Best Hawaii Liveaboards (2023 Update)

Written and Reviewed By

Safari Explorer

This is a great cruise ship for those that live in the states and want to see all that Hawaii has to offer. While most of the reefs are just offshore and can be reached on a day trip to fully experience.

Hawaii has a lot of islands and a cruise is the easiest way to get around.

There used to be a scuba diving liveaboard in Hawaii called the Kona Aggressor II but after an inspection in 2022, sadly the Kona Aggressor II was found not fit for service. So now there is no Hawaii Liveaboards.

There have been talks of a new ship similar to the Kona Aggressor II and hopefully, in the future, we will there be one for scuba divers on the islands of Hawaii.

The Safari Explorer stepped up and took its place as the go-to ship in Hawaii. The Safari Explorer has done an exemplary job in taking its place as the flagship ship in the area.

What you may be wondering is “Why should I go on a cruise ship in Hawaii?”

Well we here at OtterAquatics, have done all of the research for you and got all the information for you on what sea creatures you could see on your trip and what time of the year is best.

Also if you are in the area you can check out all the other things the islands have to offer.

Table of Contents

At OtterAquatics, our ultimate goal is to help you book your dream liveaboard. We’ve assembled a team of PADI, SSI, and Molchanovs instructors, as well as liveaboard cruise directors to research all available options.

How We Pick

In order to create our best liveaboard lists, the OtterAquatics team starts off by researching the liveaboard landscape for a particular region of world, listing out all of the highest-rated choices.

Unfortunately it’s not possible to go on every single liveaboard, but we go on the ones we can.

Next, we identify 3-5 liveaboards per region that are distinct best choices for different scenarios. For example, on a list, we may suggest budget options, luxury options, or a liveaboard that exclusively hits a certain dive site.

How We Review

The OtterAquatics team reviews the liveaboards on our lists by researching information on liveaboard booking websites, review websites, and our social media communities of divers.

We also contact each liveaboard mentioned on our lists ensuring the information is accurate.

Our Team of Writers

Want to learn more about who our writers are? Head over to the OtterAquatics About Page.

At OtterAquatics, our ultimate goal is to help you book your dream liveaboard. We’ve assembled a team of PADI, SSI, and Molchanovs instructors, as well as liveaboard cruise directors to research all available options.

How We Pick

In order to create our best liveaboard lists, the OtterAquatics team starts off by researching the liveaboard landscape for a particular region of world, listing out all of the highest-rated choices.

Unfortunately it’s not possible to go on every single liveaboard, but we go on the ones we can.

Next, we identify 3-5 liveaboards per region that are distinct best choices for different scenarios. For example, on a list, we may suggest budget options, luxury options, or a liveaboard that exclusively hits a certain dive site.

How We Review

The OtterAquatics team reviews the liveaboards on our lists by researching information on liveaboard booking websites, review websites, and our social media communities of divers.

We also contact each liveaboard mentioned on our lists ensuring the information is accurate.

Our Team of Writers

Want to learn more about who our writers are? Head over to the OtterAquatics About Page.

Best Hawaii Liveaboards

Our Top Pick

Safari Explorer

5.0
From $774/d
Pros:
  • Unlimited beverages and wine library
  • Eco- Friendly
  • Lots of land excursions included
Cons:
  • High person count
  • Only choice
Check Prices on Liveaboard.com
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.

Safari Explorer is a luxury cruise ship that offers snorkeling and adventure expeditions to various destinations around Hawaii.

Hawaii is known for its clear waters, abundant marine life, and diverse underwater landscapes, this makes it a top destination for divers and snorkelers.

On a Safari Explorer cruise in Hawaii, you can expect to experience the best that the Hawaiian Islands have to offer, including:

  • World-class snorkeling and diving: Hawaii is home to some of the best diving /snorkeling sites in the world, including vibrant coral reefs, historic shipwrecks, and underwater volcanic formations.
  • Scenic landscapes: Hawaii is known for its breathtaking landscapes, from its lush rainforests and scenic waterfalls to its rugged coastlines and volcanic mountains.
  • Rich cultural heritage: Hawaii is home to a rich cultural heritage, and you can experience the local culture such as visiting historic temples, attending cultural festivals and events, and learning about Hawaiian legends and history.
  • Luxury accommodations: The Safari Explorer cruise ship offers a range of luxurious accommodations, from spacious staterooms to premium suites, all designed to provide maximum comfort and relaxation.
  • Fine dining: On board the Safari Explorer, you can enjoy delicious and creative cuisine, prepared by expert chefs using the freshest local ingredients.
  • Route/ Itinerary: Molokai, Lana’i, Maui, Lahaina Town, Kona Coast & Manta Ray Snorkel, Big Island

