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“Life changing!”
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
Waukesha, Wisconsin
Level 3 Contributor
10 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 12 helpful votes
“Life changing!”
Reviewed September 28, 2013 via mobile

This tour is worth every penny! We went with Arthur on the proximity lava tour on our five year anniversary. Nothing could possibly ever compare with this. The long hike to the lava was worth it. It was just us and the lava as opposed to other groups that will take twenty people. Arthur helped us take some amazing photos. This was the best experience we had out of all four islands! I cannot recommend them higher. Although, I would definitely take them seriously about the difficulty level. This is no walk in the park. It was an adventurous hike. The lava at night with the most amazing sky full of stars gave me such a moment of clarity that it even inspired me to go back to school! This experience literally changed my life!

Visited August 2013
2 Thank iscrm4iscrm
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

297 reviews from our community

Visitor rating
Date | Rating
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English first
Brisbane, Australia
Level 2 Contributor
8 reviews
5 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 7 helpful votes
“Best Hawai'ian experience, once in a lifetime- you will be happy you did it”
Reviewed September 20, 2013

Although it seems more expensive than other tours, as with many of the other reviews, have nothing but the highest praise for the experience delivered by Volcano Discovery. You should not pass up the opportunity!

I wanted to add how much individual attention this company gave to our experience. I am a Science teacher and had specific interests for volcanology and tectonics, and a pregnant wife who had interests but also restrictions to how much exposure she could have to the gases. After several emails between myself (seeking information about wether it would be safe for my wife to view lava) and Volcano Discovery in the months leading up to our holiday, we had created a tailored experience that my wife could enjoy and would allow me to experience sea entry lava as well. We both did a half day tour of the crater area of the park, before I went on the evening hike to the sea entry lava at Kalapana. Our tour was just my wife, myself and our guide Neil.

Neil picked us up from our accommodation at about 10.30am and we drove into the park, where we spent the next 4 hours being guided through all the major features of the crater area of the park. It became quite a hands on experience as we learnt about many details of the volcanic history of the islands, and how the volcanic events had left certain marks on the park. We had at all times ample supply of food provided by the tour and at no time did we feel rushed, even though we covered a large number of features through out the park.

We dropped my wife back at our accommodation and then drove down to Kalapana. I really enjoyed this part because being from Australia, I had many questions about America that were not even remotely related to volcanoes, and Neil was an excellent source of information on a wide range of topics. At this point I felt we had already got our moneys worth.

The twilight viewing of the lava at Kalapana was one of those silent appreciation of in awe of Pele type encounters. The hike out was not at all strenuous, I wore vibram soled shoes and they were fine. We took all the safety gear with us, but it was absolutely safe, and at all times Neil knew exactly what he was doing. It is quite a sight to walk of lava fields that have covered villages. We sat comfortably for several hours just watching lava entries open up to the sea, and Neil even help me with all the settings on my wife's very expensive Nikon D800 so I could take some amazing photos.

The walk back at night delivered perhaps the most unexpected enjoyment. The volcanic rock has a high glass content, which makes it rough to touch and a little nasty to fall on, as the glass is like tiny flecks in the rock. As it was a clear night, with the moon just after the full phase, the black rocks we walked over reflected the moonlight, they glittered and sparkled. It was like walking across another world.

It was easily the best tour experience I have ever had, and the park/Kalapana itself is right up there with any other natural wonder on our planet. Neil could not have been more knowledgable, professional, friendly, thoughtful and accommodating. I have not come across a better guide. I have never tipped so much money (Australians don't tip normally). Even as a degree level science teacher I learnt so much on the tour, and experienced it all first hand. I was able to appreciate the amazing processes that have shaped the island chain and capture some great memories which we stay with me forever.

Visited June 2013
4 Thank James H
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Melbourne, Australia
Level 6 Contributor
25 reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 32 helpful votes
“An exhilarating experience...a must do whilst visiting the Big Island.”
Reviewed September 16, 2013

My sister and I went on the 6 hour lava proximity hike with Arthur as our guide and well, what can I say, what an amazing once in a lifetime experience.

We set off about 4pm after we were briefed on safety and the history of the lava flows.

We didn't know what to expect to see as Mother Nature and Pele are, well, unpredictable but after a couple of hours of hiking, we finally saw our first flow of lava. It was mesmerizing. We sat and watch various flows right in front of our eyes for a good hour whilst the sun went down.

It's not an overly strenuous hike, but make sure you have the right footwear and wear long pants (as is recommended).

Make sure you take plenty of water (2lt is recommended per person). Water is provided, as are snacks and fruit, but rather have more water than not enough, especially if hiking on a warm/hot day.

Arthur was very knowledgeable and would highly recommend him to anyone who is looking at doing this tour.

Visited August 2013
1 Thank Vanessa S
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Boston, Massachusetts
Level 6 Contributor
134 reviews
46 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 98 helpful votes
“A+ for the company; but unfortunately no surface lava flow”
Reviewed September 15, 2013

Let me start off by saying that Volcano Discovery is top notch. Everything from the reservation process to safety briefing and beyond was very professional. We met up with Arthur, our guide, at 1 pm to do our lava hike. I didn't want to hike in the dark so I asked to hike earlier in the day. He gave us a great background on the lava and the surroundings, and a very good safety briefing. He also had snacks and plenty of water and safety equipment. We started off at 2 pm to hike and after 2 1/2 miles we made it to the spot where there is typically lava. No lava. It was dried up and no surface flow. Arthur gave us an option to keep hiking for another mile to a place he was pretty sure would be lava. Keep in mind, this company has been around for years and has always seen lava! We kept hiking and after 4 miles, realized we weren't going to find anything. It wasn't for Arthur's lack of trying! He must have ran an additional 2 miles looking for lava while we stopped and took a break. I felt bad for how far he went. On the way back we met up in the original spot and saw the red in the cracks, but that was about it. In all we hiked 8 miles (some of it in pouring rain) to not see anything. It's a strenuous hike and would not recommend unless you are in shape, and have good footwear. The company refunded all of our money without us asking, which I thought was very generous. They didn't need to do that since there was no guarantee of lava. We ensured Arthur was tipped appropriately since he was so amazing.

