The Best UnCruise Adventure in Hawaii

May 2018

You might have noticed my recent conversion to cruise lover. Let me correct that, small ship cruise lover with companies that focus on responsible travel.  I couldn’t think of a better way to island hop and discover the Aloha state then aboard the Safari Explorer for an UnCruise adventure in Hawaii.

Uncruise Adventures in Hawaii

To date, my only experience with Hawaii had been a stop-over during one of my many trips to the Philippines in my previous life as a clothing designer. Green and lush from above, with that Jurassic Park feel that attracts me, I knew it was a landscape I wanted to someday explore up close and personal.

A desire to visit the verdant valleys where Hawaiians still celebrated the land was high on the list my husband, Neil,  and I put together.  We wanted to see the unusual landscape and flowers in their natural setting, not in a pre packaged fire-twirling luau on the beach.

Landscape of Maui

Enter an Un-Cruise adventure in Hawaii. Embracing the aloha spirit and exploring the natural splendor and wildlife of the Hawaiian archipelago is the focus of their itinerary. Discovered centuries ago by the Polynesians, we were looking for a piece of the islands that had retained that original magic; expecting the unexpected is a phrase UnCruise lives by.

Itinerary Uncruise Adventures Hawaii

After a long day of travel from the east coast, we arrived in Molokai, a bit frazzled, but ready for adventure.  The seven-night trip would take us from Molokai to Lanai, Maui and the Big Island.

Safari Explorer off the coast of Lanai

Safari Explorer

One of the best parts of sailing on a small 36 passenger ship is the program. The size of the Safari Explorer allows stops in destinations inaccessible to large cruise ships. Translation: we will be in locations rarely seen by other travelers. The ability to see four different islands in seven days while only unpacking once is a true luxury for all passengers on board. The packing list focuses on casual dress: flip flops and sneakers were the norm. Sun protection should be a priority.

Accommodations – UnCruise Adventure in Hawaii

The UnCruise sailing season for Hawaii is November thru April. Safari Explorer is a newly refurbished sparkling vessel made for adventure. On the 145 foot boutique yacht, all cabins have viewing windows, eco friendly toiletries, robes and heated bathroom floors. There is a TV/DVD player and extensive video library, reusable water bottles, hair dryer and a very comfortable Tempur-Pedic bed.

State room Safari ExplorerA separate bathroom houses the toilet and shower. The sink is in the main cabin. The cabins are compact, cozy and elegant. After all, with the extensive activity going on outside, very little time is spent in your cabin aside from sleeping.

Uncruise Adventures Organic and local snacks

Organic and local artisan snacks aboard the Safari Explorer

We introduced ourselves over cocktails in the salon, and learned many guests had traveled with UnCruise before, raving about the experience. Several were counting this as a third or fourth voyage, truly the ultimate compliment to any adventure travel company.

UnCruise Adventure in HawaiiThe majority of guests were baby boomers just like us, but there was also a family with two younger children and a mix of other guests both younger and older. (Remember there are only 17 cabins). The casual atmosphere and small ship feel encouraged immediate camaraderie amongst guests.

Food and Drink

The boutique yacht features a curated wine library and full bar with premium spirits and microbrew. Trevor, the multitasking bartender, mixed up the gamut of cocktails “as you like it”. After the second night you felt like the lounge area was a private club. Conversations about the days activities, tall tales and getting to know you stories were all part of the conversation.

Cocktails Uncruise Adventure in HawaiiDinner was held on the same level adjacent to the salon and wine library. We can’t rave enough about the onboard food. Meals were healthy, delicious and made to order. There was always a choice of two or three entrées, and any food allergies or preferences were always accommodated with a smile from the friendly staff.

Seared Barramundi and Crispy Tofu w/ lime, cilantro, coconut sauce and fresh Molokai asparagus

When it was hard to make a choice between the evenings selections, a creative “Why not try ½ and ½ was suggested by LaLa or Charlie, our cheerful stewards for the trip. That became my mantra most nights. Fresh fish, local produce and ingredients were the stars of the show, presented without fail in creative, visually pleasing plates.

Dark chocolate torte, fresh raspberry sauce and macadamia nut brittle

Dark chocolate torte, fresh raspberry sauce and macadamia nut brittle

Tables of 6 or 8  guests waited with anticipation to hear about the baked goods and desserts presented by the pastry chef at each meal.

