Two-wheeling down Maui's Haleakala volcano gives visitors a keen sense of its size. // © 2015 Maui Sunriders
Feature image (above): Clients can feel the heat during a thrilling doors-off helicopter tour above Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. // © 2015 Paradise Helicopters
Volcanoes in Hawaii are big, beautiful and open for business. Representing the fiery beginnings of the Aloha State, these iconic attractions — Diamond Head State Park on Oahu, Haleakala National Park on Maui and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on Hawaii Island — dominate the landscape as well as the itineraries of clients. In fact, all three rank somewhere near the top of Hawaii’s most popular tourist attractions.
It’s no wonder that most of the state’s visitors want to see a volcano in person. The following biking, helicopter and hiking tour companies are making those dreams come true.
Several Maui firms help clients explore Haleakala on two wheels. First they transport guests by van to the 10,023-foot summit for dramatic views from the crater to the sea. Next, passengers are shuttled down to the 6,500-foot elevation, just outside of the National Park. From there, they saddle up for a 25-mile downhill bike tour, either guided or not, depending on the tour operator.
Meanwhile, on Hawaii Island, Volcano Bike Tours’ half-day guided excursion explores the steam vents, lava tubes, cinder cones, native rainforest and craters of the national park’s summit area. Its full-day option adds a downhill ride to the coast for a look at lava flows and an oceanside lunch.
A flight tour is particularly great for visitors on a tight schedule. Helicopters whisk passengers over natural and manmade wonders in as little as 30 minutes. From on high, clients get a riveting perspective on how Hawaii’s volcanoes were formed and their size compared to the rest of the island.
On Oahu, highlights besides Diamond Head include aerial views of Hanauma Bay, Waikiki Beach and Pearl Harbor. Maui flightseeing tours above Haleakala can also include the West Maui Mountains and waterfall-strewn valleys. For a Hawaii Island thrill, Paradise Helicopters offers a doors-off flight that brings clients close to the heat and power of an active volcano.
On Hawaii Island, Hawaiian Walkways’ guided four-hour trek leads clients into Kilauea Iki crater, through a lava tube and to the summit of Mauna Ulu crater, a recent eruption site. Native Guide Hawaii provides explorations of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park with an island-raised guide who shares information about the area’s nature, geology and culture.
Hike Maui shares different perspectives on Haleakala during two 2-mile hikes, one at the summit and the other at 8,000 feet. Oahu Nature Tours’ three-hour Diamond Head Crater Adventure shares facts about the world-famous landmark during a 45-minute hike. It culminates in panoramas from the 763-foot-high summit of this classic Hawaii volcano.