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“Private Tour Exceeded Expectations”

Kalapana Cultural Tours
Ranked #1 of 12 Tours in Pahoa
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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, Activities for young children, Bathroom facilities
South San Francisco, California, United States
1 review
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 3 helpful votes
“Private Tour Exceeded Expectations”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed June 17, 2013

My wife and I only learned about this company at the end of our vacation on the Big Island this past week. So we only had one more day to do it before heading home. As a photographer, it was important to me to have some flexibility in how our time was spent, so I wanted a private tour. Luckily, we were able to book one. The price for group tours was $100 per person, but for a private tour, it was only $150 per person, so we booked that.

We had trouble finding the location (our GPS was slightly out of date), but we called ahead and they were very accommodating, despite our being 30 minutes late.

The hike out to the lava was about 1.5 hours. Our guide, Andrew, is also a photographer (had very similar gear to me), was willing to loan me a lighter tripod for the hike (his spare), but when he saw mine, which was of good quality, he recommended he carry it for me so I'd have a heavier one to work with in the windy location.

Andrew shared lots of history about the lava, and also stories about how the community had been affected over the hears. When he was a young child, the lava took his house. His Auntie's house, though, had been spared through three different flows that took most of the houses around it. As a lifetime resident, he was able to tell us what used to be in place of the lava as we hiked across it. Houses, streets, cemeteries, ranches, etc.. It really brought out the cultural cost of the magnificent landscape in a very personal way. Andrew even carried along extra provisions, like a headlamp (we only had one), a poncho to cover my camera bags, and spare water in case we needed it.

Once we got to the lava, it was truly spectacular. We even stayed a bit longer to take pictures, and I got some good ones. You can see a couple on flickr here:


So if you want a reasonably priced guide to go see the lava, I highly recommend this company. And if you're a photographer, you might request Andrew. He was definitely helpful in recommending how to prepare for the trip, as well as bouncing ideas off of during the shoot itself.

One thing to note.. their office is in a relatively noisy open market kind of location. This made trying to book over the phone a little challenging. I ended up contacting them through their website, and then communicated over email to complete questions and booking. That worked out great, especially since we were driving all over the island when trying to book this. So I'd recommend that over calling.

Thanks Kalapana Cultural Tours, and especially our guide Andrew, for a great experience!!

Bill & Peggy

Visited June 2013
3 Thank BillShupp
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Kalapana_CT, Owner at Kalapana Cultural Tours, responded to this review, December 26, 2013
I'm happy that you appreciated the private guide and learning the affects that volcanic eruption has had on our community over the years. I'm glad the tour was much more personal as your guide shared first-hand stories about growing up in a town now covered by lava rock. That's great that your hike was safe, fun and full of spectacular lava viewing! Aloha and mahalo for joining us!
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307 reviews from our community

Visitor rating
Date | Rating
  • Danish first
  • English first
  • French first
  • German first
  • Italian first
  • Spanish first
  • Any
English first
2 reviews
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed June 13, 2013

That was the first time I got to see the Lava up close. The guides were very friendly and knowledgeable. I would love to go again.

Visited January 2013
Thank Drakerd
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Kalapana_CT, Owner at Kalapana Cultural Tours, responded to this review, December 26, 2013
Mahalo for joining us on your first lava adventure! Let us know when you'd like to go again! Aloha.
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Iowa City, Iowa, United States
Level Contributor
100 reviews
75 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 81 helpful votes
“Lava Up Close and Personal”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed June 11, 2013

Our guide Mikey was great, he showed us pictures and told stories about how the area was impacted by the flows. We found the hike there and back to be quite easy, we were frustrated by the slow Germans in our group. The French Canadians held their own. Mikey made sure the slower group was staying with us, stopping many times and telling about cultural icons and stories throughout the walk.

Just as we got near the ocean entry site a surface flow broke out, we were allowed to get as close as we felt safe/could stand the heat. It was great being able to see both surface and ocean entry sites, both were mesmerizing but I prefer surface flows, being able to be within feet of flowing lava has been on my bucket list since I was a kid.

The hike back at night was easy too. We brought our own headlamps but Mikey had enough flashlights for everyone if need be. On the way back, the slow Germans set the pace. Halfway back and giving the Germans a rest we stared at the night sky, everyone turned off their lights, an amazing sight with the surface flows in the distance, the stars above you and if you're lucky like we were, having the International Space Station fly overhead.

Great, great time. However if you are a geology nerd like I am, this tour isn't the greatest in that regard.

