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“All you every wanted to know about Hawaii's Volcano Region”
Review of VolcanoDiscovery Hawai'i - CLOSED

VolcanoDiscovery Hawai'i
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Owner description: VolcanoDiscovery Hawai'i is now proud to support educational excursions through the non-profit Friends of Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park! By supporting the Friends, clients are provided with a captive expert guide of the same high quality but at a significantly lower cost than a luxury tour, with proceeds directly funding forest restoration, the Hawksbill Turtle (Honu 'ea) Recovery Project, the Nene Recovery Project, the park's Junior Ranger program, and the Youth Internship Program for underserved, at-risk students to work in the park. To experience the best of Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park with an expert instructor or naturalist guide, contact the Hawai'i Volcanoes Institute-On-Demand. Guides with VolcanoDiscovery training are available by special request through the Friends based on availability. VolcanoDiscovery continues to provide volcano news and global volcano travel despite discontinuing its Hawai'i luxury tour service.
Useful Information: Activities for older children
Reviewed 13 June 2014

An old biology lecturer of mine used to say “it’s not what you see, it’s what you know about what you see”, that’s why when my wife and I visited the Volcano National Park we looked for someone who could tell us about what we were looking at. Erik was that person and he did an absolutely fantastic job. He worked hard all day telling us about the region, the sites and the history and answering and encouraging questions. He also did a magnificent job of making the best of the weather conditions and of avoiding crowds and getting us to places others just don’t see or sometimes to places others do see but on our own instead of with a crowd. He was prepared for everything with umbrellas, torches, warm jackets and even a camera tripod. We were well fed and well looked after every step of the way. At the end of the day we had seen a massive amount of the region from the caldera to the sea and back again and more importantly we now know a lot more than when we started. We spent more than 9 hours with Erik (on an 8 hour tour) and it was just the two of us so it wasn’t cheap, but it was worth every cent. My recommendation is if you visit the region, spend some time with an expert and if you are looking for an expert you can’t go past Erik!

3  Thank Snarper
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviews (297)
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16 - 20 of 297 reviews

Reviewed 29 May 2014

Myself and 2 friends just did the 4 hour tour with Arthur and what an amazing and educational experience.
Arthur is incredibly knowledgable about the area, history, flora and fauna.
His stories take you back to the eruptions, that you almost feel like you were there.
He showed us many areas that were not on the regular tourist map, as well as being well prepared with drinks, snacks and warm jumpers.

I felt like I was on a tour with a really knowledgable friend not just a guide.
I would highly recommend this to anyone. If you have the time, do more than 4 hours, because the time flys by.

I will be back one day to learn an experience more!

3  Thank _8_Justin_8_
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 26 May 2014 via mobile

This review is based on an encounter with the tour guide in volcanoes national park on May 25, not as a customer. My wife and I were spending our 20th anniversary hiking the park, specifically mauna ulu. The guide and his group passed us, so we made room on the trail. We met them again further up on the crater rim. The guide commented to my wife, in an unusually loud voice, that we were not to follow him and we needed to find our own path. Almost as if he were trying to impress the group by being rude to us. I can understand that company's do not like stragglers sticking with paid tours for free. Thus was not even remotely the case. We were actually further up on the trail both times when HE encountered us. His lack of manners and overall rudeness would be the deciding factor to avoid discovery if we were to ever book a sightseeing tour

Thank kylebhill
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
VolcanoExplorer, Owner at VolcanoDiscovery Hawai'i, responded to this reviewResponded 4 June 2014

While some may consider this bystander post misplaced, a public post deserves a public response. I myself am the accused guide, and I have already communicated privately that I regret that this celebrating couple mistook my comments as rude. For the benefit of others reading, there are several points to address so that you may judge for yourself.

First, it is true that our tours are private and we proactively protect our clients by politely but firmly disrupting any "tag-alongs". However, it's unusual that it comes to that, since it is apparent to most non-participants that we are a specially organized group. In public places, we often don't mind if bystanders shuffle closer to hear pieces of our commentary, stories & presentations, as long as they don't interrupt or negatively impact our private clients. Rarely someone will try to follow us from site to site to piggyback on our clients' experience and then we must be more forceful. However, while this is the backdrop to our everyday operation, this is not what happened in this commenter's case.

Mauna Ulu is a great and special place to journey to spend a 20th wedding anniversary, and is also a great place to guide clients who want an in-depth experience connecting them to the geology, ecology and culture on Kilauea volcano. In fact the National Park requires an additional special permit for commercial groups at this culturally sacred site, requires a cultural & safety briefing before the relatively short ascent to the inactive eruptive vent, predetermines the path of ascent, AND imposes limits on the number of people ascending at the same time. While these restrictions are agreed upon by all commercial operators who receive the special permit, an independent traveler may not be aware or exposed to any of it since the trail is unmarked, though still advertised in guidebooks and websites.

On this particular day, I led an unusually large group (for us) of 11 university students and 2 instructors on a geologic exploration of Mauna Ulu. While we prefer smaller groups for the attention and customization we can offer during the tour, we make exceptions for coherent, well-behaved educational groups like these. However, in my own travels to other places, I've been affected by the presence of large groups in similarly special places, and I can only speculate that this was an issue for the anniversary couple, as nothing was communicated at the time or since beyond this post. Our group did pass this couple as indicated on the main trail on the way in, got far enough ahead to have our cultural and safety briefing in private, and began our ascent of Mauna Ulu on the unmarked trail. This couple followed after us on the unmarked trail, regardless of whether they went only because they saw our route or whether they had planned it on their own all along. It really doesn't matter, as in either case they are fully within their rights.

