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It’s true – Hawaii is beautiful any time of the year. The breathtaking landscape, sun-soaked beaches, and lively culture make it an excellent destination for travelers. But if you’re planning a cruise to the islands, there is the best time to cruise Hawaii.
The best time to cruise Hawaii is the shoulder season of September and October. September has the nicest weather and the fewest crowds. October is also a good time to visit, although the ocean can be more unpredictable with rougher surf for snorkeling or swimming.
Read on for more details, including the best Hawaii cruise deals, to decide on the best time to cruise Hawaii for your schedule!
Knowing when to go for cheap deals, fewer crowds, and endless days of sunshine can greatly enhance your Hawaii cruise experience. On top of that, there are only a few months out of the year when cruise ships cross the Pacific, so it’s important to plan ahead if you want to book a trip to Hawaii.
If you want to make the most of your vacation to paradise, then you’re in the right spot! We’ll share the best time to cruise Hawaii and what you can expect during your trip.
Looking for more great Hawaii cruise resources?
Learn about all of Hawaii’s cruise ports so you know what to expect at each stop.
Check out the best shore excursions on each island to make the most of your limited time on land:
– 14 Incredible Honolulu Shore Excursions (cruise ship ready)
– Can’t Miss Big Island Shore Excursions for Your Hawaii Cruise
– Best Maui Shore Excursions
– 11 Incredible Kauai Shore Excursions
For even more shore excursions, the low down on transportation, the best restaurants, self-guided excursion days, and more grab the Cruising Hawaii Guide.
When Cruises Sail to Hawaii
Tropical voyages to Hawaii are only available at certain times of the year (except for one cruise line). We have no affiliation with the below cruise lines.
Norwegian Cruise Line
There is currently only one company that offers year-round cruises to Hawaii – Norwegian Cruise Line. NCL’s Pride of America travels to four different Hawaiian Islands in just seven days, never leaving the state. Starting on Oahu, you’ll also visit Maui, the Big Island, and Kauai.
The Pride of America is a great option for two reasons. Not only do you get to see a lot in a short amount of time (leaving from Oahu means you won’t have to waste time sailing the Pacific from the mainland), but you also have more flexibility in terms of dates. It sets sail every Saturday throughout the year, so you can pick a date that fits your schedule.
On top of that, the ship docks overnight at Maui and Kauai’s ports. That means you can take advantage of early morning or evening shore excursions, which you wouldn’t be able to do on other ships.
Leaving and returning from San Diego, Holland America’s Hawaii cruise makes an epic journey across the Pacific for this Hawaiian cruise. There’s a total of 10 days at sea (5 days each way), which might not be everyone’s cup of tea.
Once you do arrive in Hawaii, you’ll be visiting Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island. There is one overnight stop in Honolulu, which is great if you want to see a luau or book an early morning excursion. There’s also a pit stop in Ensenada, Mexico, on the way back to San Diego, so don’t forget your passport!
Holland America has two ships for this cruise (the Koningsdam and Volendam), with departures in January, April, and November.
Celebrity Cruise Line
When you book a trip with Celebrity Cruise’s Hawaii Cruise, you’ll have six different itineraries to choose from.
Trips are between 9 and 11 days and are scheduled to visit Oahu, the Big Island, and Maui (unfortunately, they do not offer a Kauai stopover). All cruises either start or end in Vancouver, BC, meaning roughly half your trip is spent at sea, while the other days can be used for excursions.
Because these one-way sailings are to reposition the ship, dates are limited to April, May, or September. Passports are also required, as you’ll be leaving or entering Canada!
Similar to Celebrity Cruise, Royal Caribbean’s Hawaii Cruise also has multiple one-way journeys to and from Vancouver for those interested in visiting the Hawaiian Islands. Based on the Alaska cruise season, each of the 8 Hawaiian itineraries is only available once a year in April, May, September, or October.
Depending on how many days you’re on the boat (they offer anywhere from 8 to 13-night cruises), you’ll be visiting two, three, or four islands.
Princess Cruise Line
Princess Cruise Lines has over a dozen cruises that visit the Hawaiian Islands. However, only a couple of them are Hawaii-focused. Many others depart from the mainland and make stops along the coast before ending in Honolulu.
If you want to see more than one island during your trip, we recommend one of their 15- or 16-day Hawaiian cruises. With multiple departure ports (Vancouver, BC, Seattle, San Francisco, or Los Angeles) and travel dates from December to April, there are plenty of options to choose from.
