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Review of VolcanoDiscovery Hawai'i - CLOSED

VolcanoDiscovery Hawai'i
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Owner description: VolcanoDiscovery Hawai'i is now proud to support educational excursions through the non-profit Friends of Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park! By supporting the Friends, clients are provided with a captive expert guide of the same high quality but at a significantly lower cost than a luxury tour, with proceeds directly funding forest restoration, the Hawksbill Turtle (Honu 'ea) Recovery Project, the Nene Recovery Project, the park's Junior Ranger program, and the Youth Internship Program for underserved, at-risk students to work in the park. To experience the best of Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park with an expert instructor or naturalist guide, contact the Hawai'i Volcanoes Institute-On-Demand. Guides with VolcanoDiscovery training are available by special request through the Friends based on availability. VolcanoDiscovery continues to provide volcano news and global volcano travel despite discontinuing its Hawai'i luxury tour service.
Useful Information: Activities for older children
Reviewed March 18, 2013

Don't gyp yourself and your family if you can afford this tour! We did the private tour on 3/16/13 including the 6 mi (in total) hike to the lava with our family of 3, ages 60, 44 & 16. Reading other recent reviews, I simply agree w/all 5-star reviewers (lacybass, rubyredseattle, Robert T, etc). This is a VERY professionally-run company. I'm so VERY glad things didn't work out with the company I originally booked with that "dumped" us!

You've gotta know there is NO guarantee that lava will be flowing anywhere when you come here if you plan a few months ahead, it's up to Pele/the volcano, not the tour companies. Might seem obvious, but some people complain if they don't get the amazing experience all of us lately have had!

If you are thinking of a quick trip, GET HERE NOW, both the creeping lava and ocean entries are AMAZING! It was for me the most incredible natural thing I have ever seen in my 40+ yrs, and to have shared that with out teen son, well it makes me feel like an amazing parent :-)

We had Arthur as a guide, who was easy-going, interesting, and knowledgeable. He was very flexible for us, and as others said, provided wonderful local fruit and snacks whenever we wanted. He pointed out rare birds and spiders to us, which was fun, in addition to all the volcanic info. He deserves BIG, FAT TIPS!

PROVIDED ITEMS: I was totally impressed with all the things they provide, which is awesome, since we keep luggage small & don't need to lug more stuff to HI - tripod, rain ponchos, umbrellas, gloves for hiking, healthy snacks, walking stick, water, sweatshirts, backpack space if we need them to carry items for us...

NOT PROVIDED: Lunch is your own to buy, but VolcanoDiscovery provides chips, nuts, drinks, cookies, and fruit, so really all you need are some sandwiches. The volcano inn where we stayed sold sandwiches to go, so does VolcanoDiscovery, or you can do what we did - stop by Safeway or WalMart in Hilo, buy a loaf of bread, jars of peanut butter & jelly, and you're set :-)

SNACK NOTE: The only beverage provided without added sugar is water. The local Hawaiian non-carbonated beverages come in amazing tropical flavors, but they are only a small percentage of real juice. If you need to avoid sugar but want something more interesting, BYOB or perhaps specify by email before your tour.

CANON CAMERA BONUS TO ARTHUR: If you have a Canon camera, so does Arthur, & he knows how to use it! (He has won photo awards). He will help you take incredible shots as well as take amazing ones of you and your family.

SAFETY: When reviewing TA to help me choose a company, I assumed all companies were safe enough, whatever that means. Now that the tour out to the live lava is completed, I am really glad we chose a co. with such a focus on safety! Arthur explained some factors of risk that we would never know about since we aren't familiar with how lava flow acts. WOW, it can be dangerous without even having a clue. Kind of creepy to then see where some people were standing at the edge of the ocean above the unstable shelf...

INFO GIVEN: LOVE the details they sent us by email before the tour, we felt very prepared. When on the tour, VolcanoDiscovery provides the guides with a series of laminated booklets that ROCKS. Arthur would flip through it at appropriate times to relate what we were seeing today, such as many historical photos of the volcano's changes/growth, places that had homes that are now covered by lava, big eruptions, etc. It truly made what we were seeing FAR more interesting than just reading a guide book or some signs. It's great visuals, and there is a lot of detailed info for those who want it. Arthur would flip quickly past the scientific graphs with a one-sentence overview, which was perfect for us. At any point, we could slow him down and ask for more detail about what he was showing us.

