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Seeing the volcano

Santa Monica, CA
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Seeing the volcano

We gave up on figuring out how to take a helicopter tour out of Kona, not two hours, where we'd see the volcano.

The concierge at the Fairmont recommended that we do the drive. However, it seems as if this would be more like a four hour drive from the hotel to the Volcano, which would be followed by a very long hike, requiring a guide, to see the volcano. As well, we may or may not see lava even if it's flowing. Is this correct?

If you were going to stay in Kona (or have done it) how should we do this? I've convinced the family to spend the day on the adventure (instead of sitting on the beach for yet another day), but I'm still confused about how to see the volcano. I have a guide book, but should I buy a different one?

The concierge said that the drive is a once-in-a-lifetime drive, but it'll be less so if we're driving for four hours (plus time for stops) in each direction. Where can I find information about this? I am planning on going to AAA next week, but I figure you folks are more learned and informed. Thanks.

LA
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1. Re: Seeing the volcano

I don't understand your issues. I fyou are staying in the Fairmont, you are staying in south Kohala, not Kona. It makes a difference if you are asking about time frames in driving.

1. Why is a two hour helicopter trip too long?

(no helicopters leave from Kona)

2. A trip from the Fairmont to HVNP is likely going to be 3+ hours each way. It is what it is. If you don't want to drive that far, then stay near the park in Volcano or Hilo or don't go.

3. The lava is currently not flowing within the park, but is in an area called Kalapana which is another half an hour or so of driving. There is a great thread here just updated on Lava Viewing 2013.

However, no one can guarantee any lava or other volcanic activity will be going on when you are visiting.

Getting another guidebook isn't going to make the park any closer to Kona (or the Fairmont)

Island of Hawaii...
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for Hilo, Island of Hawaii
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2. Re: Seeing the volcano

We have a lava viewing resource topic to inform people, as Pareo said. The 2012 topic is linked in the Top Question on lava viewing and I will link the 2013 one now.

Read over the information and you will know a lot more.

You must take a guided tour to get close to the lava. You really should spend the night if you do that.

I'm sure the concierge is a well-informed professional, but keep in mind it's his job to encourage people to do "once in a lifetime" things, but only you can decide whether you want to do that much.

It sounds to me like you are ambivalent.

If the idea of driving all day doesn't appeal, you shouldn't go, because you will be driving a lot and then hiking on treacherous footing in fields of sharp lava rock. It's not for anyone who isn't wanting to put out a major effort.

Guidebooks typically aren't updated often enough to keep up with the volcano. The only one that is updated online also happens to give terrible advice.

Kona
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3. Re: Seeing the volcano

We are definitely more learned and informed than AAA when it comes to our island! Thank you for the compliment :-)

I'm not sure what your concern is about the helicopter tour; there is one that leaves from Waikoloa in South Kohala, not far from your hotel. You said "not two hours" but it's not clear exactly what your objection to that tour might be. It is expensive, but you have to balance that against the issues that KK brings forward - driving all day and hiking a long distance over rough lava (with a guide, and that has a cost as well).

The truth is that you will never know, until you experience it, what your "once in a lifetime" moment might be here on Hawaii Island. There are endless possibilities, not necessarily the ones touted by concierges and guidebooks.

Santa Monica...
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4. Re: Seeing the volcano

Thank you for your advice. My issue with the two-hour helicopter tour is that it seems like a long time to keep my younger daughter interested (she's eight) and it's a very large expense. The concierge said it was about $500 per person and there's four of us. However, it seems like it's that or spend many, many hours driving followed by a hike that I'm not sure my husband (who has some hip problems) or my kids could do easily.

However, it sounds like we should either suck it up and spend the money on the two-hour helicopter ride or go back to the island on a different vacation, where we spend a night or two closer to the volcano.

Last question (probably), given that there's four of us, how do I get the best price on a helicopter ride? The guidebook said that discounts are available online, but I've found that a travel agent or AAA sometimes can do better. What's your experience?

Thank you so much!!!!

Island of Hawaii...
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for Hilo, Island of Hawaii
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5. Re: Seeing the volcano

Can't help you with the helicopter pricing, but the hike is iMHO not suitable for either an 8 year old girl or anyone with any hip problems. The terrain is very uneven. So scratch that.

There is another option, and that would be to take a Volcano tour with a good company like Hawai'i Forest & Trail that will do the driving and let you see the glow at night from the summit at VNP and then drive you back. I'm sure it's not $500 per person.

There are also helicopter tours that depart Hilo airport, much cheaper, all they do is go over the volcano.

I never recommend the helicopter tours because they fly too low over people's houses and are much hated in East Hawai'i, and there is a petition gaining momentum to get some control back over our lives here from the Vietnam like racket.

So it's as far as I go to mention there are tours out of Hilo ...

Island of Hawaii...
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for Hilo, Island of Hawaii
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6. Re: Seeing the volcano

Here is a link to the tour I mentioned: Twilight Volcano Tour

hawaii-forest.com/index.php/…twilight_volcano

$179 adults/ $159 daughter.

Some hiking involved but you should talk to them. I don't think it's as extreme as the full on hike out to the flow.

Washington DC...
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7. Re: Seeing the volcano

If the 8 year old will not sit for 2 hours in a helicopter seeing gorgeous island sights, I do not get how the child will put up with a long car trip? The flights from Hilo are shorter but there is a long carvtrip to get to them. Is a car trip different somehow? Sounds like you will not see VNP or the lava. But there are lots of other wonderful things to see!

The hike is on very uneven and sharp terrain.

Edited: 24 January 2013, 05:10
LA
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8. Re: Seeing the volcano

It doesn't sound like you want to do this so just don't.

Big Island, Hawaii
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for Island of Hawaii
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9. Re: Seeing the volcano

I agree with Pareo, don't feel pressured by a concierge or anyone else. There's plenty to see and do around the South Kohala area. If you make it back to the island another time and can spend some time in Volcano, great, in the meantime just enjoy the many things where you're staying this time. Does your daughter like horses? Maybe a horseback ride into Waipio Valley?

10. Re: Seeing the volcano

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