Carnival Cruise Line
If you have more than two weeks to spare, you can book your trip with Carnival Cruise Line Hawaii Cruise. They have a handful of 14 and 15-day cruises leaving from the west coast. You’ll arrive in the Hawaiian islands on day 6, with ample time on Maui, Oahu, Kauai, and the Big Island.
There are quite a few dates to choose from between September and April.
The Best Months to Cruise to Hawaii
When deciding when to go on your cruise, there are many factors to take into account. We like to go by the three Cs – clouds, crowds, and cost – to determine the best time to go to Hawaii. Hawaii has spring and fall shoulder seasons. These are the low season for visitors so you can find the best deals here, especially last-minute deals as the cruise line tries to fill cabins.
Using that information, we consider the shoulder season the best time to cruise Hawaii. Specifically September and October. September has the nicest weather and the fewest crowds, so you’ll be able to enjoy your time on land to the fullest. October is also a good time to visit, although the waters can be rougher and not as good for snorkeling or swimming.
If the autumn shoulder season doesn’t suit your schedule, then going in spring in April and May shoulder season can also be a good choice. Not only is the weather still warm, but it’s also way less crowded (and therefore less expensive) compared to the busy summer months.
The Cheapest Time to Cruise to Hawaii
Hawaii is not a budget destination, especially if you’re going on a Hawaiian cruise. However, the time of year you travel can influence how much money you spend on vacation.
If you’re looking for a few more ways to save, check out how we book our Hawaii travel for tips that work no matter how you get around the islands.
The exact cost of your cruise will depend on the cruise line, length of trip, and room category. But generally speaking, the cheapest Hawaiian cruises are usually during the shoulder season.
Because of school breaks and Christmas holidays, cruise prices are at their peak. However, you can find some good deals between Thanksgiving and Christmas, as the demand for travel isn’t as high. You may also want to avoid traveling during school spring break, which can fall somewhere between March and April.
If you’re flying to Hawaii for your cruise we break down Hawaii travel costs so you can get a full picture of your trip expenses aside from the cruise itself.
Rental Car Costs
Booking a rental car can be a great way to explore the island during your stopover. They are cheaper than relying on taxis and Uber and provide flexibility to see sights and attractions at your own pace. See our discount car rental information here.
While a rental car may not be the biggest expense on your trip, prices can still fluctuate throughout the year. Daily rates are their most expensive in summer due to the high number of tourists on the islands. Therefore, the shoulder season is a good time to travel if you want to save on costs for a rental.
Not sure where to rent a car? Our Cruising Hawaii Guide has insider tips on the best transportation deals (along with lots of other info about what to see during your visit).
Shore Excursions Costs
Unlike other experiences on your vacation, the cost of booking a shore excursion at a port of call does not change throughout the year. These prices are fixed. Although booking directly with a tour operator can be cheaper than those offered by the cruise line, you can still expect to pay the same amount no matter when you go.
It might be unusual to discuss hotel costs when talking about a cruise. If you’re sleeping on the ship, why do you need to book a hotel? However, it is worth noting that many Hawaiian cruises (like NCL and Holland America) dock overnight at specific ports, giving passengers the opportunity to spend the night on land if they so desire.
There are so many accommodation options to choose from in Hawaii. From 5-star resorts on the beach to cozy vacation rentals in local towns, you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to finding a place.
Of course, the type of place you stay in will impact how much you spend for an overnight stay. But you can find better deals on hotels during the shoulder season when there aren’t as many tourists on the islands.
Because hotel prices increase with demand, we don’t recommend traveling in summer or winter. Many annual travelers stay in vacation rental or timeshare properties in the winter, which drives up the prices of accommodation. Summer is also incredibly expensive, as many families come here during their school breaks.
Check out our where to stay database if you plan to stay on land during your cruise.
The Best Weather to Cruise Hawaii
Hawaii is known for having year-round sun and warm weather. But that doesn’t mean it is immune to rain showers and cooler temperatures. As with everywhere around the world, the weather does fluctuate depending on what time of year you go.
But before we dive into specifics, it’s important to know that Hawaii has two seasons – summer and winter. Summer is between May and October, and winter is from November until April. Chances are you’re traveling from somewhere with 4 seasons and more notable differences in temperature. In Hawaii, the weather is typically between 70 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit year-round.
Of course, the exact temperatures and weather conditions vary between islands and even which side of the island you’re docked on! For example, the leeward side of the islands has less rain and more sunny days compared to the windward side.
