Kilauea Volcano Tour

Guided tour of the world's most active volcano

Kilauea Volcano Tour Halemaumau Crater

Kilauea Iki and the Summit Caldera viewpoint

Kilauea Volcano Tour road buried by a recent lava flow

The road disappears underneath a recent lava flow

Kilauea Volcano Tour steaming

When lava enters the ocean it creates a billowing steam cloud

Kilauea Volcano Tour hot lava

Sometimes active lava flows are accessible with short hikes

Kilauea Volcano Tour hot lava

Not every day looks like this, but some do!

Kilauea Volcano Tour Kilauea Crater Rim

Lush tree ferns line one side of the Kilauea crater rim

Kilauea Volcano Tour walking through a lava tube

Exclusive access to a privately owned lava tube

Kilauea Volcano Tour walking through a lava tube

Inside the lava tube the walls are golden colored due to microbes

Kilauea Volcano Tour walking through a lava tube

Steam vents give Kilauea an ominous, mysterious feel

Kilauea Volcano Tour walking through a lava tube

Hiking on lava that has recently cooled!

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The geologic creation of the Hawaiian island chain, a timeless battle between the elemental forces of fire and water, is one of the world’s greatest natural history stories. There’s not a better place on earth to witness and understand the awesome nature of volcanoes than at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. At the park you’ll see splendid native rain forests, discover remarkable volcanic formations and a diversity of geography and climate. Through detailed geologic and natural history interpretation, small walks, and driving, you will explore and learn about the world’s most active volcano. Evidence of Kilauea’s activity is everywhere in the park; you’ll see, feel and smell steam vents where vapor is escaping the ground.

Kilauea Volcano Unveiled

The May 2018 Lower East Rift Zone eruption caused sudden and enduring changes, not only in the areas affected by the active vents and flowing lava, but also at the Kilauea Summit inside Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Numerous small earthquakes and ground collapses forced the park to close for several months. Now that Kilauea has gone quiet, the park has reopened and Hawaii Forest and Trail now offers the Kilauea Volcano Unveiled tour to give you a look at the changes that have happened in 2018!

There is no better way to explore the park than in the company of one of Hawaii Forest and Trail’s Interpretive Naturalists. They will show you the “must see” places within the park while you learn about their geological and historic significance.  You’ll really get an idea of how big the Big Island is during the course of this 11-12 hour full-day tour. And you’ll appreciate that someone else is doing the driving. Starting from Kona, you will travel up the coast over desolate lava flows for about a half hour before proceeding up the rolling pasturelands on the flanks of Mauna Kea. Turning onto the Saddle Road that traverses the island between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea, you’ll see a dramatic and diverse landscape of ranchland, sub alpine dryforest and rainforest, with striking features such as cinder cones, lava flows, lava tubes and kipukas. Continuing on, you will drop down to near sea-level on the way through Hilo where you begin the final climb to the summit of Kilauea and the lush entrance to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

On this in-depth park experience, your interpretive guide will illuminate the historic events that recently changed the landscape of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park forever! Learn about the magma chamber, and how its sudden draining away of lava caused the entire summit area of Kilauea to deflate and how the crater changed in size.

During the park experience you’ll enjoy 2-3 miles of moderate hiking around the park’s dynamic terrain. The exact hiking route will vary depending on weather and volcanic conditions. While there is no current lava activity at the time of this writing, that can change quickly. If there is an active flow inside the National Park that can be safely accessed with a short hike, Hawaii Forest and Trail will include it in your itinerary.

After leaving the park, you’ll drive off-road to a private lava tube that is only accessible to Hawaii Forest and Trail guests. This cave is known for its bright yellow microbial mats growing on and accenting the walls of the cave.

By the end of the day, you’ll have traveled over 300 miles and experienced an elevation change (the tour goes up and down a few times!) of over 30,000 feet.

Schedule: Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday, Thursday

Pick up: Between 6:45am and 7:30am

Check In:  Departure is from the Hawaii Forest and Trail Store (73-5593 A Olowalu St., Kailua-Kona, HI 96740 Click to view map) OR the Waikoloa Queen’s Marketplace (69-201 Waikoloa Beach Dr, Waikoloa, HI 96738 Click to view map). Select your departure point when selecting a tour in your reservation form.

Duration: Approximately 12 hours

Reservations: For those staying in Hilo, we don’t recommend this tour as a large portion of the cost of this tour is for transportation to and from the Kona side of the island.

