Ports of Call Hawaiʻi, The Big Island

Kilauea crater

Hawaiʻi [The Big Island], Hawaii – It is the largest island in the Hawaiian chain and the youngest geologically. There are five volcanoes on the Big Island that include Kohala, Mauna Kea, Hualalai, Mauna Loa, and Kilauea. Three are considered active (Mauna Loa, Hualalai, and Kilauea) and the rest are considered dormant (Mauna Kea) or extinct (Kohala). Unique with 12 separate climate zones, ranging from the warmth found amid balmy coastal jungles in Puna up to the snowcapped peaks above the slopes of Mauna Kea. Beach lovers take in sunshine and sand at the five star resorts dotted along the Kona coast and for a more laid back and casual lifestyle there’s Hilo, a sleepy little city famous for its small mom-and-pop shops.

Getting Around Hawaiʻi

The public bus system on the Big Island is called the “Hele-on bus”. While it covers the whole of the island and using it is very inexpensive it is not focused on sightseeing destinations, and using the bus to get around the island can be time consuming. If you want to head out on your own the best option is a rental car.


Hawaii is the 50th State and uses the US Dollar and most credit cards are welcome and ATM machines are plentiful. Foreign travelers will need to convert currency (ATM’s are a great option)or get by with using credit cards.

Island Sights

Kahūnā Falls
Kilauea lava field

There are five significant waterfalls on the island with Kahūnā Falls located in Akaka State Park being the most popular featuring a good viewing spot only a short walk up a paved trail near the park’s parking lot.

The island is also famous as the principal location of Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Plantation which features a nice Visitor Center.

Kilauea at night

Kilauea lava flows into Pacific at night

Often cruise ships will make port calls twice on Hawaiʻi. One at Hilo and the other at Kona (Kailua-Kona). Depending on the itinerary most ships will cruise the south shore where lava from Kilauea pours constantly into the Pacific ocean. The cruises can be anywhere from early in the morning to late at night. Anytime day or night the show is spectacular with billowing clouds of steam rising above the orange hot lava as it pours into the Pacific.

Port of Call Hilo

Where Your Ship Docks

The largest city on The Big Island with docking facilities for cruise ships. Cruise ships dock at piers in Kuhio Bay on Kuhio Street about 2 miles east of downtown Hilo. Free shuttles are often provided to Walmart at Prince Kuhio Plaza Mall two miles south of the pier and the Downtown Farmer’s Market may also offer a free shuttle.


Hilo is the gateway port for visiting the Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park where the park protects some of the most unique geological, biological, and cultural landscapes in the world. The park extends from sea level to 13,677 feet. A drive from Hilo is 36 miles and by car takes only about 45 minutes.

Port of Call Kailua-Kona

Located near some great beaches and resorts Kona offers a number of attractions and some good shopping opportunities. If your looking for an opportunity to buy some necessities there is a Walmart only about 8 blocks up from where the tenders dock.

Where Your Ship Docks

Most ships anchor out and tender in at Kona. There are good public restrooms about a 1,000 feet north along Kailua Beach as well as restrooms available at the Kona Plaza and the Farmers Market south on the waterfront.


Hulihe‘e Palace

Kamakahonu National Historic Landmark – 1970s reconstruction of the residence of King Kamehameha I at the the King Kamehameha Hotel.

Hulihe‘e Palace – Former summer home for Hawaiian royalty now showcasing Victorian artifacts & cultural events.

Moku‘aikaua Church – Hawaii’s oldest Christian church, founded by missionaries in 1820, with an iconic arch & sanctuary.

Whale watching Kona Hawaiʻi – During their annual migration, The Big Island plays host to one of the largest populations of North Pacific humpback whales in the world. It’s seasonal between February and April, but you can set sail along the Kona-Kohala coast to cruise through the pods of these visiting whales.

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