On Board Activities: UnCruise Adventure in Hawaii

Mornings began with a yoga class as the sun rose over the mountains. The moving boat made balance more of a challenge and stretching was a great way to get ready for the days activities. In addition there were free weights and fitness equipment available, but honestly there was plenty of physical challenge that took place on and in the water.

Sunrise yoga Uncruise Adventure in Hawaii

Complimentary massages for each passenger sweetened the onboard experience. Evenings often ended with experts speaking about the wildlife we had seen or would see the next day.

Talk Story

One of the highlights of the trip was having Danny and Anna Akaka as our onboard hosts for the week. The native Hawaiian husband and wife storytellers showcase traditional culture accompanied with ukulele and hula. The romantic spark between them is contagious and they embody the aloha spirit we were hoping to find.

Danny and Anna Akaka in Molokai

Danny and Anna Akaka Uncruise Adventure in Hawaii

The kūpunas (elders) of past generations used the idea of Talking Story to pass their history from one generation to the next. Danny and Anna believe the interchange that takes place between people when you Talk Story is something that can not be replaced with the written word. “Sharing thoughts from within and the resulting dialogue that takes place is the best form of communication.” The charming couple, who are normally on board only for day, brought the culture and authenticity of the trip to a whole new level.

Off Ship: UnCruise Adventure in Hawaii

Although almost all of the off ship activity took place in or on the water, our hike to Sweetheart Rock on Lanai was one of my favorites. Thousand foot sea cliffs line the shore and volcanic outcroppings are the setting for the legend of PuuPehe. Hearing the tragic Hawaiian love story surrounded by windswept cliffs and crashing azure waves transported us back to a time when indigenous people gathered water in gourds and lived off the land.

Sweetheart Rock HikeComing down the trail and looking across the cove to the Four Seasons Lanai where Bill and Melinda Gates were married on the 18thgreen brought us back to reality, the now privateisland of Lanai and the broad dichotomy that is Hawaii, indeed a place of contrasts.

Marine Life : UnCruise Adventure in Hawaii

Sea Turtle ©Carrie Haag

While impossible to detail all of the marine life we saw in the water, I can say it was often and a daily occurrence.  It was the essence of the UnCruise Hawaii adventure. Whales regularly breached and and tail slapped from all sides of the ship. When a humpback whale approaches within 100 yards of a boat, the captain can’t engage the engines, even to back away. When they are active, sometimes the encounter can last for quite a while. On board, the crew playfully calls it Maui Mugging; another reminder that traveling on a small boat allows the captain the flexibility of navigating towards the wildlife instead of following a strict charted course.

Whale Watching Uncruise Adventure in Hawaii

Schools of dolphins friskily swam along the bow as if to say hello. Panicky snorkelers (can you see me raising my hand) were treated with kid gloves by a thoughtful staff, thus enabling all to fully enjoy the kaleidoscope of fish and sea turtles swimming amongst the coral gardens. Stepping out of your comfort zone and into nature was an occurrence I’d guess each of the 36 passengers experienced in one form or another during their UnCruise adventure in Hawaii.

Dolphins off the Bow via UnCruise

Water Activities

The Safari Explorer is well equipped with water toys: snorking gear, paddleboards, wet suits and kayaks were put to use regularly.

Kayak UnCruise Adventure in Hawaii

Kayaking off Maui

The cabin deck platform was a favorite spot for adrenaline junkies. Diving into the gorgeous azure water from the platform gave all a thrill.

Neil shows off from the diving platform.

Our only disappointment was not seeing the Giant Pacific Manta Rays during our night snorkel. The experience was still exciting and one of a kind, an adventure that could only be made better by the appearance of the rays.

Night Dive for Manta Rays ©Carrie Haag

After so many encounters with wildlife it was as if Mother Nature wanted to make sure we remembered who was in charge; this wasn’t a theme park and animals don’t perform by the clock.

Manta Ray photo via UnCruise

For an authentic experience in the wild, it’s best to remember on an UnCruise adventure in Hawaii expect the unexpected. The next day, as if on cue, we were rewarded with a final treat. The elusive manta rays appeared during a snorkel in Kealakekus Bay, the spot on the Big Island where Captain Cook was slain in 1779.

