A few days prior to the hike I went and hiked the short 4 mile crater route at Volcanoes National Park and then went to the viewing area at night. That experience whetted my appetite to get a bit closer It was nowhere near as spectacular as this hike. If you go all the way to the Big Island you have to get up close and personal!
First off - I would absolutely not recommend coming down to the Pu'o'o uu crater and trying to 'do it yourself'. Number one it's private land, and number two if you want to see the lava in the dark, you'll be hiking in the dark. The guides we had were excellent and answered any questions about the island. There's a viewing area for the public about a gazillion miles from the lava - you will see very little.
The walk out to the lava flowing into the ocean was easy, in the daylight at a relaxed pace with a break half way. We went on the 5pm hike. They have others earlier but it's more spectacular after dark. You're given ample time here to take photos and soak it in. After this we hiked up to see some new flow - now in the dark, with flashlights. Broke my foot a few years back rolling my ankle, and rolled it a few times here but thankfully no injury - to be honest I am a bit prone to doing it. Another girl in the group who wasn't enthusiastic about all the walking hurt herself and chose not to continue but the guides sorted things out quick, passing us on to another group and slowly making his way back with the injured party. A few people stumbled but I wouldn't say it's inherently dangerous - you're walking at night on uneven ground. If that doesn't sound good, take a helicopter/boat tour.
As long as you're reasonably fit you'll be fine. There were a few ten year old kids on our tour who did it with a smile. You will be walking for four hours, but as it was night the temperature was pleasant in shorts and t-shirt. We stopped off for food but honestly we needed half of what we took. A few bottles of water is all you need and perhaps some energy bars. You won't starve out there! The hike back was a little faster paced but each time someone's torch ran out you'd stop for a bit of a breather anyway. I got chatting to a few of the other hikers and the time whizzed by.
The surface flow we hiked to was super cool. You don't have to worry about getting too close - the heat will stop you doing anything silly. It's very intense. It's just awesome to watch, an unforgettable experience.
As with anything natural, there are no guarantees so if you're on the island for a while, I would wait until you get here to book a trip, checking with your concierge about current conditions.
So, as long as you can handle a bit of a walk, I would absolutely recommend this tour. It's once in a lifetime stuff. They were very professional throughout and I always felt safe.
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