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With near-perfect weather all year round, emerald mountains, and world-famous beaches, Hawaii is one of the top dream destinations for cruisers. But when exactly should you cruise to take full advantage of everything the Aloha State has to offer?

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: The best times to cruise to Hawaii are between mid-April and mid-June or September to mid-December to experience great weather while avoiding summer crowds and higher prices.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll go over everything you need to consider when deciding the ideal time to cruise to Hawaii, including:

Weather and Ocean Conditions in Hawaii by Season

Winter (December to February) – Whale Watching Season

The winter months in Hawaii bring cooler temperatures, more rain, and higher surf. However, this is an amazing time for whale watching, as thousands of humpback whales migrate to Hawaii’s warm waters to mate and give birth.

From December through March, there are numerous whale watching tours available to see these gentle giants up close.

Ocean conditions can be a bit rougher in Hawaii during the winter, so be prepared for higher winds and waves if planning a cruise. However, temperatures typically remain very comfortable, ranging from the mid 60s to high 70s Fahrenheit.

Spring (March to May) – Comfortable Temperatures

As spring arrives, the rain starts to subside and temperatures become nearly perfect in Hawaii, ranging from the low 70s to mid 80s Fahrenheit. The ocean calms as well, making for excellent beach weather and water activities.

Spring is one of the best times to visit Hawaii as crowds have not yet reached their summer peak. Flower blooms decorate the islands in March and April, adding vibrant color. March through May offers idyllic weather to enjoy a relaxing cruise around the islands.

Summer (June to August) – Warmer Temperatures

Summer brings hot and sunny weather to Hawaii, with very little rain. Temperatures climb to the mid 80s to around 90 degrees Fahrenheit during the day. The ocean waters reach their warmest temperatures of the year in August, averaging 79-81°F across the islands.

Hawaii’s summer is excellent for water adventures like snorkeling, surfing, paddle boarding and sailing. This is the busiest tourist season though, so expect some larger crowds. Plan port excursions in advance if taking a cruise around Hawaii in summer.

Fall (September to November) – Lower Prices and Smaller Crowds

Fall brings slightly cooler temperatures, less humidity, lower prices and smaller crowds. High temperatures drop down to the mid 80s Fahrenheit while nights can dip into the low 70s. Ocean temperatures are still very comfortable, averaging 78-80°F.

With pleasant weather and smaller crowds, fall is an excellent time to find cruise deals. Hotel rates also take a dip after peak summer. September through early December tends to have clear sunny days, with a bit more rain by November and rougher ocean conditions in December.

Major Hawaii Events and Festivals by Month

January – Whale Watching and Chinese New Year

January is prime whale watching season in Hawaii as thousands of gentle giant humpback whales migrate from Alaska to breed and birth their young in Hawaii’s warm, protected waters. Amazing whale watching tours can be taken off Maui, Kauai, Oahu and Hawaii Island.

January also hosts colorful Chinese New Year festivals across the islands with fireworks, parades, and cultural performances.

March – Honolulu Festival and Maui Whale Festival

In March, Oahu hosts the annual Honolulu Festival, a three-day cultural event celebrating the diversity of Asia and the Pacific through concerts, parades, and exhibits. Also in March is the Maui Whale Festival, an event to raise awareness about protecting Hawaii’s humpback whales with educational talks, cruises, and volunteer opportunities.

April – Merrie Monarch Hula Festival

April attracts visitors from all over to the world-renowned Merrie Monarch Hula Festival on Hawaii Island. This spectacular week-long event showcases ancient and modern styles of hula during colorful competitions between Hawaiian dance troupes.

Called the “Olympics of Hula,” it is a can’t-miss cultural event.

June to August – Summer Vacation Crowds

Summers are crowded in Hawaii as mainland families flock to the islands to enjoy summer vacation. Hotel rates and airfares peak during this high season. However, there’s ample natural scenery, adventures, and culture to be found across Hawaii if you don’t mind lively crowds.

Travelers on a budget may get better rates in the quieter shoulder seasons before and after summer.

September – Aloha Festivals

September hosts the Aloha Festivals, a popular statewide series of parades and celebrations for over a month showcasing Hawaiian music, dance and history. It’s a fantastic time to experience authentic Hawaiian culture as locals share the aloha spirit with visitors during these family-friendly events.

Cruise Prices and Deals for Hawaii Sailings

Cheapest Cruises: Early Spring and Fall

If you’re looking for the most affordable fares on Hawaii cruises, the best time to sail is during the shoulder seasons of early spring (March-April) and fall (September-October). During these periods, cruise lines lower prices to attract passengers when demand is slower between peak winter and summer dates.

For example, 7-night Hawaii cruises in April can average around 20-30% cheaper than the same July sailings. Early spring brings fewer crowds, pleasant weather in the mid 70s Fahrenheit, with occasional rain showers.

The fall features ideal conditions in the low 80s and cheaper everything on the islands as the kids return to school. Websites like CruiseLine regularly publish Hawaii cruise deals with big red “Sale” tags highlighting the deepest discounts in spring and fall.

According to the 2022 Hawaii Tourism Report, over 500,000 visitors sailed to the Hawaiian Islands between September 2021 to October 2021. This time window just narrowly beat out the following March-April period by around 12,000 passengers.

