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“The A-#1 lava tour in Hawaii”

Kalapana Cultural Tours
Ranked #1 of 14 Tours in Pahoa
Certificate of Excellence
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Attraction details
Owner description: LAVA Tours: Boat | Bike | Hike Big Island, Hawaii Native Kalapana Hawaiian Owned & Operated See lava with someone whose house is buried in it! Lava Tour Schedule 2016 Boat: 5:00am, 8:00am, 2:30pm, 5:00pm, 8:00pm Bike / Hike: 5:00am, 8:00am, 3:30pm, 5:00pm Private Tour/Boat Charter: anytime upon request
Useful Information: Food available for purchase, Activities for older children, Bathroom facilities, Activities for young children
Kapolei, Hawaii
Level 1 Contributor
3 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 4 helpful votes
“The A-#1 lava tour in Hawaii”
Reviewed January 28, 2013

I feel compelled to submit my review in response to the negative review posted on January 25th. My friend and I had a GREAT experience with the tour guide, Koa, and the crew at Kalapana Cultural Tours.
One look at the landscape of Hawaii's youngest island will have you in awe of Mother Earth's amazing power. No one in their right mind would underestimate the challenges of navigating the natural terrain in and around Volcano National Park, day or night. Nor would those people compare this terrain to a rain-forest, a canoe trip, or a lava tube. Lava is inherently dangerous and cooled lava is not much more than silica (glass). The hike with Kalapana Cultural Tours is a marvelously unique experience!
In December 2012, a friend and I booked a tour with Kalapana Cultural Tours who, we were told by Big Island residents, is the only company permitted to hike through private property in order to reach the lava flow and view the sea entry. Though they were nearly booked up, the nice woman on the phone kindly offered us a few different tour departure times. We chose the last tour which left before sunset. Before setting out on the hike, Koa explained that the terrain would be challenging and the pace would be rather brisk. It will be dark on the return hike and there is no marked trail. All guests had ample opportunity to reassess the situation and opt out before departing. The hike distance fluctuates with the traveling river of lava. Koa explained that we would have to hike for an hour and a half before reaching the lava. If it rains, he has ponchos for everyone. After dark, he has flashlights and plenty of extra batteries for everyone. I feel as though all facts were disclosed before departing.
The hike was amazing! Walking on black glass...almost like obsidian...that had cooled in so many fascinating forms and shapes. And when we reached the lava flow, emotions i've never experienced filled me up. Seeing earth in this raw form was more than my mind could handle. Almost two months later, I'm still on a emotional high from this trip! Thank you Koa and Kalapana Cultural Tour.
Born and raised on Oahu, I've looked forward to meeting Pele face to fire since her reappearance in 1983. Yes, there are other companies that can take you to view the lava flow. You can buy tickets on airplanes, helicopters and boats...all of which come with risk of serious injury or death. Please read the rest of the reviews and then book your tour with Kalapana Cultural Tours!

Visited December 2012
1 Thank hawaiianryan1977
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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362 reviews from our community

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Los Angeles
Level 2 Contributor
8 reviews
5 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 23 helpful votes
“Astonishing view of lava; Unnecessarily dangerous trip!”
Reviewed January 25, 2013

Kilauea's rushing lava was said to be at its most spectacular in a decade earlier this month. The well-regarded geologist Phillip Ong's hiking tour was booked so we took a chance on Kalapana Cultural Tours. Huge mistake!

To give some context for the following negative review, here's a little background about me, the reviewer. I'm a middle-aged female, very fit, and a veteran of some fairly exotic travel including two weeks of hiking through the rain forest in Borneo and a three-day canoe trip down the Zambezi River past (and close to) hippos and crocs. I spent a half-day prior to the Kalapana lava hike in a pitch-dark lava tube with the excellent guide Harry Schick to get a feel for the glassy, easily shattered surface we would be traversing.

The sole difference between these previous adventures which were thrilling and Kalapana's night lava hike which was an ordeal was the caliber of the guides. In Borneo, the Dayak tribesmen, though they spoke no English, expertly helped us navigate the slippery forest full of venomous snakes, insects the size of our fists and streams teeming with leeches. Though they could've done it with their eyes closed (in fact, one was blind though he had no trouble keeping up with his sighted colleagues), they understood that the environment was completely foreign to us. Ditto our Zambezi guide, who educated and watched over us from his canoe.

Our Kalapana guide, Koa (sp?), was a nice-enough guy, but immature and with no apparent appreciation of how difficult race-walking on crunchy, brittle lava is for the uninitiated. The first one down in our group of six (including the guide) was a male hiker from Canada. Minor injury to the hand. No big deal, but Koa was so far ahead of us as the night grew darker that most of the time we could not see him or the two young Hawaiian tourists for whom this was a third-time adventure. We slowed down our pace as crevasses in the lava big enough for a body to fall through were barely visible in the small, dim flashlights Kalapana provided.

Periodically, Koa would notice that my husband and I were lagging and wait the half-minute it took us to catch up. Each time, I asked him to slow it down just a little explaining that it wasn't a question of our fitness just our lack of experience in the environment. I also mentioned that my flashlight was all but useless and he helpfully explained that it was because they hadn't replaced the batteries since the last group of hikers had used them. (He did, however, replace them.)

Around half-way there, as we caught up once again, I was aghast to see that our guide's leg was badly lacerated in several places with blood literally streaming down it. It seems the pace was too much even for him. Shorts, by the way, are an ill-advised fashion choice on this hike. Once again, I asked him to slow down. Request ignored other than his suggestion that maybe I should stay behind because the hike was perhaps too much for me.

