Hawaii with UnCruise: A Unique, Off the Beaten Path Adventure

Sharing is caring!

What is the best way to see Hawaii? In the past I would have told you that it was by car and/or foot – our two favorite modes of transportation. However, after our recent small ship sailing with UnCruise Adventures, I just may be singing to a different tune!

Are you like me, always visualizing a Hawaii vacation as one where you rent a condo and laze on the beach or you road trip around taking in all the hikes and sights you can? If so, I have some news for you — to really get the most out of a trip to Hawaii you need to experience it by land AND by water! This is why exploring off the beaten path in Hawaii by a small ship expedition cruise really makes sense. 

Here you get the best of both worlds – opportunities to hike and explore lush jungles and interact with locals in a meaningful way, but also getting to spend more than half of every day in and on the water!

Read on to find out why we are so sold on visiting Hawaii with UnCruise Adventures and think that it should be your next trip to Hawaii!

Who is UnCruise Adventures?

UnCruise Adventures is a small ship expedition cruise company specializing in immersive and adventurous travel in a variety of destinations, such as Hawaii, Alaska, Baja California and the Galapagos. Since 1996, UnCruise Adventures has provided access to remote and off-the-beaten-path destinations that larger cruise ships cannot reach.

UnCruise focuses on offering trips with a deep sense of adventure, exploration and authentic cultural experiences, which is accomplished on ships with less than 100 passengers. Some of the things you can expect on an UnCruise Adventure include snorkeling, kayaking, hiking, wildlife viewing, and interacting with local communities.

We absolutely love that UnCruise Adventures is one of the few companies catering to travelers of all ages with unique and off-the-beaten-path experiences in popular tourist destinations. 

Hawaii with Uncruise: Big Island to Moloka’i Itinerary Summary

Map of the Hawaii with UnCruise ItineraryThe UnCruise Hawaii 7 night itineraries either start on the Big Island and end in Moloka’i or do the reverse. For our trip, it was easiest for us to arrive to the Big Island and return from Moloka’i so that is the itinerary that we chose. Ideally you should arrive a full day before the departure of your boat. We weren’t able to, which worked out fine, but was a bit stressful to be honest!

Below is a rundown of our proposed itinerary and what we actually did. As this is an expedition cruise, things are weather dependent and sometimes, things get changed or removed from the itinerary so it is best to not get too set on anything in particular. 

Note: The Hawaii itineraries only operate in the winter season from November to April

Day 1: Departure from the Big Island

Today we arrived to the Big Island where we were picked up at the airport and transported to the hotel where our group was meeting. We checked in to the UnCruise table, set our bags down and headed out to the beach for a quick lunch and snowcones. As it got closer to departure time, our bags were sent to the boat as we were escorted over to board. After boarding, seeing our room and getting settled, we had the mandatory safety briefing before sitting down for our first dinner on board. 

Day 2: Big Island Hualalai Volcano Hike

Today we are still anchored close to the Big Island, but we ventured to a different destination than where we boarded yesterday. For our trip, the second day was New Year’s Eve and we opted for the volcano hike. This 3 mile hike was the perfect way to get out in the morning, stretch our legs and get some expansive views over the ocean and the volcanic rocks around the Big Island.

We were led onto private property by our guide with Hawaii Forest & Trail who knew the flora and fauna like the back of his hand. We were able to explore an old lava tube and see how the lava flows shaped this island.

I absolutely loved that UnCruise not only had our regular guides with us, but that they also utilized local guide services to ensure that we were getting the best experience on land possible.

For those that weren’t up for the adventurous hike, they were offered time to explore the Kona coastline seeking out sunbathing sea turtles.

Upon returning to our boat we were given a short amount of time to refresh and get ready for our next adventure – snorkeling!

Day 3: Kona Coast & Manta Ray Snorkel

Since there is no time for sleeping in, even on New Years Day, we headed out early for a 7:30 a.m. snorkel session. After swimming for a few hours with all of the amazing underwater wildlife, we headed back to the boat for a post snorkel brunch with delicious pastries and pizza on the top deck of the boat. It was such a wonderful way to welcome in the new year!

Since we didn’t have to be anywhere until dark, we spent the rest of the afternoon swimming off the back of the boat, SUPing and lazing around in the gorgeous sun. 

