from Vancouver, Seattle or San Diego. Some Hawaii cruises sail round-trip from Honolulu.

Family-friendly cruises in Hawaii are offered on these cruise lines:

Enjoy your Hawaii family cruise!

Interested in a Hawaii adventure cruise? Discover hidden Hawaii on an UnCruise Hawaii trip (you get to snorkel with manta rays!)

More cruising inspiration!

Read our posts on:

Fiji cruising | Snorkeling. Drinking kava with village chiefs. Sunning on secluded beaches. You’re cruising Fiji and the Fijian islands!

River cruises | Say hello to the world’s best river cruises.

Gratuities | What’s the deal with gratuities on a cruise? How much should you tip?

Photo credits: 2, 6 © Janice and George Mucalov, SandInMySuitcase 

About the authors

Luxury travel journalists and SATW, NATJA and TMAC “Best Travel Blog” award winners, Janice and George Mucalov are the publishers of Sand In My Suitcase. Between them, they’ve traveled to all 7 continents. See About.

Find destination guides, global food-and-wine stories, luxury hotel reviews, articles on cultural explorations and soft adventure trips, cruise reviews, insanely useful travel tips and more!


Friday 12th of December 2014

Our first cruise as a family of four was an 11-day cruise on NCL sailing the Hawaiian Islands with a stop in Kiribati. They don't have that itinerary anymore. But, the cruise was a great sampler of the islands. It gave us an idea of which ones to return to for an extended land vacation. There really is something for everyone around the islands.

Janice and George

Friday 12th of December 2014

Kiribati? We had to Google that - a Pacific island nation of 32 atolls. That Hawaiian itinerary with a stop in Kiribati sounds like it would have been very interesting...

Irene S. Levine

Monday 8th of December 2014

Good timing on the heels of Pearl Harbor Day. Your pictures show the unique beauty of Hawaii!


Monday 8th of December 2014 is really high on the wishlist - but so far from home here in London! One of the things that has always appealed to me about Hawaii is that unlike many other beautiful beach locations in the world, the natural beauty, volcanic landscapes, places to hike etc mean that, like you say, there is something for everyone around there. All looks beautiful :)

Janice and George

Monday 8th of December 2014

So true. If you want to just chill on a beach, that's available, but you can also do so many other things from golf to whale watching to volcano exploration. Each island has its own unique character too. That's why cruising is a good option for first-time visitors - you get a taste of each island.