Visited June 2013
Thank Luke P
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Kalapana_CT, Owner at Kalapana Cultural Tours, responded to this review, December 26, 2013
Seeing our family's photos of what our hometown was like before the flow really adds to the value and experience of this tour and makes that lava rock you hike over really mean something MORE! Mahalo for joining us and glad to hear you had a safe and fun tour!
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Jacksonville FL
Level Contributor
56 reviews
22 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 66 helpful votes
“Awesome activity- guide marginal”
3 of 5 bubbles Reviewed June 6, 2013

The lava hike is incredible and there are several companies that all go to the same place. I booked with Kalapana Cultural tours based on reviews here on TA as well as their blog. Pretty much all of the tours involve the same thing- a long hike across the lava field to a spot where hopefully you can view lava up close, and then move down to waters edge to watch the lava enter the ocean. ( assuming of course that the lava is flowing). It really is incredible and I highly recommend going if you are up for the hike. We had a great time however I feel our guides did not provide optimal service.
With Kalapana Cultural tours you meet at their location which is an hours drive from Hilo. We arrived at the time that they indicated but check in only took a few minutes then we sat and waited for half an hour. Our party of 4 got into a van with 8 other people and they drove us aprox 10 minutes to the starting point. We had two guides- one that did all of the talking and led the group and one that just followed. There was also an extra female along- possibly she was in training but I think she was a girlfriend of one of the guides.
We hiked single file out to the lava, stopping every 20 minutes or so for water and information about rock formation, plant life etc. Our group was pretty strong and I think we made pretty good time- just under an hour and a half. They said sometimes it takes 2 hours. We spent about 20-30 minutes around active lava flow- taking photos and observing. Then we moved over by the water's edge so that we could watch the ocean entry. We were there for quite awhile-45 min to an hour. There were at least 3 other groups there- maybe 25 people as well as our group. We were given instructions about how to safely view the lava- and then the guides went off on their own. I noticed with the other groups their guides stayed with them, helped take photos etc.
our group did stay longer than some of the others- well past sundown. As it got darker, the lava flow into the ocean was simply amazing to watch.
When it was time to go back we were given small flashlights. On several occasions on the way back our guide mentioned that he would like to get back quickly because he was hungry. I'm sure we all felt the same- that we would like the return trip to go by quickly but I noticed I was much more tired hiking back. The hike back was more difficult in the dark- but not as bad as thought it was going to be.
Our group was a bit more strung out on the way back. Our guide and a few others were way out in front. When my flashlight went out it took a bit of effort to get help to replace the batteries.
We made it back with almost no incident- at least to my knowledge. My teenaged daughter did loose her footing and fell backwards but thankfully landed on her butt and only had minor scrapes on her hands.
In summary, I would do this activity again in a heart beat but I would probably choose a different guide company. We had a great time and met some great people. We really didn't need a lot of special attention from the guides- but I'm wondering how it would have been if we had had an issue.
If you go- wear jeans for more protection in case you do fall and the most supportive athletic shoes you can. My ankles were quite sore the next day from all of the twisting and turning trying to get a good footing on the hike. Also double check what your tour will provide. I was expecting headlamps as opposed to flashlights but in the end I don't think that was a big deal. To some it may be. Also we were pretty much expected to bring our own water. The guides did have extra water and frequently asked if anyone needed water- but we were not given any water or snacks. Other groups were completely outfitted with backpacks, snacks,water , walking sticks, headlamps. So know what you are or are not paying for.

Visited June 2013
7 Thank Lori B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Natick, Massachusetts
Level Contributor
6 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 12 helpful votes
“Must do!”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed June 2, 2013

We enjoyed the experience of seeing the lava flow from so close. Our guide Avery was really good. He made sure we were all doing okay and gave us enough breaks all along the hike. It took us a little over 1.5 hours to get there, when we finally did the flow was gorgeous and the wind was blowing away. Since it was really nice out on that night, our guide Avery, let us stay there for longer and did not rush us to head back. We did the group tour and enjoyed it!

These guys are so good that they even ordered food for us so it would be ready when we get back. Given that we got back after 11pm and that that part of the island pretty much shuts down between 6 and pm, the food we got was really nice.

This is a nice family owned business, you could get some really nice insights from them about the area and the culture of the people from there.

I would definitely recommend this tour for those visiting the big island. Worth every penny and drop of sweat. Being so close to natures marvels is indescribable. No picture can do justice to the actual experience.

Visited May 2013
1 Thank SudeepaP
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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