So while more total travelers opt for fall Hawaii cruises, the capacity/demand dynamics point to spring providing the best opportunity for finding last minute deals and upgrades. The online travel agency Expedia’s 2022 Hawaii Cruise Insights survey similarly found average spring prices dipping to 15-25% lower than fall.

For penny pinchers on a strict budget, aim for one of the excellent value Carnival, Norwegian Cruise Line or Princess ships making the rounds through Hawaii in April. You’ll enjoy all the sun, fun and island adventures for literally hundreds less than visitors just a few months later!

Best Last Minute Deals: December and January

Contrary to the common assumption of highest winter holiday demand, travel websites actually report some of the top last minute deals on Hawaii cruises pop up in December and January. With kids in school and many families preferring warm weather destinations like Mexico or the Caribbean over chillier Pacific crossings this time of year, Hawaii sailings frequently have more room for flexibility on pricing.

According to 2022-2023 Hawaii cruise trends analyzed by USA Today, the weeks between Christmas and New Year’s will offer the most last minute specials. Websites like VacationsToGo currently list weekday Hawaii cruises in late December upwards of $300 cheaper than February rates.

Cruise lines also leverage special promotions like “Kids Sail Free” and other giveaways to incentivize booking decisions over the December/January period. And while March, April and October cruises may still beat them on overall affordability, those dead set on a winter getaway to escape the cold will find some relative bargains over the hectic Thanksgiving-to-Christmas rush.

Norwegian’s Pride of America ship offers an itinerary that’s essentially a “Best of Hawaii” land tour, but at a fraction of the price with meals and lodging included. Check cruise deal sites over the next month for Hawaii sailings to ring in 2023 right with rum drinks on the promenade deck as you slide pastDiamond Head and iconic Waikiki!

Best Cruise Lines and Ships for Hawaii

NCL Pride of America – Hawaii Itineraries

The Norwegian Cruise Line’s Pride of America is the only large cruise ship that sails year-round Hawaiian itineraries inter-island. With seven-night sailings that depart from Honolulu, passengers can island-hop and visit popular destinations like Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island without having to switch ships.

The Pride of America stands out for its flexibility and convenience. The ship’s 2,186 passengers can choose shore excursions on every island or simply relax on board while cruising between destinations.

Family-friendly amenities like multiple swimming pools, hot tubs, bars, and the Cadillac Diner offer something for travelers of all ages.

According to the latest cruise reviews, the Pride of America receives high praise for its Hawaiian itineraries, friendly service, entertainment options, and diverse onboard dining. With departures available on Saturdays year-round, cruisers can easily find a sailing date that fits their schedule.

Carnival Cruises – Family Friendly

When it comes to family-friendly ships sailing to Hawaii, Carnival Cruise Line’s Fun Ships lead the way. Both the Carnival Miracle and Carnival Paradise offer affordable and casual Hawaiian cruise vacations from the West Coast designed with families in mind.

These ships feature Hawaiian cruise itineraries ranging from 9 to 15 nights with stops at popular destinations like Oahu, Maui, Kauai, and the Big Island. On sea days, families can enjoy Carnival’s signature branded activities like Hasbro Game Shows, Seuss at Sea, IMAX Movies, WaterWorks Aqua Parks, and more.

Carnival’s youth programs offer supervised age-appropriate activities and camps for kids while parents enjoy adult-only areas.

According to recent passenger surveys, Carnival Cruises to Hawaii receive top marks for entertainment, service, and family offerings. With frequent sailings from homeports like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Vancouver, Carnival ships provide a convenient and budget-friendly way for families to experience cruising to Hawaii and the islands.

Holland America – Luxury Hawaii Sailings

For travelers seeking a more upscale cruise to the Hawaiian Islands, Holland America Line’s fleet of premium ships offers unparalleled luxury and service. The line’s two largest vessels sailing Hawaiian itineraries are the 2,650-passenger Eurodam and the 2.104-passenger Zuiderdam.

While onboard, cruisers can relax at the Greenhouse Spa & Salon, enjoy cooking demonstrations at America’s Test Kitchen, and take part in engaging enrichment activities. Shore excursions like snorkeling, sightseeing tours, and luau dinner shows provide immersive cultural experiences at each island stop.

Alaska cruise passengers consistently rate Holland America’s Hawaiian sailings highly for the exceptional dining, friendly service, and beautiful public spaces that showcase Holland’s Dutch heritage.

With roundtrip cruises from Vancouver, San Diego and San Francisco ranging from 14 to 18 days, Holland America Line represents the ultimate way to experience Hawaii in luxury. The line’s partnership with O.Life by Orient Express even allows travelers to extend their vacation with a 3-night stay at sea-to-sky Kapalua Bay Villa on Maui.

Cruise Line Best For Number of Hawaii Sailings Per Year
Norwegian (Pride of America) Inter-island hopping Approx. 150
Carnival Families Approx. 90
Holland America Luxury Approx. 45


While there’s really no bad time for a Hawaii cruise with the state’s year-round tropical climate, the best times balance ideal weather, fewer crowds, lower prices, and special seasonal events. For most cruisers, late spring and early fall provide this perfect combination.

By planning your cruise during the shoulder seasons of April-May or September-November, you’ll enjoy warm sunshine without intense summer heat or humidity, smaller crowds, and potential deals on cruise fares.

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