As a travel professional, I often pre-book excursions for my clients and since we were going to be in the Big Island of Hawaii, I thought it was time to experience one of the activities that I recommend frequently. While my clients have come back enjoying this excursion, I really needed to experience it myself and I’m glad we did.
The excursion that I booked was the Small Group Twilight Volcano Adventure tour through Hawaii Forest and Trails. While we had visited the island of Hawaii before, and visited Hawaii Volcanoes National Park during a circle island tour, we wanted to explore it more in depth. Yes, we could have driven on our own (about 2 hours from the Fairmont Orchid without traffic), since the roads are super dark and we wanted to actually know what we were looking at, we opted for this excursion.
Taj, a self proclaimed bird and plant nerd, was our guide. We were picked up promptly at the hotel at 10:40am in a 15 passenger Mercedes Sprinter and met our tour mates- 2 couples from Australia and 2 flight attendants from Japan. While the van was very comfortable for our group of 8, I wouldn’t have wanted 4 more people on the tour with us.
Our first stop was at the Mauna Loa (long mountain) park entrance to get our lunches (pre ordered) which we ate in the van. Throughout our entire journey, Taj talked about the scenery, plant life and Hawaiian life. Considering that he isn’t a local (actually from one of the Carolinas), he was extremely knowledgeable and kept us entertained.
Our first stop was a short (20 minutes or so) visit to the Volcano Garden Arts shop and cafe. The gardens were beautiful and a bit quirky, with a huge bunny named Noble, who lives in a dog house. The shop features beautiful pieces or art and jewelry from local artisans and the cafe was a great place to stop for some Kona coffee and snacks. This was the only “touristy” part of the excursion and made a nice break in the van ride.
But what made the excursion the kind of experience it was was Taj’s knowledge and love of this island.
Of course we visited Jagger Museum but we bypassed the Thurston Lava Tubes because it would be too crowded in the afternoon. We drove all around the park on so many different roads (or they may have been the same for all I know) being entertained by Taj’s commentary. We stopped somewhere along the East Rift and took a short hike through a lava field to a crater stopping to see the natural sculptures that the lava created and look at the plant life left behind.
On more than one occasion, Taj pulled to the side of the road so we could see the Nene (almost extinct Hawaiian goose) and he pulled out little surprises from the lava field to show us the different consistency of the lava.
We visited a sea arch that was close to the Holei Sea Arch but less crowded and then made a stop for dinner that was set up for us, complete with table cloths! Taj set up a telescope so that we could see the lava flow in the distance. Lots of tourists were very jealous of our dinners and some tried to sit down to join us. Most took a look through the telescope without realizing that this was one of the benefits of our excursion- not set up by the parks department.
After dinner, we headed to the Thurston Lava Tubes and we were the only ones going through it before heading back to the Jagger Museum for some great views of the distant lava flow.
In all, this was a long day- about 11 hours for us and longer for our tour mates who were picked up earlier and dropped off later but this was a GREAT day and we saw so much more than if we had tried to explore it on our own.
Would I recommend this excursion- YES.
My Vacation Lady can help make your Hawaiian vacation or honeymoon an experience that will create lifelong memories.