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“Simple - this is a must do.” 5 of 5 bubbles
Review of Kalapana Cultural Tours

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: Bathroom facilities, Activities for young children, Food available for purchase, Activities for older children
Oxfordshire, England
Level Contributor
31 reviews
14 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 89 helpful votes
“Simple - this is a must do.”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed August 25, 2013

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.

Visited August 2013
Helpful?
1 Thank metalliam
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 20, 2013
Yes, we do take you as CLOSE as safely possible to flowing lava -- a completely different experience than anything in Volcanoes National Park. I see that you agree that this part of the island is simply worth touring since it is so naturally unique and packed with history and Hawaiian culture. I'm happy to hear that the hike was manageable and that you felt very safe: Our guides are very well qualified and prepared for any situation such as the rarity when someone cannot handle the hike. Since the hiking conditions change quite often (sometimes daily) we are ready for emergencies and try our best to screen guests and describe the hiking conditions before guests depart. Mahalo for joining us and aloha!!
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Castro Valley
Level Contributor
3 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 2 helpful votes
“No words to describe how awesome”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed August 21, 2013 via mobile

No words to describe how awesome.. We saw the flowing lava and we cooked s'mores and grilled cheese on steam vent.

The hiking was very hard. Need to wear knee/support pads, pants, gloves, hiking shoes, ankle support, all kind of support.

The bad part of the trip when we got lost going back. The tour guide who was supposed to be knowledgeable cant find the way home.

Visited August 2013
Helpful?
Thank Dalycityca
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 20, 2013
We are happy to have provided you with a nice lava viewing experience plus the opportunity to roast grinds (food) over the natural heat! There are actually numerous trails back to home-base and the flattest & least strenuous trails tend to be longer distances, and therefore, take a longer time. The guides access the individual group's needs and decide which trail is the safest for that particular group. Your guide chose the longer trail for safety reasons and walked slower and that is why you arrived later than planned. Also, we HIGHLY stress that anyone with ankle and knee problems (among other health concerns) should not attempt the hike at all. We offer gloves to protect hands if one does happen to fall on the shark lava rock. Mahalo for joining us and much aloha!
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ft collins, co
Level Contributor
13 reviews
4 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 9 helpful votes
“Lava Tour with Kalapana: top 3 thing in life to do!”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed August 20, 2013

Wow! is not enough to describe this experience. A truly once in a lifetime experience--- watching hot lava stream so close, watching it glow, both on the surface, and then with some additional hiking, streaming into the ocean, creating clouds and mist from the sea water was more than awing... This 6+ hour hiking tour,with a fantastic guide, who was patient, considerate of all the different hiker's (or limited)athleticism and very knowledgeable about the area, the culture, the importance, and the nature and volcanic activity around, was beyond our dreams!

Walking on the hardened lava requires care, because falling or grabbing onto the sharp lava rock is not a reasonable option. It was and is worth the time, energy and cost. Even our 15 year old son came away believing what he had done and seen was amazing, awing and the most phenomenal thing he had ever experienced.

It is the stuff of your greatest imagination....except it's real, physical, and stunning.

If you are on the Big Island, and have the opportunity to take this tour, don't miss it. Do heed the limitations, as it is a workout. Lots of up and down stepping--- as in 18" and better step ups and down and across crevices on the lava as it flowed and hardened, no man made anything.... This is one experience none of us will ever forget, regret or otherwise rue.

Also, while there is another tour group providing a similar tour (same place/area and sight), Kalapana is operated and guided by Hawaiian people, not just any tour guide. Our guide's ties to the land and people of Kalapana and his discussion and explanations of culture and history/lore/myth, pointing things out as we trekked made this tour all the more meaningful for all of us.

Check out Kalapana Cultural Tours Lava Tour blog for daily commentary and photos of the lava activity seen by tour hikers--- and then imagine being there---- life is so much greater than photos or fiction! Not to be passed up!

