In search of active lava with Kalapana Cultural Tours

There are hardly enough superlatives to describe Hawaii’s amazing scenery — like the beautiful beaches, lush valleys and the abundant waterfalls. If that’s not enough and you want to take Hawaii’s amazing scenery up a notch to oh-my-gosh-I-can’t-believe-how-awesome-this-is, go see the lava activity. It will most definitely make you say wow!

As we were planning our March visit to Hawaii (Big) Island, we kept a close watch on the volcano activity. We were thrilled at the thoughts of seeing lava flow, but we were not so thrilled about the eight-to-nine-mile roundtrip hike to go see it. Though we do enjoy a good hike, the monotony of walking down a dusty gravel road with not much to see other than endless acres of hardened black lava wasn’t very enticing. To make matters worse, there’s no shade at all for the entire length of the walk.

After some research, I learned that it was possible to rent bikes from vendors. Better yet, I found a tour company that could drive several miles down the road, set us up with bikes for the remainder of the distance and guide us to the lava activity. Winner! Winner! Chicken dinner!

Kalapana Cultural Tours bikes parked up at our lava viewing site.

Kalapana Cultural Tours currently offers two “Bike & Hike” tours per day — one at sunrise and one at sunset. These are optimal lava viewing times as we describe in our lava viewing tips.

Lava flowing at the Kamokuna ocean entry at dusk.

We paid $99 per person, but I see they’ve recently raised the price to $110. To us, it was well worth the price to save us the legwork and our time which was very limited on our day trip from the Kona side.

Our friendly guide Jaci took us directly to the lava activity.

The guides were really helpful, informative and exuded the aloha spirit of Hawaii. They took us directly to see the lava activity — both the ocean entry and the surface flows. We noticed some of the unguided tourists appeared confused on which way to go to see the surface flows. We had more than adequate time to observe the lava from both areas.

Observers admire the surface flows.

In all our years of visiting Hawaii, we got to see surface flows for the first time on this visit. We almost could’t believe we were finally getting so close to the lava that we could feel the radiant heat. It was AMAZING!

Based on our excellent experience, we definitely recommend Kalapana Cultural Tours.

Please note that lava is unpredictable. While we were blessed that we got to see surface flows, about a week afterwards that particular lava breakout stopped flowing. We only had to hike about a third of a mile to see the surface flows, but we heard that in prior months, the hike was closer to two miles.

See more of our photos from this tour and check out our lava video that shows the volcano activity that we saw from Halemaumau crater, the surface flows and the ocean entry.

  1. Hi Sheila,
    I’ve used your site and the “Revealed” tour books for the last 8 months prepping for our big (first) trip to Maui and the Big Island on 7/31. We are celebrating our 20th anniversary and bringing our two teenage daughters with us. Thank you so much for the valuable information!

    We REALLY want to see the surface flow, and we have a 2 day trip planned to the Hilo side of the island during our Big Island stay, staying overnight at the Kilauea Lodge. I’ve booked most of our “pricey” activities already because I wanted to make sure we got everything we wanted, but I’m hesitant to book this bike trip (which sounds perfect for us) too early because who knows if the lava will be flowing at that time. Will we be able to get a sunset tour if we wait a little longer to reserve it? How quickly do tours like this sell out in the summer months? We’ll be on the Big Island 2nd week of August.

    Thank you again for all of your help and for your amazing site!!

    1. Sheila Beal says:

      Hi Karen –

      It’s difficult to predict if there will be surface flows or flows to the ocean and/or if a tour will be booked up. When we took this tour in March, they were limiting the tour to eight people and our tour was to capacity at eight. When we booked, their cancellation policy was full refund if cancelled with at least 24 hours notice. So, check to see what their cancellation policy is as that is subject to change.

      Have a great trip!

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