Unfortunately due to a large earthquake in Japan, which sent tsunami warnings towards Hawaii, we were unable to do our much awaited manta ray snorkel in the evening. It was a great disappointment for all, but as we know on expedition cruises, you just never know what you will get. Instead our captain and crew decided to take everyone out for a sunset skiff ride. While it was no manta ray experience, it offered a wonderful time of bonding between all of the passengers. 

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Karilyn | Adventure Travel (@nobackhome)

Day 4: Captain’s Choice: Maui Coast

For several days of the trip, the itinerary said “Captain’s Choice”, which essentially means they will take the boat to the best spots as they deem fit. They have hopes of where to go, but occasionally, the weather doesn’t cooperate and they have to make adjustments.

During the night, the captains ushered us across the wide open ocean to reach our next destination off of Maui. The plan for the day was a kayak/skiff ride on the coast as well as a snorkel session at Turtle Town. It was so wonderful to get out on the kayaks. We saw an endangered Hawaiian Monk seal on the shore, tons of fish through the clear waters and had time to really take in the famous Maui coastline. 

Between our return and lunch we had time for more free swimming off the back of the boat along with the coolest experience ever. We were able to listen to whales communicate under the water with a hydrophone. If you have never heard whales underwater, you need to. It is so interesting!

And our last excursion for the day was a snorkel at Turtle Town. As you can see the day is full of water adventures and activities to really get you closer to nature. 

As is common on expedition boats is our nightly post dinner discussion and lecture about what we have seen or a lesson on the wildlife. This was one of our favorite parts of every day!

Day 5: Captain’s Choice: Lanai Coast

Today we woke up to a beautiful sunrise and got ready for an early morning snorkel. We loved the abundance of diverse colorful fish in these cooler waters right on the rugged coast of the island. 

This afternoon we were supposed to head on land for a variety of activity options including mountain biking, visiting a cat sanctuary and hiking. However due to a bit of rough weather we were not able to dock on the island. Instead our captain relocated us to another area where we were able to take an afternoon skiff ride around the island. 

This is one of the most important parts of an expedition type cruise is to always be ready for adaptations based on the weather. 

Day 6: En Route to Moloka’i

Today we woke up with another beautiful sunrise outside of our window as we prepared for a morning snorkel session with turtles! We hadn’t seen very many thus far in our journey, so everyone was very excited for this morning’s adventure. As soon as we hopped out of our skiff boats to snorkel someone had already spotted some majestic turtles.

After our amazing morning with some of Hawaii’s most beautiful wildlife, we spent the afternoon cruising the waters in route to Moloka’i looking for humpback whales, which we saw an amazing amount of, often right off the side of the boat! It was a beautiful day and a great time for our last full day on the boat sailing.

Day 7: Moloka’i

Today was a special day for us on the boat as it was our first time in the new year that we were on land again! Since our previous landing was cancelled due to weather, we hadn’t been on land since our volcano hike. 

As usual, we had a few options for our day activities while on land. One option was a guided hike to the Halawa Waterfall, or you could attend a cultural demonstration and discussion with a local family.

My son and I opted for the hike as we always do! It was a beautiful day hike, heading up the hills deeper into seclusion in the lush valley. When we arrived, we had the entire pool of water and waterfall to ourselves to swim and have our packed lunches. It was perfect and a wonderful way to end our trip in Hawaii.

Upon returning, we were able to visit a local sandy beach for a bit before heading back to the boat to freshen up for our last nights dinner. Our dinner was set in the Kualapuss Cultural center where locals played live music for us and served us an amazing array of local dishes for us to try.

These are the type of experiences that you would never get on a solo trip to Hawaii. The ending of our trip in this way was so special and really exemplified how unique and culturally conscious UnCruise Adventures trips are. 

Day 8: Departure

Saying goodbye was always hard. Here we are with Bert, the oldest passenger on our trip who we all just ADORED! The most well traveled 93 year ever.

Today we woke up early, had our last breakfast on the boat before disembarking around 9 a.m. Since we still had a good bit of time before our flights off the island, we were able to spend time at a local hotel around the pool or go for a tour in town before our airport transfer. We loved that everything was so well organized and planned out for us. Those who had a full day had an option to go on several tours around the town/island, while those of us with less time before departure had a lovely waiting area at the hotel with cold water and snacks under a shade canopy.

