1. What is the difference between your tours and the majority of the other tour options available for Kīlauea volcano?
Here at Kīlauea Ecoguides, we offer in-depth education based explorations focusing on activities such as extensive hikes and legally accessing areas that few visitors get to see while on the Big Island. Our private tours are fully customized to your groups specific preferences, interests and abilities so there is no compromise with other guests which you normally get on the larger group tours. We realize that the type of experience we provide is not for everyone, but if you want to get away from the big van and bus tours and be active during your time here on the volcano, our hiking and walking based explorations are designed specifically for you!
2. Why do you not offer a tour vehicle?
Being a leader in the Ecotour industry here on the Big Island of Hawai'i, we are doing what we can to reduce carbon footprint, waste and overall impact at this world heritage site. Our guests have the option to use their own vehicle while on tour should they choose to do so outside of our normal recommendation to spend the duration of the tour in the field. Many people that book tours with larger groups spend the majority of the time driving in a tour vehicle as opposed to actually experiencing and learning about what Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park has to offer. On top of this, our guests find that using their own vehicles adds convenience and comfort to the experience, should they choose that option.
3. What will we see while on your tour?
Our professional guides have special use permits from the National Park management to take you to isolated areas of the volcano. In addition, with several years of guiding experience on Kīlauea we can take you to the highlight locations at the best times of day with the goal of avoiding large crowds. Again should you choose to book with us your tour is fully customized to your preferences, and our goal is to see and learn about as much as possible within our time together! Some of our more popular stops include the Jaggar Museum, the steam vents and sulphur banks, Kīlauea Iki crater, Nahuku lava tube, the 'devastation trail' and several spots along the Chain of Craters road. Because our tours operate within the legal guidelines of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, these locations are subject to access according to eruption activity.
4. What will we learn about while on tour?
The main topics discussed while on tour are geology, native flora and fauna, invasive species and the impact they have on the native eco-system, and the amazing Hawaiian culture that still thrives on Kīlauea volcano today. Our goal is to tie all of these subjects together to tell the story of the volcano, and to answer specific questions that our guests have in regard to these various subjects while out in the field. We also discuss other topics such as history, native birds and current eruption status. Our guests leave with a deepened understanding of the volcano and its surrounding areas, not just good pictures - although we get some great pictures while on tour as well! Due to the detailed nature of the information presented while on tour we recommend everyone in your party speak fluent English. If you have one person in your party that is fluent in English we are happy to provide time for translation while on tour.
5. What are your guides backgrounds and credentials?
Our professional guides offer strong academic backgrounds and experience in various subjects discussed while on tour, in addition to hundreds of hours in the field specifically on Kīlauea. Most of our guides are born and raised in Hawaii, or have been here for over 20 years. We do not offer tours of coffee or macadamia farms, waterfalls or some of the other attractions on the Big Island - Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park and Kīlauea volcano is literally our back yard, in addition to a living laboratory for our guides. Our lead guide, Erik Storm, is the fortunate recipient of the 2014 'EcoTour Guide of the Year' award for the Big Island of Hawai'i. This is an annual award given by the Hawai'i EcoTour Association. Click this link for more information: www.hawaiiecotourism.org
6. How much hiking is involved?
Again our private tours are fully customized to each groups specific abilities and interests, so we can do as much (or as little) hiking as you prefer! Normally our National Park tours consist of a series of short moderate walks and/or hikes. We can even do private tours of all the highlight areas of the volcano that require minimal walking! Our lava hike is the exception, as this option takes us to a very isolated area of the volcano - please click on our 'Lava Hike' tab above for all the details on this option.
7. What should we bring along if we book a tour?
The summit of Kīlauea volcano is located around 4000-ft (1100-m) elevation, so the weather can be very unpredictable. We recommend dressing in layers including a jacket or wind breaker, and wearing closed toe shoes especially on our hiking based tours. In order to keep our pricing reasonable, we do not offer extras such as rain gear, backpacks or additional amenities. We recommend bringing re-useable water bottles as there are several locations around the summit area of Kīlauea to refill your bottle. We also recommend snacks, sunscreen, and a hat and sunglasses in the event of clear skies. We do offer lunch options at an additional cost, or can provide you with recommendations for places to eat before or after your tour.
8. Will we see flowing lava?
Due to the constantly changing eruption conditions here on Kīlauea, we can not guarantee that we will see lava up close and personal. When the lava is both legally and safely accessible, we do offer that option to our guests however access normally requires extensive hiking in very isolated areas of the volcano. Kīlauea is currently erupting in two separate locations, on the East Rift Zone and at the summit crater of Halemaumau, so our guides provide our guests with the best lava viewing at one of these locations based on daily eruption conditions. Contact us anytime for the latest conditions and to see if the lava is or is not accessible up close!
9. How far is it to the volcano from our accommodations?
Kīlauea volcano is located on the east side of the Big Island of Hawai'i, so transit times vary depending on where you are staying. If you are in the Kona/Kohala areas then please plan on a transit time of 2.5 hours each way. If you are in Hilo please plan on a transit time of 45 minutes each way. If you are staying in Volcano Village, which we recommend when possible, the National Park is only 5-10 minutes away. If you need recommendations on which route to take to get to the volcano, or recommendations on lodging options island wide, please contact us for more information and we will be happy to further assist.
10. What is your deposit and cancellation policy?
We offer only one tour per day so that we can pay special attention to each of our guests specific requests. We require a 20% non refundable deposit to secure your requested tour date against other reservation requests for the same day. Tour balance is due on the actual tour date via cash, check or any major credit card. Our tours are conducted rain or shine due to the variable weather conditions on Kilauea, and we will only cancel the tour in the event of a local emergency such as a hurricane, National Park closure or staff family emergency. In these extreme and rare cases our guests receive a full refund.