However, there is a 300 ft/ 100 m deep crater at the top with steaming, unstable ground along some edges, offering several potential dangers for which our clients are prepared in addition to having the supervision of two guides (our requirement for the safety of larger groups). Our guides' familiarity and expertise with potentially dangerous volcanic areas forms part of our core service to our paying clients, yet whenever we encounter other people in these areas (including near active lava flows when legally accessible), regardless of circumstance we consider that we also have purely human responsibility to warn non-participants if we see the potential for trouble they don't expect.

During our group's photography of the deep crater, the anniversary couple arrived and briefly skirted past. As we passed them again on the crater rim, I did ask them please not to follow with the explanation that this was a private tour, briefly as my attention was on the safety of the group. Our polite warning is that we cannot be responsible for non-participants who follow us through potentially dangerous areas. In fact we were followed all the way around the crater and on the descent as well, and perhaps it was purely coincidental. Certainly the couple made their own decisions and did so at their own risk.

As I hope our participants will share, this encounter was a non-event in their tour experience, only memorable due to this discussion. There's great value here for the community, though, as this is a topic we might not otherwise address, and it does offer insight into the consideration we put into every moment of our tours from preparation through to execution, and for that we offer our thanks.

To the commenting couple, I once again offer my personal apologies that I was misunderstood and the sincere hope that this passing encounter is the dimmest memory in a bright celebration of enduring partnership.

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This response is the subjective opinion of the management representative and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 18 May 2014

We were short on time and took the 4hr tour with Arthur to visit Kilauea Crater and surrounding areas. We specifically mentioned that we wanted to enjoy some moderate hikes (both via email and in-person when we met up), but it seemed that wasn't really possible in the limited amount of time.

We drove to several easy/touristy "must-see" type locations, but spent more time then I would've preferred at those places as Arthur provided lots of detailed information on each location. Having the information was nice, but given the limited time I would've preferred to learn that information online and instead use our valuable time to have our guide show us things in-person.

We visit 1 or 2 "off-the-beaten-path" locations, which required some easy off-path walking. I really liked these, and wish we had done more. And even in these locations, our guide again spent too much time on commentary. He should've used the driving time to provide the commentary, but instead we mostly sat in the car in silence.

In the end, our guide lost track of time a bit and we arrived at Kilauea Crater visitor center 5 mins after closing, and weren't able to go into the visitor center exhibit. It's probably fine since we should've just spent our personal time at the visitor center instead of valuable tour time, but it was unfortunate that our guide didn't have a better handle on times. Arthur did help us take some nice photos in front of the Kilauea Crater glow and steam at night.

Lastly, the fresh fruit and snacks are certainly delicious and we partook in them during our tour. However, you can only enjoy the snacks while on the tour, and can't really take any of them with you afterwards (which is a shame, since no doubt the cost of the snacks are included in the expensive price of the tour).

Based on our experience, I don't think VolcanoDiscovery should offer a 4hr tour. *OR* they should make it very clear that during a 4hr tour there isn't enough time to customize, so you'll really just have to hit the touristy places and not expect much (and the price should reflect that). At $600 + credit card fee for a couple, this was a very expensive tour and we certainly did not feel it was worth it. Booking a 6hr min tour would likely have been a much better value, as we would've been able to explore some deeper areas.

2  Thank Kieran G
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
VolcanoExplorer, Owner at VolcanoDiscovery Hawai'i, responded to this reviewResponded 27 May 2014

Thanks for your honest review! We are disappointed along with you that your 4-hr tour didn't allow the flexibility needed for your desired experience. It is true that we like to offer in-depth information at our stops and that we could cover more ground by not going into so much detail, but at the same time these are the characteristics that have set our tours apart and brought us success in the past. We can only apologize for holding on to those concepts too tightly during your tour, and to offer you extra time beyond that already provided on your next visit to Kilauea for a more in-depth experience.

We also wish we'd made it clearer that all our clients are welcome to any and all of the tour fruit, drinks & snacks at the end of each excursion, so to any future clients please don't be afraid to ask in the unusual case that we forget to offer. We still make human mistakes despite our expectation and reputation for perfection, and do our best to correct them once they are communicated. Once again, please let us know when we can help you fulfill that deeper experience for the investment you've already made in us, and thank you for your support and feedback to help us improve our operation.

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Reviewed 22 April 2014

My family did an 8 hour tour with Arthur last week. We were going to be in Volcano for only 1 day and wanted to make sure we made the most of it. We made the right call going with Volcano Discovery and were really fortunate to have Arthur lead the way! It's a really professional operation and Arthur was super knowledgeable about everything from plant life to history to geology. While it rained a bit while we were there, we got to see a couple of end-to-end double rainbows as a result - very cool and very surreal! If you only have a limited amount of time and want to be sure that you make the most of a trip to VNP (really, you could spend 3-4 days there easily), spend the money to hire a guide. You won't go wrong with this operation!

1  Thank Tom W
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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