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Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Tour at Night

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I knew that visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National park was a must for my family on our trip to the Big Island but I just wasn’t sure about all the details…

If you’re anything like me, you plan ahead for vacation activities. This means doing Google searches, visiting TripAdvisor and reading comments of others who have already charted the course.

While researching Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, I came up with a lot of conflicting comments regarding whether one should go it alone or go the guided route. I read great comments and I read horror stories and after all of that reading, I choose the guided route for a couple of reasons.

First of all, it was a three hour drive, one way, from the entrance of our hotel in Waikoloa to the entrance of the park, on extremely winding roads…and, heaven forbid, quite possibly foggy roads on the return trip if you were interested in a nighttime viewing, as we were. Second, I know my family and I also know that we aren’t always the best with directions. Getting to, traveling back from, or navigating inside the 330,000-acre park, might prove to be quite a challenge (according to some) and that, my friends, can lead to unnecessary stress that I certainly don’t want to deal with on vacation. So, there you have it, guide it is!

Who I Chose

After reading just about every review of every guided tour, I chose Hawaii Forest & Trail and I’m glad I did.  Not only did they offer an evening tour (so that we could see the lava glow) called the Twilight Volcano Adventure but, they also picked us up right at the lobby of our hotel, Hilton Waikoloa Village. The tour also included a picnic lunch, snacks, dinner and assorted beverages all throughout the day.

Also, just as the reviews had promised, we had a fun, well-informed guide, a comfortably roomy, air-conditioned mini bus and a fairly small group of 12 people, five of whom were my family. Best of all, neither my husband nor I had to worry about driving on the winding roads, getting lost, or dealing with any fog on our 10 hour excursion. Instead, we got to interact with our kids and learn a lot of interesting nuggets on all things Hawaii from our informative guide. Delightful.

What We Did

We were picked up at the Hilton Waikoloa Village lower lobby at just around 11:30 a.m., which gave us plenty of time to leisurely get breakfast, take a dip in the pool and get ready for the tour. Once on the mini bus, we headed up the saddle of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea and learned about some of the native landscape and animals that we were passing along the way.

At around 12:25 we stopped for a picnic lunch at the lovely (and a bit chilly) Mauna Kea State Park and then headed east to the summit of Kilauea inside Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. We did make two stops to stretch our legs and use the restroom: one at Rainbow Falls Lookout and another at a really neat orchid greenhouse and store (where we bought chocolate of all things), but then we were quickly back on the road.

One of our views along the way... Rainbow Falls Lookout.

One of our views along the way, Rainbow Falls Lookout.

Once we made it to Volcanoes National Park, we explored some of the coolest must-see spots like the summit caldera, steam vents, cinder fields and a beautiful sea arch.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Sea Arch

A sea arch formed by lava flowing into the ocean.

We then headed into what appeared to be a tropical forest to explore the Kaumana Cave. This was once a lava tube that carried molten lava from Mauna Loa’s upper rift all the way down to the ocean. The sheer size and the fact that you can walk through it is amazing.

For our final leg of the journey we headed north up Crater Rim Drive to the Jaggar Museum. There we toured the museum, enjoyed our picnic-style dinner (which even included brownies and hot chocolate to warm us up) and got to see one of the most amazing sights ever! Because the sun had set, we actually got to see the intense glow from the hidden lake of molten rock at Halemaumau Crater on Kilauea. Breathtaking!

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park – Halemaumau Crater glowing lava

Glowing lava!!!

At around 8 p.m. (when it was completely dark outside), we all got back on the mini bus, settled in, talked about our day and then dozed off as our guide delivered us safely back to the lobby of our hotel.

Priceless.

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Belonging to the rare breed known as native Floridian, Mary Ellen is a wife, mother and freelance writer, currently living in Sarasota, on Florida’s beautiful Gulf Coast….

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