Liveaboard Specs

  • Payment: Credit card/ Bank Transfer in USD
  • # of clients: 36
  • Snorkeling Daily 
  • Length: 8 days
  •  
  • Wifi: Yes
  • Drinks: Included
  • Port/ Piers: Kailua-Kona Molokai/ Kailua 

What you will see snorkeling in Hawaii

Shark Hawaii

When liveaboard diving or just shore diving, you can expect to see a variety of marine life, underwater landscapes pelagics, and mammals:

Coral Reefs: Hawaii is home to a number of vibrant coral reefs, which are teeming with colorful tropical fish, sea turtles, and other marine life.

Shipwrecks: Some of Hawaii’s sites feature historic wrecks, which are now home to an array of marine life, including colorful corals, schools of fish, and eels.

Whales and Dolphins: During certain times of the year, Hawaii is a prime destination for whale watching humpback whales migrate to the waters around the islands to breed and give birth. Whale sharks are rarely seen here and if you want to see whale sharks Indonesia or the Maldives would be a better spot. Dolphins are also frequently seen on Hawaiian dive trips.

Sea Turtles: Hawaii is home to several species of sea turtles, which are often seen resting on the bottom or swimming through the water.

Eels: Eels are a common sight in Hawaiian waters, and can be found hiding in crevices, caves, and reef structures.

Hammerhead Sharks: During the winter months, hammerhead sharks can be seen at several dive sites in Hawaii, offering you the chance to encounter and or dive with these magnificent creatures.

Schools of Fish: The waters are home to a variety of colorful schools of fish, including butterflyfish, angelfish, and parrotfish.

Monk Seals: Monk seals are cute mammals that are a rare find around the world and this is one of the only places you can see them.

When To Visit Hawaii

The best time to visit depends on various factors, including personal preferences, budget, and the type of activities you’re interested in. Here are some general guidelines:

Summer (June to August): Summer is the peak tourist season, with warm and sunny weather, great for outdoor activities like hiking, surfing, and beach-going. However, it can also be the most crowded and expensive time to visit.

Winter (December to February): Winter is the best time to see whales and enjoy cooler, drier weather. It’s also a popular time for tourists, so it can be more crowded and expensive. The water temperature is a bit cooler though during this season and if you are diving or snorkeling a wetsuit or rash guard is recommended.

Spring (March to May): This is the shoulder season, with mild weather and fewer crowds. It’s a great time to take advantage of lower rates and enjoy outdoor activities.

Fall (September to November): This is another shoulder season, with good weather and fewer crowds. It’s a good time to visit for budget-conscious travelers and those interested in outdoor activities.

As with most things, the best time to visit anywhere depends on what you’re looking for in a vacation. If you don’t mind crowds and are interested in outdoor activities, summer might be the best time for you.

If you prefer a more relaxed and budget-friendly trip, you may want to consider visiting during the shoulder seasons.

How to Get to Hawaii

HAwaii Sunset boat

Hawaii is accessible by air and sea, with several airports and ports of entry located throughout the state.

Here’s how you can get there:

By Air: The main airports in Hawaii are Daniel K. Inouye International Airport (HNL) in Honolulu (Oahu), Kahului Airport (OGG) in Kahului (Maui), Lihue Airport (LIH) in Lihue (Kauai), and Kona International Airport (KOA) in Kona (Big Island). You can fly directly to these airports from major cities in the United States and from international destinations, or connect through one of the mainland hubs.

Once you arrive in Hawaii, you can easily travel between the islands by air, with several flights departing daily. You can also travel by car, bus, or ferry, depending on your destination. 

What Makes up the Hawaiian islands

The islands are a chain of volcanic islands and atolls located in the central Pacific Ocean.

There are eight main Islands:

  • Hawaii (also known as the Big Island of Hawaii)
  • Maui
  • Oahu
  • Kauai
  • Lanai
  • Molokai
  • Niihau
  • Kahoolawe.

These islands were formed over millions of years as the Pacific Plate moved over a volcanic hot spot, resulting in a series of volcanic eruptions that created the islands.

