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Day Trip from Waikoloa to Volcano N.P - Advice Appreciated..

Southern California
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Day Trip from Waikoloa to Volcano N.P - Advice Appreciated..

Hi All..

Any advice would be definitely appreciated...

My wife and kids (boys..11 and 14) will be on the Big Island for a week (staying in Waikoloa). We would like to spend a day experiencing Volcanos on the Big Island.

We have considered the following ways to approach this:

1. Doing the Bike Tour down Kilauea

2. Doing a self-driven tour to Volcano National Park (VNP).

3. Doing the Circle of Fire plus Waterfalls Helicopter tour out of Hilo.

4. Any combination of the above?

I'm leaning toward the following itinerary..

- Leave Waikoloa at 6 or 7 a.m to Hilo via HI-19 through Waimea.

- Arrive in Hilo no later than 9:00 a.m .

- Take 10:00 a.m. 45-minute helicopter tour (Circle of Fire plus Waterfalls) out of Hilo..

- Leave Hilo at 11:00 a.m. (45 minutes to VNP / lunch)

- Arrive at VNP around 12:00 p.m.

- Self tour VNP for about 3-4 hours (depart by 4:00 p.m.) (recommendations on must sees welcomed/Is this enough time to be worth it?).

- Depart VNP no later than 4:00 p.m. Drive back to Waikoloa via HI-11 (with a couple interesting stops along the way.. i.e. waterfalls, photo ops, short hikes, black sand)

- Arrive back on Waikoloa around 8 p.m.

We would like to get back to Waikoloa no later than 8 p.m. as we have an early tour the following day. I understand that doing this over a 2-day span in recommended, however we will need to make this a day trip.

Concerns.

Bike Tour:

We are thinking alternately about just doing the bike tour, but I'm concerned with the length/duration (5 hours), and whether it's cool/fun enough to make it the focus of the day. My boys ride bikes all the time.. but have never been on a helicopter (nor have my wife and I).. How much of the volcano do you experience on this bike tour?

Drive Time/Night Driving:

With my itinerary, we will be basically looping the island with an estimated drive time upwards of 6 hours (am I correct). I'll have to decide if this is worth it, however, some of this drive may end up being at night (coming back to Waikoloa via HI 11 from VNP). Should night driving this route be of concern?

Any feedback/suggestions/recommendations on this day trip and the best/safest route to do it would be greatly appreciated? Thanks in advance :-)

Edited: 3:51 pm, June 25, 2010
Island of Hawaii...
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21. Re: Day Trip from Waikoloa to Volcano N.P - Advice Appreciated..

Sounds good!

One comment: Akaka Falls will be likely be cloudy or raining if done on your way home from VNP. It's on the eastern slope of a 14,000 foot mountain, so it loses the light early. One car break-in reported on the board was due to an iPod being left on the seat in a visit to Akaka after 4:30.

Akaka is a trouble spot for that, and after 4:30 or so the day crowds are gone, so that the fullness of the lot doesn't deter thieves. Go ahead and stop, but leave nothing visible in the car, and put everything in your trunk at VNP or last stop. Never open your trunk after you park; it makes them think you're putting valuables in. Sorry I have to warn you about unpleasant things, but it's real.

Brown's is a wonderful sunset spot and I'm sure you'll have a memorable evening.

Be sure to verify with the helo people before hitting the road, as Hilo flights do get canceled if weather conditions aren't good.

At Bubba Gumps, insist on a waterfront table; it is worth waiting for, really nice view, waves crashing. Inside seating, nothing special.

Oh, and I would not recommend going south on Hwy 11 the day of flight. An accident on that road can block traffic for hours, as there is no way to detour around. Pololu does have black sand. I would never drive all the way to Punalu'u from the Hilton. Part of it is thick with slow traffic, through Honaunau, and part of it is visually boring, the only drive on the island I don't care for. It's got a long section of curves where you are up on the side of the mountain that few people enjoy.

Rather than spend eight hours doing this boring thing on your last day, I would make the full circle on your VNP day.

If you need to see Akaka, it's only 90 minutes from the Hilton unlike the far away black sand and South Point. I would pass on South Point; it's interesting in its own way if you have the time, but not a must see, and it's a looong one lane road to get in there.

Southern California
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22. Re: Day Trip from Waikoloa to Volcano N.P - Advice Appreciated..

Thanks K..

That's the type of advise you can't get from reading a map or a travel book. I've received conflicting recommendations on which way I should travel back from VNP. Seems like the south route has potential issue with VOG and is much more of a traffic risk later in the day than the north route. Maybe we'll just skip the southern part of the island altogether. In our last trip to Maui, there was a fire that closed Hwy 30 for HOURS. We hit that coming in from the airport on the day of our arrival.. Nothing worse than sitting in traffic to ruin your vacation spirit.

We are always safe when it comes to keeping stuff in the car. Good advise and thanks for the warning.. Other than car theft risk, should I be concerned with Akaka falls that time of the day in general (security/safety wise)?? Is it that sketchy?

Island of Hawaii...
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23. Re: Day Trip from Waikoloa to Volcano N.P - Advice Appreciated..

Hi, no safety concerns, our thieves are chickens and only take when you aren't around.

Vog-- vog bothers me, but the A/C in your car takes care of the problem. Don't worry about that.

There are long stretches on both routes where if there is an accident, people have to sit until it is cleared. You're driving around the base of a mountain and there are few areas where there's a through road to bypass. Don't worry about it; it's just on the day you have your flight out might not be the best for driving hours from the airport.

If you drive back from VNP via the south, you actually get more light in the day, because the last part is on the west coast. Seriously, if Punalu'u is a must for your wife, go see it when you're close to it. It's 30 minutes from VNP.

Black sand is hot and burns the feet and it's not safe to swim at Punalu'u unless you grew up there and know the tricky currents, so it's kind of a novelty thing. It is beautiful, and it will look better late in the day when the sun is at an angle than in the bright glare of full sun. Or early, one of the two.

I hope you have Place of Refuge on your list.

Kennett Square...
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24. Re: Day Trip from Waikoloa to Volcano N.P - Advice Appreciated..

Most of the snorkel trips seem to be in Kona, so maybe you could work in Place of Refuge on the same day. However, if you want to stay north and avoid the 45-minute drive, we went on a snorkel boat trip with Mauna Lani Sea Adventures. It was a nice, big motorized catamaran with a covered area ... very comfortable. The snorkeling was great, there were only 13 people on board when we went, and we were the only boat around because we were within Mauna Lani's boundaries. No crowds! We also explored Mauni Lani's beautiful fish pond while we waited for our tour that morning.

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25. Re: Day Trip from Waikoloa to Volcano N.P - Advice Appreciated..

Thanks K.... We heard about Place of Refuge and it looks very interesting. We talked about it and will consider a side trip to there after our Kona snorkle (depending on how we are feeling at the time). I guess it's considered a must-see. So, we'll try.

MI... I think we are going to do a Fair Winds II snorkle. Reviews seem to be pretty good. However, I will check out Sea Adventures for another option.

Thanks.. :-)

26. Re: Day Trip from Waikoloa to Volcano N.P - Advice Appreciated..

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