Had an amazing trip with John as our tour guide. He has been doing this for many years and was very knowledgeable and interactive. Only thing I would change is the dinner options. It was strange to be dropped off at a mall and get dinner at the food court which did not have many good options. Aside from that, the tour was great!
This trip was disappointing. I took my 3 boys aged 17, 14 and 11. We were picked up from our hotel at 4.30am which was a lot earlier than I was expecting. The plane left at 6.40am. Our guide Jane was lovely but the tour was just too long. The morning was fairly boring. The black sand beach and turtles were cool, but i really could have skipped the gardens and orchid farm. The waterfall was also worthwhile.The macadamia factory was alright. Then came the long almost 2 hour lunch stop. Sitting around in the hotel lobby was tedious. The afternoon of seeing the volcano and lava tube was the best bit. We could have skipped the rest and just seen that and then we wouldn't have been too tired to enjoy it. The other issue was that it was cold. I know they tell you to bring a rain jacket, which we did, but they didn't tell us that it might actually be cold. We spent about an hour standing around at dusk waiting to see the red glow. It was a long wait for a mild red glow. The plane left at 8.18pm and we weren't home until nearly 10pm. The day was just too long, with too much waiting around.
Our overal experience was really great for this trip. Here are some things we had problems finding answers to that will hopefully help those who are looking at this trip.
Free shuttle service is provided from a lot of hires in Waikiki. Be prepared for an early start. We had to be in our lobby by 4:30am. We were driven to the airport picking up others along the way. We arrived at the airport and got our boarding passes. Flight was not until 6:55 so there is time to get breakfast. Not a lot of choices at HNL. Basically Burger King or Starbucks.
Short 1 hour flight to meet another bus. We were driven to another hotel to pick up more guests and then the first stop was a convenience store. This does help if you dont want to bring water bottles or fool with a lot of items through security.
From there we went to the black sand beach for a 20 minute stop. It seems short but there is not a lot to see. It was a neat location. Hadnt seen anything like it and worth the time.
We were then driven through the Japanese gardens and old Hilo town but did not stop at either. Hugh was our tour guide and during the drive was pointing out interesting facts and local knowledge. He did a great job throughout the day.
The next stop was rainbow falls. Another 20 minutes. Nice falls to look at.
The next stop was the Mauna Loa macadamia nut factory. It was a federal holiday so the plant was not running but they had a self guided video tour that was decent and a gift shop with samples and ice cream. Spent about 30 minutes here.
All during the morning there was plenty of opportunity for snacks food and restrooms. No issues with these at all.
The next stop was the orchid garden. Another 30 minutes which was 30 minutes too long. Its a green house with orchids to purchase. Im not a flower person so I could have done without this or a much shorter time. I am sure others liked it.
Finally arrived at Volcanoes National Park. It is now 12:45 and time for lunch. Earlier in the day we were handed a menu with 8 choices where we could preorder lunch. Fish sandwich, pork sandwich, salad, and various variety plates which of corse included green salad and Mac salad. Prices were between 17-21 per entree. We stopped at Vocano House and had lunch. Service was not bad. Food was ok. We were given 1 hour and 45 minutes for this stop. You could eat, go to the visitors center, the art gallery, Sulphur Springs or steam vents. The lunch place overlooks the caldera which is really awesome! You can walk outside and get a better look. Eat quick and take the hike to the Sulphur Springs and steam vents. Its 1 1/2 mike round trip but very worth it. So cool to see this and you dont get another chance during the trip. Visitor center is ok. Skipped the art gallery.
Next stop was jagger museum. Not a lot in the museum but it has a great view of the caldera. While we were there no lava was visible. It was too far below the crater. Lots of steam though. Wish we could have made it the last stop so you could see the glow at sunset. 30 minutes for this stop. Next was the lava tube. Short hike but really cool to see. On the way to the next big stop we stopped at several craters along the way. Reallly enjoyed seeing all of these. Each one is different, has a different story.
Next big stop was all the way down at the ocean. The drive was gorgeous. Lots of lava fields on either side dropping all the way down to the ocean. Got to walk out onto the cliff overlooking the ocean. Could barely see the steam rising where lava is currently pouring into the sea. One of the highlights of the trip.
From there was a drive back out again stopping at various spots along the way to briefly look at things.
Now it is about 6:15 and we start the drive back to the airport. Snack options have been limited since lunch so come prepared with your own. Arrival at the airport was at 7pm for a 8:48pm flight back to HNL. Good options for dinner are Etremly limited in this airport. This was the most disappointing part of the trip. We were starving by the we arrived and the best thing they had was a hot dog. Come prepared. Another hour flight back to another bus that took us back to the hotel. We were the last stop at 10:15. A long day for sure but got to see a lot of things that would have been difficult to find just driving ourselves. This trip would have 5 stars if I could have seen lava not really the trips fault. I blame the volcano and the dinner options had been better. It was a disappointing way to end the day.
I would definitely recommend this trip. None of the walking was very strenuous and you can choose options of waking is an issue. Overall great trip!
This was a very good trip. Very interesting and long day on the Big Island that was made very enjoyable by our driver Dennis
ok, so.... Volcano National Park was great, the rainforest was neat, the lava tubes were interesting, the macadamia nut plant was ok, and the other tourists on the bus were all very nice. Glad we did this trip and would highly recommend. Warning....its about 18 hours long so go to bed by 7 pm the night before...you'll be up at 3:30am and won't get back to your hotel until 10 pm. The only negative was that for this price they should include the rather mediocre lunch at Volcano House instead of charging 20 a person extra. Thought that was rather cheap...