Visited August 2013
Helpful?
Thank diane h
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 20, 2013
We are thrilled to hear that your guide helped make this experience a 'top three' on your life list and "beyond your dreams." Our guides truly work so hard to make each tour completely individual just like the people taking it. Yes-- the blog on our website is a great way to track lava status as you now know it changes by the minute! If you enjoyed the culture and lore, we've started a Hawaiian cultural newsletter so please contact us if you are interested in getting your cultural and lava dose every month! Mahalo for hiking with KCT and aloha to you!
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Richmond, Virginia
Level Contributor
6 reviews
5 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 8 helpful votes
“private guide was worth the extra cost”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed August 16, 2013

Aug 4, 2013 - we'd seen surface flow on a previous trip, so we were disappointed that we weren't able to see any on this hike. Still, Andrew did a really good job of telling us about the lava, plants, and community on our hike out. It wasn't too hot, so the water we brought (hydration packs) was more than sufficient. We went out to a spot where we could watch the lava flowing into the ocean from a point out along the water. It was a really good spot to get some very nice pics. Andrew is also interested in photography, and when he learned of my son's interest he really helped him to get some great pics. The stars and Milky Way were out, so Andrew lent us his tripod; we got some amazing pics of the stars. The extra attention made the private guide really worth it to us. The hike back didn't seem so bad (a company vehicle was at the end of the road to help cut down the return distance).

Visited August 2013
Helpful?
1 Thank P H
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 20, 2013
Thank you for joining Andrew on a private lava tour - he is born and raised in Kalapana, studied and is an expert in native Hawaiian plants and shoots most of the blog's photos. I'm glad you liked the extra attention and knowledge Andrew share with you and that he kept your family safe. I see that we are faulting a star from you because we cannot control nature. We do absolutely guarantee flowing lava, yet we cannot predict (nor can scientists) the location because nature is beautifully spontaneous and lava especially changes by the second. :) Our guide's goal is to lead guests to the BEST possible (and safest) viewpoints on the island. While one may consider it unfortunate to "only" see ocean-entry lava, the fact is that ocean entry views are MUCH more rare than surface flows.

Typically, when lava is pumping into the ocean like it was during your tour, the surface tends to be less active because the volcano is a pressure system. Interestingly, since surface flows are much more common, it is very likely that you will see surface with us if you return at some point -- yet very unlikely that you will be so lucky to see the ocean-entry flow again. We are so happy that you and your family enjoyed the private tour and got some great lava photos! We sincerely appreciate you joining us here at KCT. Aloha and a hui hou.
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Manchester, United Kingdom
Level Contributor
27 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 18 helpful votes
“Unbelievable”
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed August 13, 2013 via mobile

Our guide was Kahi. We pretty much had him to ourselves on our honeymoon 5.30pm hike. I was a little bit worried about the health and safety, speed and safety of the hike after reading other reviews. But I was proved wrong. He kept checking we were ok with the pace. Kept asking if we needed to stop. I would say bring gloves if you're worried you will fall as the hardened lava can be sharp. But there were no falls on our hike.

Kahi gave us a local residents perspective. He knew where he was going. And he considered our safety when we reached the lava, moving us a bit further back when the wind appeared to shift.

This was the most amazing experience of our whole honeymoon. I would definitely recommend it. Bring solid shoes! And enjoy every minute. I wish I was back there!

And a huge thank you to Kahi, you were fantastic.

Visited July 2013
Helpful?
Thank jacmr82
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 20, 2013
Mahalo for letting us be a part of your honeymoon! Great to hear that your guide was courteous, safe and knowledgable. We provide gloves to guests for safety in the case that they do fall, and guides carry them for all guests in their pack. We are always striving to give guests MORE than lava: a full experience explaining the sacred place where you actually are and what it means to our ancestors and us. We are happy to have made your honeymoon even HOTTER and hope you never forget your good times here in our home of Kalapana. :) Aloha and a hui hou.
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