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There’s more to a Big Island evening volcano tour than meets the eye

Kapohokine Evening Volcano Explorer - Kilauea Volcano Park


Okay, let’s face it, when you come to Hawai’i it’s hard to avoid the fact that these are volcanic islands. Each island comprises one or more volcanoes which, millennia ago, erupted on the floor of the Pacific Ocean and eventually reached sea level and above only after countless eruptions. Today, not everything is dormant and, in fact, there are six active volcanoes, combined, on Hawai‘i and Maui alone.

The following is a short breakdown of the history of five of the best-known active volcanoes within the Hawaiian islands, courtesy of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory:

  • Mauna Loa, the largest volcano on Earth, has erupted 33 times since 1843. The most recent eruption in 1984 lasted 22 days and produced lava flows which reached to within about 7.2 km (4.5 miles) of Hilo, the largest population center on the Island of Hawai‘i. Lava flows less than 4,000 years old cover about 90 percent of the volcano.
  • Hualālai, the third most active volcano on the Island of Hawai‘i, has erupted three times in the past 1,000 years and eight times in the past 1,500 years. The most recent eruption in 1801 generated a lava flow that reached the ocean and now underlies the Kona International Airport. Lava flows less than 5,000 years old cover about 80 percent of the volcano.
  • Mauna Kea, the highest volcano on the Island of Hawai‘i, erupted most recently between about 6,000 and 4,500 years ago from at least seven separate summit-area vents, producing lava flows and cinder cones. Glaciers covered parts of the volcano’s summit area during the recent ice ages, the only Hawaiian volcano known to have been glaciated.
  • Kama‘ehuakanaloa(formerly Lō‘ihi Seamount), the only known active Hawaiian submarine volcano, erupted most recently in 1996 during an earthquake swarm of more than 4,000 events that were recorded by the HVO seismic network. The volcano’s summit is about 969 m (3,179 ft) below sea level, located 30 km (22 miles) southeast of the Island of Hawai‘i.
  • Haleakalā, the only active volcano on the Island of Maui, erupted most recently between about 600 and 400 years ago. In the past 1,000 years, at least 10 eruptions produced lava flows and tephra cones from the rift zone that crosses the volcano from southwest to east and through Haleakalā Crater.”


Discovering more than volcanoes in the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

An important part of an evening volcano tour includes the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The Park extends from sea level up to a height of 13,681 feet and incorporates the summits of two of the world’s most active volcanoes – Kīlauea and Mauna Loa. The Park is also designated an International Biosphere Reserve and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And here’s some good news for you, you don’t have to be a fanatical birdwatcher to get excited at the amazing variety of often rare breeds of bird that you will find within the Park. These include the official state bird of Hawai’i, the Nēnē or Hawaiian goose, four species of the native honeycreeper, the ‘lo which is the only hawk native to Hawaii and the Kīpuka Kī, the main instigator of a remarkable dawn chorus which you can hear here.

What an evening volcano tour includes

There are two principal evening volcano tours that we offer for immediate reservations. The first commences with a delightful drive through Hilo town, while the second sets off for a coffee-tasting treat in the heart of Kona coffee country.

There is so much to discover about Hawai’i and its volcanoes and to make the volcano tour as enjoyable and informative as possible, you will be in the very capable company of a National Park Service-certified guide. Unlike many tour guides who are highly adept at pointing to interesting sights as you drive past them, LeaLea guides have a tremendous wealth of knowledge they will be delighted to share with you about the region’s flora, fauna, and, of greatest importance and interest, the geological history of the volcanoes and lava flows.

With each tour lasting approximately seven hours, this provides ample time to discover more about the area than just the Kīlauea and Mauna Loa active volcanoes, though these are the proverbial jewels in the crown and most definitely well worth the visit. For example, back down at sea level you have the remarkable Punalu’u Black Sand Beach where you will often find honu (green Hawaiian sea turtles) either feeding in the shallow waters or just soaking up the sun on the beach. For obvious reasons this is often chosen as a good spot to enjoy the inclusive picnic lunch, though the fact that part of the tour involves stopping off at the Punalu’u Bake Shop, the southernmost bakery in America, may also have something to do with it!

Once again depending on which tour you opt for, it may include a stop at Bay View Farm where you can learn all about Kona coffee and see it in all stages of production, from beans on trees through to the coffee in your cup! As if that weren’t enjoyable enough, you get to do it all with the stunning  Kealakekua Bay as a backdrop. For those of you who are fans of trivia and unusual ‘dinner table facts’, there is also a monument to Captain Cook at Kealakekua Bay which actually stands on land which “was deeded to the United Kingdom in 1877 and is considered as sovereign non-embassy land owned by the British Embassy in Washington DC and managed and maintained by the British Consul–General in Los Angeles California.” It should be noted that ‘the land’ is not a large site extending over several acres or square meters, but literally just the land immediately under the base of the monument!

Opportunities will abound for you to be able to take great photos to add to your social media accounts, and additional places that you can visit on the volcano tours include Kilauea Visitor’s Center, the Volcano Art Center, and the well-known Sulphur Banks. You can also hike out to Keanakako’i Crater while stepping over the sinkholes and cracks in the roads which remain as a reminder of the volcano’s recent eruption in 2018.

Mauna Ulu is a particularly culturally sensitive location within the Park where you will witness a landscape like no other on the face of the earth and which, in itself, makes every evening volcano tour very worthwhile.

To learn more about these two tours, or any other tours on Hawai’i, contact us and we will be delighted to answer any questions you may have.