3 Ways To Explore Hawaii Volcanoes, By Bus, Helicopter And On Foot

Flying over ancient craters and lava fields with Mauna Loa in the background

Hawaii Volcano tours by air, land and foot

I am so excited. It is my third time visiting the Island of Hawai’i and my third time visiting the volcanoes that have made Hawaii one of the most beautiful places on earth. It is only fitting on my third visit to explore Hawaiian volcanoes in three ways. First I will join other tourists in a small van touring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, then I will take to the sky in a helicopter and fly over Kilauea and see the latest lava flows from the 2018 eruptions. Last but not least I will set out on foot to walk the Puako Petroglyph Archaeological Preserve located just north of the Fairmont Orchid where I am staying.

A volcano crater as seen from the air with Blue Hawaiian Helicopters
A volcano crater as seen from the air with Blue Hawaiian Helicopters

A visit to the Island of Hawai’i without experiencing the magic and wonder of the volcanoes is not possible and these three adventures are ready to wow. Let’s go!



Volcano tour with a guide in a van

One of the most popular ways to experience Hawaii Volcano National Park is with a tour group. For this adventure, I have booked with Hawaii Forest & Trail on their Volcano Unveiled tour. It costs $219 per person by booking in advance online and lasts for approximately 12 hours. It includes pick up and drop off at your hotel, 2 to 3 miles of hiking within Hawaii Volcano National Park, a visit to a private lava tube, plus lunch and afternoon pupus. It is the most extensive tour on offer and it is fantastic for first-time visitors to the Hawaiian volcanoes.

Hiking to see the crater in Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park
Hiking to see the crater in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

Here’s a recap of my tour experience. Pro Tip: no matter the weather at your resort bring options with you as you will travel through many different weather zones. We went from blue skies to rain and back again all in one trip. This is just a taste of what you will experience.

Ohia flower spotting during our hike with Hawaii Forest & Trail
Ohia flower spotting during our hike with Hawaii Forest & Trail
Overlooking the lava flows as they stretch out to the sea
Overlooking the lava flows as they stretch out to the sea
At the cliffs where lava meets the sea
At the cliffs where lava meets the sea
Entering a private lava tube with Hawaii Forest & Trail
Entering a private lava tube with Hawaii Forest & Trail
Gold flecks on the inner wall of the lava tube
Gold flecks on the inner wall of the lava tube

Volcano tour by helicopter

This is a first for me and possibly the most exciting way to see the volcanoes in my opinion. Blue Hawaiian Helicopters is a very short drive from the Fairmont Orchid hotel and offers three different helicopter tours plus private charter tours. I’ve opted for the Big Island Spectacular with landing. This is the BIG tour and costs $569 per person and lasts approximately two hours. Included with the tour is a 15 minute stop over at a waterfall for once in a lifetime photos.

Flying over Kilauea crater with Blue Hawaiian Helicopters
Flying over Kilauea crater with Blue Hawaiian Helicopters

Here’s a recap of my tour. This is just a taste of what you may see.

Early morning sunrise as we wait to take off with Blue Hawaiian Helicopters for our volcano tour
Early morning sunrise as we wait to take off with Blue Hawaiian Helicopters for our volcano tour
Flying over ancient craters and lava fields with Mauna Loa in the background
Flying over ancient craters and lava fields with Mauna Loa in the background
Flying over ancient lava flows
Flying over ancient lava flows
Flying over some of the new lava flows from the 2018 eruption
Flying over some of the new lava flows from the 2018 eruption
Where lava meets the sea
Where lava meets the sea
Flying along the coast near Hilo with Blue Hawaiian Helicopters
Flying along the coast near Hilo with Blue Hawaiian Helicopters
Panorama shot of our landing at a waterfall along the Hawaiian coastline with Blue Hawaiian Helicopters
Panorama shot of our landing at a waterfall along the Hawaiian coastline with Blue Hawaiian Helicopters

Self-guided tour of Puako Petroglyph Archaeological Preserve

Also a first for me is exploring one of the most extensive petroglyph fields in Hawaii. There are over 3,000 ancient petroglyphs in the preserve. What is a petroglyph? It is a lava rock carving etched into stone. Hawaii is full of them but Puako Petroglyph Preserve has one of the most accessible and largest collections of them. A short five-minute drive from the Fairmont Orchid and you are there. It costs nothing to experience but I’d read up first so you get the most out of the adventure.

Pro Tip. Wear good shoes, closed toe preferred as the trail is unpaved and lava can be sharp if you trip.

Check out some of the petroglyphs you can discover on your own. Good for all ages. Some of the petroglyphs date back to 1200 AD.

Trail marker for the Puako Petroglyph Preserve
Trail marker for the Puako Petroglyph Preserve
Beginning of the trail to the Puako Petroglyph Preserve
Beginning of the trail to the Puako Petroglyph Preserve
Surfer Petroglyph courtesy of the Hawaii Visitors Bureau photo by Kirk Lee Aeder
Surfer Petroglyph courtesy of the Hawaii Visitors Bureau photo by Kirk Lee Aeder
Petroglyph at the Puako Petroglyph Preserve courtesy of the Hawaii Visitors Bureau photo by Larry Marshall
Petroglyph at the Puako Petroglyph Preserve courtesy of the Hawaii Visitors Bureau photo by Larry Marshall

Three visits to the Island of Hawai’i and three ways to experience the wonder of the volcanoes that made Hawaii. It never gets old and every visit there is something new and exciting to see.

I hope you get to experience at least one of these adventures for yourself. Which would be your number one choice?

Helicopter view over Kilauea Volcano
Flying over Kilauea Volcano with Blue Hawaiian Helicopters Hawaii

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.