But generally speaking, you can expect at least some sort of sprinkle throughout the day during the rainy season from November to March.
See our Best Time to Visit Hawaii article for more graphs and tables full of weather data!
To help you decide when to go on your cruise, here’s an overview of the annual weather patterns at some of Hawaii’s popular ports of call:
Honolulu, Oahu: Summer temperatures are in the mid to high 80s, and winter temperatures are in the mid to high 70s. Lower rainfall compared to other cities, with occasional showers from November to March.
Kailua-Kona, Hawaii: Summer temperatures are in the mid to high 80s, and winter temperatures are in the mid to high 70s. Occasional showers from November to April, but nothing compared to Hilo (on the windward side).
Hilo, Hawaii: Summer temperatures are in the low 80s, and winter temperatures are in the mid-70s. Frequent rain showers from November to March.
Kahului, Maui: Summer temperatures are in the high 80s, and winter temperatures are in the high 70s. Some rain from November to March.
Lihue, Kauai: Summer temperatures are in the mid to high 80s, and winter temperatures are in the high 70s. Some rain from November to March.
It’s also important to know that Hawaii does have a hurricane season that lasts from the beginning of June until the end of November. However, hurricanes are rare, with only three major hurricanes causing damage to the islands in the last 40 years.
If there is a hurricane warning while you’re on your trip, there may be some disruptions or excursion cancellations. So, while it’s something to be aware of, it shouldn’t deter you from booking your cruise during this time.
Skip the Crowds When you Cruise Hawaii
It can be hard to completely avoid any crowds while you’re on a cruise. After all, you’re traveling with one or two thousand other people who are eager to get on shore! But there are certain times of the year when there are fewer tourists on land, which will make it easier and more enjoyable to explore the islands.
It’s no surprise that summer is the busiest time in Hawaii. Because of school summer break, June, July, and August can get upwards of 1 million visitors, making this one of the worst times to travel. December and March can also be crowded. This is likely due to school breaks again, as many people travel during spring break and the holiday season.
Therefore, the best time to go for small crowds is in January, February, September, and October. This is when Hawaii has the fewest amount of tourists.
Best Time to Cruise to Hawaii: Whale Season!
Every year, from November to April, thousands of humpback whales can be seen around Hawaii as they migrate from Alaska to the warmer waters of the Hawaiian islands. It is believed that anywhere from 8,000 to 12,000 whales come during this period, making it a must-see experience for cruise passengers.
For the highest chance of seeing these majestic creatures, we recommend booking your cruise from December to March. This is when the whale population is at its largest. In fact, most whale-watching tours don’t even start until mid-January, which is when the official whale count starts.
One of the best things about being on a cruise ship is that you’ll be able to see whales from practically anywhere on board! Think of the boat as your very own whale-watching tour!
If you’re planning on booking a whale-watching excursion at one of the ports, then we recommend doing so on Maui. With significantly more sightings than any other Hawaiian island, Maui is your best chance to see them up close. Most tours head to the ‘Au ‘au channel between Maui and Lana’i, Molokai, and Kaho’olawe, as the whales seem to love the warm, shallow waters here!
Oahu has the second-highest number of whales, followed by Kauai and then the Big Island. But like we said, you’ll be on a cruise ship, so it’s possible to see them swimming anywhere!
We love whale season, so we have more helpful whale-watching resources!
The Ultimate Guide to Whale Watching on Maui
This is the Best Time for Whale Watching in Hawaii (+ key tips)
In Closing: The Best Time to Cruise Hawaii
When planning your cruise to the tropical islands of Hawaii, it’s crucial to consider the timing of your voyage. September and October are our favorite months to visit, although April and May can also be good travel dates. With one cruise line going year-round and others during certain months, there’s a lot of flexibility when it comes to planning your Hawaiian adventure.
For more information on planning an island cruise, check out our Cruising Hawaii Guide for details on the best attractions, shore excursions, and even restaurants!
Get the Cruising Hawaii Guide
Booking a cruise to Hawaii is the easy part (in our opinion). The hard part is finding the best shore excursions, planning self-guided itinerary days, and how to get around the island.
You’ll get our Oahu Wayfinder Itinerary + Cruising Hawaii Guide downloads, they include 90+ shore excursion tour options, over 16 self-guided itinerary days, our favorite restaurants, and the best beaches. We want your cruise to Hawaii to be unforgettable, and stress-free.