Volcanic Tours Big Island Hawaii
Hawaii owes much of its dramatic beauty to its many volcanic ranges. In fact most of the islands were created by a prehistoric eruption.
Of all of the Hawaiian islands, the Big Island is regarded as the most volcanic. It’s no surprise, then, that so many visitors to the island hope to catch a glimpse of the region’s mighty volcanoes and lava flows.
Note: you may have heard about the dramatic May 2018 eruption of Kilauea. Even now, this eruption continues to affect the landscape and some travel plans! Things are changing rapidly, so it’s best to check the official government website for the most up-to-date information.
Which to choose: Lava vs. Volcano Viewing?
When you think of volcanoes on Hawaii, you probably think of eruptions and lava. However, not all hikes and tours will – or can – take you to see flowing lava, as sometimes it is unsafe, or sometimes there’s just no flowing lava to see.
That said, you still experience a trip to visit the volcanoes themselves, and they are an amazing sight! You can also explore the landscape for evidence of past eruptions, such as lava that has cooled and hardened into incredible patterns and shapes, sculpted by mother nature herself.
It’s impossible to stay on the Big Island without spotting a volcano, at least in the distance. However, it’s even more amazing to get close up and admire their dramatic power and beauty.
DIY hikes to see volcanoes
There are many excellent hiking trails for hikers of all ages and abilities who’d like to take in the views of Hawaii’s volcanic landscapes.
While some of the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park trails are closed, many remain open and allow you hike past some incredible vantage points. For example, the four-mile Halema’uma’u Crater Trail will take you around the rim of a caldera, the Petroglyphs Trail (1.5 miles) journeys over a hardened lava field to some ancient art, while the family-friendly 0.7-mile Sulphur Bank/Steam Vents takes in some pretty impressive views as well.
Guided hikes to see volcanoes
Although it’s not strictly necessary, you might prefer to hike in the company of an experienced guide.
Not only do they know all of the best trails which pass the remains of volcanic eruptions, but they can also tell you about the history of the area and the science behind the impressive volcanoes. Kilauea EcoGuides is a company with a great reputation for informative and environmentally-friendly volcano tours.
Volcanoes Helicopter Tours
There are many helicopter tours that operate on the Big Island, as its one of the best ways to see the amazing landscapes, from the lava fields to thick jungle. There are numerous operators all over the island including Blue Hawaiian.
Top tip: Tours departing from Hilo (rather than Kona) are generally more affordable, as the departure point is much closer to the main volcanoes.
Seeing lava on Hawaii’s Big Island
If you really want to see flowing lava during your time on the Big Island, there are a few options. As mentioned previously, seeing lava cannot be guaranteed, so ask ahead about the conditions. The best way to see lava at the moment (February 2019) is via helicopter as lava is not flowing into the sea, and most hiking trails are closed.
Lava Helicopter Tours
Helicopter tours are often the best way to see lava in Hawaii because they are able to maintain a safe distance even when the hiking trails are closed. Even if there is no lava flowing on the surface, it is still an amazing way to take in the scenery and admire the dramatic beauty of the volcanic landscape. There are many reputable helicopter tour operators with lava tours, including Paradise Copters.
Boat tours to see lava on the Big Island
Boat companies operating tours to see the lava must be licensed to do so. Currently, there are four companies who have the permit and run tours when the lava is flowing: Kalapana Cultural Tours, Hawaii Lava Boat Tours, Moki Nui and Lava Ocean Tours.
DIY lava walks on the Big Island
While it is usually possible to hike yourself to see lava, most of the sites are currently closed due to the volcanic eruption, including the Jaggar Museum and the Kalpana Lava Viewing Hike.
It is expected that these will eventually reopen, so keep an eye on the link above. There are also plans to create a new viewing platform to see the evidence of the Kilauea eruption, but construction has not yet started.