Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park Bus Tours

Touring the Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park can be done on your own or through one of the guided tour providers outlined below. If you’ve rented a car, brochures available at the park visitors center should provide you with enough information for your journey. If you’d prefer not having to worry about planning transportation to the park and finding your way around, plus having the opportunity to ask questions, a guided tour is a great option.

Guided tour bus trips to the park tend to be best and most utilized by day trippers to the park—either those flying in from another island for the day or those traveling from the Kona side who don’t want to worry about driving back to Kona late at night. These guided tours are also great for visitors who might need translation into languages besides English.

The most ubiquitous tour company of them all, Roberts Hawaii (866/898-2519, $290) offers pickup from Hilo and then a full-day journey to the park with stops at the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Factory (in Hilo) and the major sights in the park. Roberts has been doing this tour for a long time and has the schedule down pat. They know what they’re doing, but you likely won’t get much personal attention or willingness to alter their schedule at all.

Flames rise from lava as it flows into the ocean off the Big Island of Hawaii.
Lava flow into the ocean on the Big Island. Photo © George Burba/123rf.

A new player in town, Kapoho Kine Adventures (25 Waianuenue Ave., Hilo, 808/964-1000) is working hard to build its business and create exciting tours for its participants. They offer a range of incredibly full day tours to the park with possible pickup from the Kona side, traveling over the Saddle Road, then a second (or third) pickup from Hilo before heading to the park. In the later afternoon, if there is lava flowing, guests travel to Kaimu Beach in Puna for a gourmet dinner, possible farm tour, and to view the lava. The entire tour, from pickup to drop-off, is 16 hours long! The tour is $159 for children and $179 for adults (plus tax) with Kona pickup, less if you meet in Hilo or at the park. If a 16-hour tour sounds like no fun while you’re on vacation, they also offer a shorter Evening Volcano Adventure tour with later pickup that visits solely the lava flow viewing area in Puna ($139 children, $159 adults plus tax).

The crème de la crème, for those leaving from the Kona side, is Hawaii Forest and Trails (808/331-8505 $149 children, $179 adults plus tax), with an eco-friendly ethic, extremely in-the-know tour guides, and flexibility with their small groups. This 12-hour roundtrip adventure (includes continental breakfast and lunch) is mainly a tour of the main park sights but makes stops along the Ka‘u Coast for some sightseeing as well. Although you’ll mostly stay on the bus during this tour, there are several less-than-a-mile walks—ideal for those who do want to do some walking in the park.

A Twilight trip is also available and offers something a little different from the usual twilight excursion. Tour goers, leaving later in the afternoon, travel to the park via the Saddle Road, making stops at Mauna Kea State Park and near Hilo to explore the Kaumana Cave before arriving to the park around sunset to witness the lava flow from Puna or the glow from near the Thomas A. Jaggar Museum.

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