Most definitely when you’re thinking about an adventure cruise size matters. This photo says it all. And now, you too know the secret that keeps guests coming back again and again-there is cruising and then there is UnCruising.

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Disclaimer: The author was the hosted guest of UnCruise for the Hawaii adventure. As always opinions and reviews are her own and have not been influenced in any way. 

  1. Wow! I’d love to have an Uncruising Adventure on the Safari Explorer. The Hawaiian Islands are a destination I could never see too many times.

  2. What an exciting time you had Uncruising in Hawaii. The pictures are fantastic and help tell the story so well. Thanks for sharing them with us.

  3. I’ve been to the islands several times but visiting via small ship would be so incredible. How wonderful to get close to wildlife and fun to be with a small group for a week. Looks wonderful.

    • alison says:

      We certainly had the opportunity to get up close, especially to the whales. The Humpback National Marine Sanctuary-located between Lanai, Molokai and Maui is a front row breeding ground!

  4. Lucy says:

    So interesting to see how diverse the different cruises available are – this is such a good way to explore the islands and get up close to the wildlife. Hawaii is definitely on my wishlist for a trip soon!

    • alison says:

      Can’t recommend UnCruise highly enough Lucy.To be able to see 4 islands in this short amount of time, eat fantastic food and only unpack once-well what else can I say!

  5. I’ve been to Hawaii once and absolutely fell in love with it. There’s so much to see there, so it’d be nice to see so much of it from a boat! And Hawaii is my favorite place I’ve ever snorkeled so I’d definitely love to get back there and do that again someday. My husband and I got engaged on Maui so would be pretty special to go back there 🙂

    • alison says:

      I don’t have that much snorkeling experience Kaylene, but Hawaii is up at the top. Honomalino Bay was loaded with exquisite colors of coral and fish. You should go back and celebrate an anniversary there. It’s such a romantic place.

  6. Uncruise sounds like a fantastic way to experience a destination like Hawaii. That photo of the two cruise ships side by side says it all! For a multigenerational experience it sounds ideal.

  7. Tami says:

    I can really see where cruising with a small group of people on a boat that can go anywhere would have some real percs. Uncruise sounds like an amazing way to explore Hawaii!

  8. I love the mission behind uncruise. What a fun way to travel! My favorite photo is definitely the dolphins!

  9. Anna Parker says:

    Uncruising definitely looks like the only way to go – not only is it a nice number of like minded people, but to be able to go to such remote places is the real win! Excellent trip!

  10. This sounds like my kind of cruise Alison. I’ve been on some big cruise ships but love the sound of this more intimate experience especially since animals and wildlife are involved.

  11. Rose Palmer says:

    I’ve been to Hawaii, but a small ship cruise like this would be a totally different perspective. One more for the bucket list.

  12. I agree with you 100% that small ship, responsible cruising is the only way to cruise and this is particularly small! And what an adventure I would dearly love to do this one day. It ticks so many boxes!

  13. What a great way to go. I love the activity level with UnCruise, and the Talk Stories sounds like a wonderful onboard bonus!

  14. Jon Harrison says:

    I always come to your blog and reading your all recent and top posts. I think those posts are very helpful for that traveler who really want to travel. Those pictures are sound wonderful and I want to go there because I never go to Hawaii. I know that Hawaii is most beautiful and peaceful places. After reading your post I want to travel to Hawaii. Have you any information about the best hotels in Hawaii? Please reply.

  15. Chris Corbet says:

    Great article Alison, Hawaii has long been on my bucket list. It’s pretty much as far as one can get on the planet from my home in South Africa, so has always been pushed down by the obstacle of sheer distance. But you article has brought it right back to the top 😉 Let the planning begin.


  16. Tetesa says:

    Would like to go in February but worried about getting seasick. Was it rough? What time of year did you go? Great info. Thanks

    • alison says:

      I don’t really get seasick, but feel like this was pretty smooth cruising! We went in January. I hope you go-It was an incredible experience.

  17. Goetz Sandra says:

    Our family of approximately 23 people are interested in the 39 passenger cruise through the Hawaiian islands. Could you share the costs and availability? Ideally we would love to go over this Christmas holiday Dec 2019.
    Thank you for your help!