The islands are made up of a variety of geological formations, including active/ dormant volcanoes, lava tubes, deep canyons, rugged coastlines, and lush tropical forests.

The islands are also home to a diverse range of plant and animal species, many of which are found nowhere else in the world.

In addition to the natural beauty of the islands, they have a rich cultural heritage and history.

The Hawaiian people have lived on the islands for thousands of years, and their traditions, customs, and culture are an important part of life in Hawaii today.

From hula dancing and Hawaiian music to traditional cuisine and cultural practices. These islands offer a unique and fascinating glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of the Pacific.

On-Shore activities to do in Hawaii

Hawaii is a destination that offers a wide range of on-shore activities for visitors to enjoy.

Your cruise boat offers most of these included and organized but you can pick and choose what you want to do.

Here are some popular on-shore activities in Hawaii:

Hiking: Hawaii is home to many scenic hiking trails, from short nature walks to challenging backcountry hikes. Some popular trails include the Kalalau Trail on Kauai, the Diamond Head Trail on Oahu, and the Sliding Sands Trail in Haleakala National Park on Maui.

Surfing: This is known as the birthplace of modern surfing, and there are plenty of opportunities to catch a wave on all of the main islands. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced surfer, there’s a surf spot in Hawaii that’s right for you.

Snorkeling/ Scuba Diving: Hawaii’s clear waters and abundant marine life make it a top destination for snorkelers and scuba divers. Some of the best snorkeling spots in Hawaii include Hanauma Bay on Oahu, Molokini Crater on Maui, and Tunnels Beach on Kauai.

Beach activities: The warm waters and sandy beaches make it a top destination for beach activities, including swimming, tanning, and beach volleyball. Some of the best beaches in Hawaii include Waikiki Beach on Oahu, Kaanapali Beach on Maui, and Poipu Beach on Kauai.

Cultural activities: Hawaii is home to a rich cultural heritage. There are plenty of opportunities to experience the local culture, from visiting historic temples and museums to attending cultural festivals and events.

Shopping: Hawaii’s many shopping destinations have local craft fairs and markets to high-end malls and boutiques. Some popular shopping destinations in Hawaii include the International Market Place on Oahu, Whaler’s Village on Maui, and the Shops at Kukuiula on Kauai.

Dining: The food on the islands is known for its diverse and delicious cuisine. With options ranging from local Hawaiian specialties to international cuisine. Some popular dining destinations in Hawaii include the shrimp trucks on Oahu’s North Shore, the Lahaina Grill on Maui, and the Dolphin Restaurant on Kauai.

Top Scuba Diving Sites in Hawaii

Scuba diving wreck Hawaii

While this liveaboard does not offer scuba diving as the Kona Aggressor II did (or any of the Aggressor fleet), all the islands have great scuba diving you can enjoy.

Most of the dive sites can be done by shore diving and are perfect for night dives. dive sites, offering a diverse range of underwater experiences for divers of all levels.

Here are some of the top scuba dive sites in Hawaii:

Molokini Crater: Location- off the coast of Maui. Molokini Crater is a partially submerged volcanic crater that offers a unique and diverse diving experience. The crater is home to a variety of coral and marine life, including colorful tropical fish, sea turtles, and other reef creatures.

Shark’s Cove: Location- on the north shore of Oahu. Shark’s Cove is a dive site known for its, eels, reef sharks, and a variety of tropical fish.

Two Step: Location- on the West Coast of the Big Island. Two Step dive site is known for drift dives and you can see sea turtles, manta rays, and a variety of fish.

Waimea Bay: Location- on the north shore of Oahu. Waimea Bay is a popular dive site known for its clear waters and vibrant coral reefs.

Third Reef: Location- off the coast of Kauai. Third Reef is a dive site that you will need a dive boat to get to. You can see schools of colorful tropical fish, sea turtles, and reef sharks.

Cathedrals: Location- on the Big Island. Cathedrals is a dive site perfect for open-water divers that has underwater landscapes, including dramatic lava formations, arches, and swim-throughs. It would be a good idea to dive nitrox on sites like these.

The Pinnacle: Location- off the coast of Maui. The Pinnacle is a popular dive site known for schools of fish, sea turtles, and reef sharks.

Turtle Pinnacle Location– west coast of the Big Island, north of Kona. This highly popular dive site is interesting because it is a natural cleaning station for Green Sea Turtles.

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