To recommend this tour I think the company has to ensure that lava is flowing to the surface each day. (helicoptor? Send someone out in the morning?).

Visited September 2013
1 Thank njgalinbos
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
VolcanoExplorer, Owner at VolcanoDiscovery Hawai'i, responded to this review, September 18, 2013
Aloha njgalinwt, and thanks for your honest review!

We appreciate your recognition that we did everything possible in the unfortunate circumstance which occurred, that lava flows (within safe & legal access) came to a pause within the few hours right before your tour.

We do rely on scouting reports from someone who goes out each morning, as well as tracking the changing conditions during our tours from night to night. While a daily helicopter is out of our budget, it's not always possible to see the smaller lava flows in a quick fly-by. These same lava flows would be exciting to visit on foot, where the extra time gives us the ability to observe subtle signs of building pressure that might lead to a new breakout within minutes.

While we have been somewhat successful in anticipating changes on the volcano in the past, our monitoring and scouting in the days leading up to your tour gave no indication of the pending sudden change, which amounted to a blockage in the "plumbing" of just that particular part of the volcano. In fact, on this occasion we did find it worthwhile to go up in a helicopter on the following day to better assess the true nature of the sudden change and were able to conclude that it was only a partial blockage, and that new lava flows could emerge in a matter of days at best.

One week later, helicopter and scouting reports are that the blockage has been partially cleared, and there is a new lava flow emerging from the more dangerous, off-limits areas in the upper slopes, which we hope will continue to advance into the safer areas at best within the next few days, but perhaps within a week or longer. We continue to monitor the volcano, and will offer the lava hike again as soon as it safely and legally possible, but in the meantime we are forced to our back-up plans for anyone who requested a lava hike on tours subsequent to yours and through the date of this response. For anyone reading this response more than a few weeks after its posting, please check with us directly for an update on current eruption conditions and safe legal access, and it is likely to have changed.

While we know it's Nature and we can't control the lava, and despite the fact that we always require a back-up to the lava hike and cannot guarantee viewings (exactly because of its intrinsic and exciting uncertainty), we did feel badly at how the sudden change affected your tour, and in your particularly rare case we felt compelled to break our policy and proactively issue you a full refund. While you couldn't have seen lava directly in a back-up itinerary in the National Park, we feel we could have created a better tour experience for you there, even if we needed to customize your tour to exclude areas you had already visited on your own. And the nighttime orange glow from the summit is a fantastic and much easier alternative to the lava, which would have at least saved you the difficult hiking.

Regardless, we hope that you ultimately have some fond memories of your experience with Arthur hiking across the barren landscape and personally experiencing the nature of the changing volcano. We hope you have a chance to return someday during better eruption conditions so that we can get you safely and back to the active lava flows, and hope you would consider us to lead you again. Thank you once again for your honest feedback on how we can create a 5-star experience for everyone!
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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Indianapolis, Indiana
Level 3 Contributor
15 reviews
6 attraction reviews
common_n_attraction_reviews_1bd8 14 helpful votes
“Bucket list level adventure, thanks to a very professional company”
Reviewed September 14, 2013 via mobile

First, my husband and I decided to book with VolcanoDiscovery because everything about them spoke to their professionalism, emphasis on safety, and willingness to tailor the tour to our priorities. I couldn't be more thrilled that they exceeded expectations on all accounts.

Neil was an informative guide and a great cheerleader during our hours together. Our group of six decided on the marathon option: seeing BOTH the surface flow up the plain as well as the ocean entry. We got a late start because one party got lost on the way to the meeting point, but we nonetheless received a briefing on Hawaii's volcanoes and the history and nature of the lava field we'd hike across. Then Neil gave us extensive safety equipment, including respirators, 1.5 L water, headlamps, gloves, & hiking poles.

In order to get to the surface flow in time for pictures at sunset, Neil took us at a rapid but still manageable pace across the lava field. The hike is strenuous. Walking over lava requires constant attention because every step is over a different texture. You can't look around as you walk; you look where your next step will be. Neil took several breaks to let us drink, take photos, and hear about the process of plant life reestablishing on the lava.

When we arrived at the flow, Neil found a cool spot so we could set down our gear. He taught us how to approach the lava and safely manipulate it with a rock hammer! It was a graceful, slow flow so it made for amazing photos. So mesmerizing! Neil told us where it was safe to explore, and he took great photos of each group. As the sun set, it became truly apparent how surrounded we were by lava just under the surface!

With headlamps on, we started toward the ocean entry. Half of that hike and the entire way back to the car was in pitch black. Because you can't take your eyes off the ground anyway, it actually wasn't any more difficult than in the light. It was, of course, cooler.

Once at the ocean entry, Neil distributed sweet and salty snacks. He had a tripod and binoculars for us to use. But mostly we just sat silently and watched lava pouring into the ocean, and the raging ocean tumble the molten rock down into its waves.

The hike back was the final straw on our exhaustion, but we were very happy at our choice to push thru to see both lava sites.

What an amazing experience! Thank you to Neil and VolcanoDiscovery for giving us a safe, informed encounter with nature's terrible beauty!

Visited August 2013
2 Thank KatieElizabeth13
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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