The Kona Coffee and Craters tour includes a trek through an enormous lava tube. // © 2014 Hawaii Forest and Trail
On the slopes of Mount Hualalai, all is silent except for the songs of native birds and the rustling of ohia trees. But as tour guide Rob Pacheco begins to share stories of the still-active volcano beneath your feet, you can almost hear the hiss of its fiery lava that slithered downhill in 1801, creating new land on its march to the sea.
Pacheco owns Hawaii Forest and Trail (HF&T), the foremost adventure travel firm on the Big Island of Hawaii. Throughout 2014, the company is celebrating its 20th anniversary of touring the island’s natural and cultural wonders.
HF&T’s trip up Hualalai — called the Kona Coffee and Craters tour — is one of its three thrilling volcano-oriented outings. Although Hualalai has laid low for over two centuries, it is the third most active volcano on the Big Island, and its magnitude makes itself known during the tour.
On lands not accessible to the general public, Pacheco leads groups past Hualalai’s eruptive fissures, a lava tube so large that participants can walk through it and Pele’s tears — solidified lava drops named after the legendary Hawaiian volcano goddess.
Whenever I go to the summit of Hualalai,” said Pacheco, “I’m reminded that ancient Hawaiians made the same journey to reach this beautiful and surreal landscape.”
HF&T also offers a pair of tours to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, a World Heritage Site where the star of the show is Kilauea. Percolating since 1983, Kilauea holds the record as the world’s most active volcano.
During HF&T’s daytime Kilauea Volcano Adventure, steaming vents, cinder cones and astonishing craters bring visitors face-to-face with the power of the park’s terrain.
In this era of on-demand entertainment, everyone wants to see a volcano in action. But Madame Pele is mercurial, and you never know when she’ll give visitors a show of her pyrotechnics. For that reason, HF&T launched a third tour — the Twilight Volcano Adventure — that lingers in the national park after dark. Activities for this tour vary according to park conditions and range from watching the lava simmer into the ocean at Kalapana to visiting Halemaumau Crater, where molten rock glows from a hidden lake.
No matter which tour clients choose, HF&T’s extraordinary volcano excursions treat visitors to some of the Big Island’s most distinctive marvels.
“Our small-group tours showcase Hawaii Island’s amazing diversity and its natural beauty in an entertaining, responsible and educational manner,” said Pacheco. “Our guests come away with a deeper understanding of the natural and cultural wonders found here, connecting them to the ongoing story of Hawaii.”