Safari Explorer Ship Review

The Safari Explorer is a fantastic ship, or yacht as it is often called due to how small it is. The Safari Explorer has the capacity for 36 passengers, but on our sailing there were only 25, which was just perfect. That said, it would have been just as great with the maximum number of passengers as well. 

The ship has essentially 3 levels – the main level where you tend to embark and disembark for excursions. This level also has the lounge and dining area as well as a few of the suites.

On the next level up, there is the bow to view wildlife, a small back deck area and most of the accomodation for the ship laid out on either side of the boat. There are no balcony rooms here, but essentially these rooms open up to the walkway aka a balcony!

The final level is where the bridge is located, a few additional rooms, as well as the back sun deck which also has a small exercise area. 

Room Review

We had a suite which was AMAZING and so spacious! This was our first ever real cruise (other than a river boat Amazon cruise) so we were expecting tight quarters, especially since this is a small ship. Granted our room was probably the biggest room, even the other rooms seemed to be pretty spacious as long as you don’t over pack!

We had two twin beds, a big beautiful picture window, a small sitting area and a bathroom with bathtub. While having the large cabin was great, truth be told you don’t actually spend a ton of time in your room!

We loved that there were many hooks, drawers and storage spaces throughout the room. We were able to fully unpack, tuck away our suitcases and not think about them again until packing up to go home. 

Dining & Meals

Seriously the food was SO SO good! Freshly made cinnamon rolls cannot be beat.

One of the things we loved the most about our doing Hawaii with UnCruise adventure is the meals offered on the boat! Not only did we get to try so many local fish varieties but all of these meals were expertly cooked by a private chef. Every meal we would be provided with several options for the meals – typically a meat dish, fish dish and a vegetarian option. The beauty of being on small ship meant that we were able to sample ALL of the dishes if we wished by getting half portions. Once we discovered this, we were in food heaven for every meal getting to try so much.

In addition to freshly cooked meals 3 times a day, we also had “cookie o’clock” that we nicknamed our afternoon cookie treat prepared by our pastry chef on board. Yep, our ship even had a pastry chef! Seriously, the meals on this ship make the cost of the trip worth it alone!

Guides & Staff

Our amazing Hawaii with UnCruise Crew

One of UnCruise’s many selling points is the small staff to guest ratio. Sometimes I would look around and feel like there might be more staff than guests as there was always a staff member close by to ask questions to, to chat with, to play games with, you name it. 

The guides were spectacular as well offering so much knowledge and history to the region. 

What I loved more than anything however was that UnCruise doesn’t just use their own guides, they employ local guides to lead us on our land based adventures. This is the heart of the UnCruise way – to give back to the communities in which they sail.

During our adventure we had our lead expedition guide Terra who was so enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the wildlife in the area, we had Matt, who manned the bar and was always ready to serve us some fun mocktails, and so many other staff who we got to know along the way. We left feeling like they were family!


Unlike many big ship sailings, ALL excursions are included in the price of an UnCruise sailing. The most difficult decision is trying to decide which of the amazing options you will choose each day when there is overlap! When we had a landing on land, we always opted for the more adventurous option, which tended to be a hike. It was never disappointing. We hiked in hidden lava tunnels only accessible by private guide and we hiked to a beautiful waterfall where we were the only people there. 

On our at sea days, we would often all do the same thing – snorkel, kayak or go for a zodiac tour. To be honest there were very few times that we were just sitting on the boat with nothing to do. I felt we were either getting ready for a meal, getting ready for an excursion or changing after an excursion! This trip keeps you busy if you want to be, or you can pick and choose what to do, which many of the guests on our trip did do.


There is almost no better way to experience Hawaii than with Uncruise Adventures. Think of snorkeling in the crystal-clear waters surrounding beautiful islands while encountering an abundance of marine life, including colorful fish, sea turtles, and reef sharks. It really is a magical family adventure that is worth exploring as your next trip to Hawaii.

If You Enjoyed This Post, Sign Up To Receive Posts By Email or…

  • Join us on Facebook for regular updates and related articles
  • Check us out on Instagram to see what we are up to in photos
  • Follow us on Twitter for links to great travel articles curated just for you
  • Or share this post with others by pinning on Pinterest!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.