Last updated: 01:30 PM ET, Mon August 08 2016

Hawaii Lava Tours Going with the Flow

Tour Operator | Dawna L. Robertson | August 08, 2016

Hawaii Lava Tours Going with the Flow

Photos courtesy of KapohoKine Adventures

As one of Hawaii’s top visitor attractions, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (HAVO) has long amazed with its stark lava landscapes, steam vents, lava tubes and fiery outbursts courtesy of Hawaiian Fire Goddess “Madame Pele.” Kilauea Volcano continues to put on quite a show for park visitors eager to see a volcanic eruption just as it did 100 years ago when the National Park Service (NPS) was created and the Hawaii Island marvel earned its NPS designation.

On Aug. 1, visitors were treated to a centennial celebration that offered free admission, Hawaiian music and lei making, plus presentations highlighting park efforts to save honuea (Hawaiian hawksbill turtle) and endangered nene (Hawaiian goose).

At Kilauea Volcano’s 4,000-foot summit, a lava lake within Halemaumau Crater continues to rise, spatter, deflate and degas. During the day, visitors can view a plume of steam, gas and particles billowing upwards. At night, the view takes an eerie turn as the lake casts a stunning glow.

“It is amazing that in 1916, the year the park was established, we had two eruptions,” said Park Superintendent Cindy Orlando. “Mauna Loa erupted during May and sent lava towards Kahuku, and Halemaumau fountained and spattered. Fast-forward 100 years and Kilauea erupts from two locations. What an auspicious way to commemorate our centennial anniversary.”

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Within HAVO, the most accessible vantage point for viewing the current eruptive activity is from a distance at the end of Chain of Craters Road. The Coastal Ranger Station (CRS) encourages visitors to stop in and chat with park rangers, view hiking tips and eruption exhibits, watch a brief lava safety video and utilize a public spotting scope to ogle the eruptive activity safely from a distance.

While hiking to the flow from CRS is allowed, it’s a hot and grueling 10-12-mile round trip challenge. For hiking recommendations and eruption updates, visit the park’s website.

Guided Lava Expeditions

As is always the case with Madame Pele, active red flowing lava cannot be guaranteed. Armed with eruption updates, operators have an edge on the action when leading excursions across solidified fields of a'a (jagged) and pahoehoe (smooth) lava searching for outbreaks and skylights.

KapohoKine Adventures has relaunched its “Lava Expedition" that travels as close as possible to flow sites so hikers can set off to spot the most recent surface outbreaks surface flows while listening for the hiss and crackle of escaping gasses and liquid rock that accompany the lava’s slow crawl to the Pacific. Treks are priced from $129 per person from Hilo and $209 from Kona/Waikoloa.

For those up to the challenge, Hawaii Forest & Trail has revived its "Kilauea Lava Hike!" Professional guides will lead the way across six-plus miles of rugged lava scape. After the 3.5-hour hike, hikers refuel with a local-style dinner in Hilo. Since HF&T rates the hike as difficult, your clients should prepare to hike on rocky, uneven terrain. The outing is priced at $192 per person.

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Hawaii Outdoor Guides leads briskly paced guided journeys so hikers can hear, see and feel the heat. Departing Kona and Waikoloa, tours are priced at $179.

Bike Volcano adds in pedal power with a summit-to-sea adventure via an ocean side bicycle ride along a HAVO gravel emergency access road. Guides then lead trekkers on a short hike to witness earth's newest land. Afterwards, guests explore HAVO’s Nahuku (Thurston Lava Tube) and gaze at Kilauea Volcano's erupting summit crater Halemaumau. Depending on the length selected, tours range from $110-150.

For a different perspective, Lava Ocean Tours provides a two-hour boat adventure that travels within feet of lava as it streams into the ocean. If you are prone to seasickness, this probably isn’t your best option. Those who are fine are amply rewarded as they marvel at molten lava creating new “real estate.” The company offers four daily two-hour tours, with the sunrise and the sunset outings being the most popular. Pricing is from $145 per person.

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