Tour includes: Breakfast snacks, beverages, lunch, afternoon appetizers, National Park entrance fees, water

What to Bring & Wear: Comfortable walking shoes, long pants, and a light jacket.  Close toed shoes are required.

Gear Provided: Day packs, flashlight and helmet (for the lava tube), walking sticks, warm clothing and rain ponchos.

Group Size: 14

Restrictions: Guests should be in reasonably good physical condition and able to hike on uneven or rocky terrain. This tour sometimes encounters cool, wet, or muddy conditions.

General Information
Reservations: Due to high demand, these tours sells out weeks in advance.

Note: Volcanic emissions, including sulfur gas, may affect those with respiratory concerns.

Cancellation Policy: Cancellations must be made at least 48 hours before the start of the event.

kilauea crater
Billowing plumes from the crater
lava flow
Witnessing lava flow is an unforgettable experience

CJack Harter Doors Offruise Ship Passengers

This Kilauea Volcano tour is oriented toward people who are staying in resorts on the Kona side of the Big Island and does not work for cruise ship passenger either in Hilo or in Kona. We suggest the Volcano Bike Tour as an excellent way to experience the volcano.  Another great option for Hilo cruise ship passengers is the Hilo Cruise Ship Volcano & Waterfall Tour.

Activity Tips

Kevin Ditamore – Owner / Manager

I can’t imagine going to the Big Island and not making the trip down to see the active volcano. Even on days when lava viewing is not possible the evidence of recent volcanic activity is everywhere. You’ll see steam vents and smell sulfur in the air. This park is rich in history too.

The drive to Kilauea from the Kona side of the island takes about three hours each way. Having someone else do the driving for you while you are free to look out the window and take in the view is something that you will very much appreciate. Your guide will not only drive for you … you’ll also LEARN about what you are looking at out the window. You’ll come away with an understanding of how the Hawaiian islands were formed and gain a great appreciation for our unique climates and eco-system.

Occassionally we get clients who are staying in Hilo and ask about this tour. The price of this tour includes round trip transportation from the Kona / Waikoloa area. We don’t recommend this tour for people who are staying in the Hilo area. If you are staying in Hilo you are only 35-40 minutes away from the volcano and you are better off just driving there in your rental car. Admission to the national park is $10 per vehicle and there are visitor’s centers, films, exhibits, and lots of rangers to assist you in answering questions during your visit to the park.

One of the advantages of doing this tour is the benefit of having an experienced guide with you to lead you out to the active lava flow if there is red hot lava accessible. You’ll have the confidence to experience the lava firsthand knowing that the guide knows where it is safe and where it is not safe to go.

The summit area of Kilauea underwent massive changes during the eruption that started in May of 2018 (and ended three months later). The eruption vents were miles “downstream” on the Lower East Rift, and the vents issued profuse rivers of lava that covered  13.7 square miles of land, destroyed more than 700 homes, wiped the Kapoho vacationland and tidepools off the map, and created 875 acres of new land where there used to be ocean. All that lava drained from the Kilauea Summit magma chamber, which caused dozens of tremors everyday as the summit deflated and the “bottom dropped out” of the Halemaumau Firepit. For most of the last 10 years a lava lake was found in this crater. During the 2018 eruption, the crater DOUBLED in size and TRIPLED in depth, swallowing the old Halemaumau Overlook parking lot and chunks of road along with it! No worries … this road had been closed since 2007, but it is a very strange feeling for those of us who visited Kilauea prior to 2007 to see sections of road where we once drove are now lying 1500 feet below where they used to be!!!

The fall of 2018 saw a pause in lava activity, and it may be awhile before the magma returns to the surface but who knows??? Historically lava viewing conditions change quickly at Kilauea… it is sometimes possible to get close to the active flow, but not always. Obviously there is no guarantee that you will see red hot lava on this tour. Sometimes the closest lava is miles from the nearest road and the hike just isn’t possible in the time constraints of this tour. Other times lava can be viewed with a short 10 minute walk. And other times the lava is no where to be seen, but the ongoing steam vents and smell of sulfur int he air are a constant reminder of what lies below the surface.

One final consideration … alcohol is not permitted on these tours. We recently had some clients show up with a cooler of their favorite adult beverage and the tour operator did not permit the cooler to be brought on board. You can’t drink alcohol in the tour vehicle per Hawaii vehicle laws, and the tour operator is also concerned about the increased risk of a slightly tipsy individual falling while walking across lava field. Lava is basically rock made up of tiny glass particles and it HURTS if you fall on it!