IN SUMMARY: This wasn't cheap, and as my title says, WORTH EVERY DOLLAR. We have learned as we travel that it's really worth hiring a guide for places that are once-in-a-lifetime that are not self-explanatory. If we had just gone to the visitor's center, read a few things, looked over the edge at the steam, & walked the lava tube, it would have been interesting, but we never would have known what we didn't know, which made it INCREDIBLE.

13  Thank TravelPhotoWriter
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviews (297)
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Reviewed March 18, 2013

We typically prefer to tour around on our own (we travel alot, we're in our early 50's), but decided to hire a guide to get a better and bigger "picture" perspective of Kilauea volcano area. We chose the 4 hour tour that started, and ended at the volcano itself. Erik (and Kiko) were incredibly friendly, knowledgeable, and thoughtful as they shared the geology, botany, cultural history, and general info of the area--it was a great mix of driving, walking, and exploring. There was great interplay between us--not just a tour guide talking at us--which made it thoroughly enjoyable. We loved this tour and highly recommend it to others who want to learn more about this incredible part of the Big Island.

3  Thank Martha G
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 11, 2013

We went on the lava proximity hike with Neil on 2/27/13. The tour started at 3pm. Neil picked us up in Kalapana and we started the 2 mile each way hike from private land in Kalapana. Volcano Discovery has an agreement with the landowner. We had 6 people in our group. The hike is over uneven terrain but it is fairly flat. You do have to concentrate on your footing the entire time. The lava flow was AMAZING. I felt safe throughout the hike; Neil told us how close we could get to the lava and gave a lot of interesting commentary throughout the trip. I was worried about hiking back in the dark but with bright headlamps and walking sticks provided by the tour it was not a problem. We returned to our car around 9:30pm. This tour was my splurge on the trip and was totally worth it.

3  Thank lacybass
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 11, 2013 via mobile

My husband and I, both of us early 30's, did this tour last week on our honeymoon. We could not have asked for more. Neil was our excellent guide, and from the moment we met him we knew this was going to be a great trip. He was professional yet warm and approachable, and he possessed an infectious enthusiasm for geology which added greatly to our overall experience.

We opened up our tour so we could get a group rate and was surprised that our group only had two other couples. I'm pretty sure I heard Neil say that 6 people is the max for the tour. That's a great deal since with more people you might get held up waiting for someone. And it saved us some cash.

Volcano Discoveries were great from the beginning answering questions for me. They prepared us very well as to how to dress and what to pack. Take their advice about ankle support and vibram soles. I had both and my feet were still pretty sore after from the sharp terrain. The hike is no cake walk, but you don't even notice once you get to see LAVA flowing just feet from where you're standing!! Also lava was flowing into the ocean when we were there which I gather it doesn't always do, so that was a huge bonus.

Overall- this trip was easily one of the highlights of our trip to TBI.

3  Thank rubyredseattle
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed March 8, 2013

We had a ten hour tour with Arthur on Feb 28 2013. We arrived at the Hilo airport at 9:30 am from Oahu. Our tour was for my wife and I plus our two kids who are 18 and 15. We were picked up on time and whisked away to start our adventure. Arthur made sure he knew what was important to us and stopped for a nice snack and a chance to pick up a few supplies we needed. He brought along drinks and snacks which was great. Our first site was to hike to the flowing lava. This took us a total of about 4.5 hours round trip and was a challenging but enjoyable hike. The lava was amazing and we felt totally safe with Arthur. He went over safety information and tought us what we were about to see before we started out. We saw flowing lava and many outbreaks flowing into the ocean. What an amazing experience. When we arrived back at the van he had fresh pineapple and drinks ready. The pineapple was worth the trip. So sweet and fresh. Then we went up to the volcano park and gourd the lava tube and crater. We viewed the lava glow at dusk then Arthur took us back to the airport to fly back to Ohau. We had a great time and feel it was very well worth the money and would recommend it to others.

3  Thank Robert T
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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