We passed another group of young and old hikers on their way back from the lava field. They seemed relaxed and enthusiastically reported the thrilling sight we were about to behold. With that, the race to get there was really on. My husband and I sped up to keep pace with Koa, who could hardly contain his excitement or his speed -- not to was to be left behind in a vast, unfamiliar terrain cloaked in darkness -- when it happened: I felt the hardened lava shattering beneath my hiking boots, lost my footing and fell, landing hard on my side. Another hiker helped me ascertain that my aching jaw was not broken though my face and ear were lacerated. I wouldn't know for another several hours that I had also suffered a serious subdural bleed in my thigh as well as bruises on my arm and knee. At that point, I kind of exploded and asked Koa if three out of six injured wasn't a sign that we should slow down especially since one of them was him. Apparently, it wasn't.

We finally got to the gushing lava without any further injuries and it was indeed a spectacular sight. "That was worth it, wasn't it?" Koa exclaimed as though lava that has been flowing since the eighties wouldn't have waited had we spent an extra 20-30 minutes getting to it. Koa then went about the business of cleaning up his bleeding leg. Didn't occur to him to ask if I needed any of the moistened tissues in his first aid kit to clean my face. I asked for some Neosporin, but he didn't have any.

We got very, very close to the lava. Close enough for Koa to toast a marshmallow. Close enough that we couldn't sit down on the hot rocks. Close enough that we could see liquid lava coursing beneath us through fissures on the surface. I have no idea whether this was safe. Our guide had demonstrated so little common sense that my confidence in his judgment was nil.

Obviously, I lived to tell and write about it. But I have little doubt that if Kalapana Cultural Tours doesn't do a much better job of training all of its guides and putting one at the back of the group as well as one at the front, it is only a matter of time before they will have a very serious injury -- a fractured skull or a broken hip -- or even a fatality to their discredit. When that happens, all the release forms in the world aren't going to help them. Hope they wise up before then. In the meantime, enjoy the lava but do it by boat or book early and go with Phillip Ong.

Visited January 2013
10 Thank squirrelhillave
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Jose60713, Manager at Kalapana Cultural Tours, responded to this review, February 5, 2013
January 27, 2013
Thank you for your feedback in regards to your tour. As always, we appreciate customer feedback as it is essential to the improvement of our business. Customer satisfaction is our main priority here at Kalapana Cultural Tours. Thank you for helping us to better our company and ensuring that this will be a problem that can be avoided in the future. We also provide Private Tours for those wanting a more personalized tour that is based solely on their needs and not that of the general group.

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Los Angeles, California
Level 4 Contributor
46 reviews
23 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 44 helpful votes
“Great Lava Tour..stood less than 4ft away from the lava”
Reviewed January 20, 2013

Great Lava tour...the tour was given by Kahi and his cousin Jojo was giving the other tour...The walk to the lava took about 2hrs or maybe about 2miles...The pace to the lava is as fast as the slowest walker. Along the way we were given history, knowledge, as well as the future of the area where so many people lost their homes..Once we reached the lava flow, it was unbelievable..Stood less that 4ft from the lava as it came out of the ground....In the short distance you could see the lava as it hit the ocean, and that was an incredible sight to see, one that shouldnt be missed..Best to start the tour about 2hrs before sunset so u get to see the glowing lava flow at night...
Someone asked Kahi how long will we be there at the lava flow, his answer was as long as you want to stay. It was basically a group consensus as to when everyone wanted to leave.That was the greatest answer because there was no rush...
Kalapana Tour Company, Kahi, Jojo and family own the land that the lava flow sits on so what better group to give the tour..I have yet to figure out how they navigate back to the parking area with just a flashlight and no line of sight in front of you..Each guide has their own path back, if you were by yourself you could be stuck there all night...
For the Kamaaina's ask for the rate....
Be sure to bring atleast 2ltrs of water, and if you can, wear a pair of jeans, because if you fall in all that volcanic rock, its like getting cut on a piece of glass, and the land mass is very rocky...
I recommend kalapana cultural tours, you can make a reservation online, or i guess you can do what i did and just show up ;).....Give yourself plenty of time to get there, if you must get there GPS "kalapana village cafe"....the check in is located next door

Visited January 2013
1 Thank Tkt2travel
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Larsen, Wisconsin
Level 3 Contributor
14 reviews
4 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 14 helpful votes
“Great lava viewing trip”
Reviewed January 20, 2013

A knowledgeable and friendly guide led a smallish group of us over old lava flows to the edge of where the lava is currently pouring into the ocean for sunset viewing. That spectacle is beyond words and we feel so fortunate for happening to be in the right place at the right time. While one can find a way there without a guide, this tour was much safer and certain. The only downside was that we didn't know beforehand how long a walk it was going to be (a little under 3 miles one-way). At $100 per person, it seems like a steep price too, but given the spectacle that we were able to see, it was worth it. This was a "life list" activity for us!

Visited January 2013
Thank Joy P
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Chemainus, Canada
Level 6 Contributor
130 reviews
24 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 33 helpful votes
“Ocean entry Lava!”
Reviewed January 20, 2013 via mobile

Words can't describe the beauty and amazement to see Madame Pele at work! The earth is being created right before your eyes! Right now, the lava not only is flowing, it is cascading into the ocean! A more rare sight so if you're looking for the ultimate in lava viewing, we highly recommend this tour!
Our guides Scarlet and Andrew were very nice and informative. They guide you safely to and from a two mile home over the lava flow. Probably feels more like 3 miles each way as it's over a lava field. Be aware this is not for severely out of shape people. The guides do take their time and look after the group. Lights are provided for the return trip.
This tour is through private property and they do drive you part way. You can go on foot but it is much longer and you are trespassing. The money for this tour supports a very nice family and what price would you put on your health and safety.
Take this tour...especially right now with ocean entry lava!

Thank VitaminandDolphin
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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