Hawaii Forest & Trail is a highly respected local tour company that has operated on the Big Island since 1990. They organize many different tours that explore the Mauna Kea summit, waterfalls, (active) volcanoes, lava, local wildlife, and more.
- Tours to Mauna Kea:
- Volcano Tours
- Bird watching and waterfall Tours
Hawaii Forest & Trail employs knowledgeable interpretative guides, has good access to private and restricted lands, and is fully certified by the Hawaii Ecotourism Association. This means that their tours are eco-friendly, culturally educational and operate as sustainable as possible.
Mauna Kea summit tours
For astronomers Hawai’i is one of the best places of the world to observe the stars. There are many world-class observatories on the 4,207 m (13,802 ft) high summit, which looks so other worldly that is also used to simulate living on other planets for months at a time!
You can also visit the magnificent Mauna Kea summit to see the stars and the see one of the best sunrises or sunsets of the state. Hawai’i Forest & Trail organizes 2 different tours to the summit of Mauna Kea:
We describe both tours below:
Mauna Kea sunrise experience
Seeing the sunrise on Mauna Kea has two big advantages over seeing the sunset, and one disadvantage:
- The disadvantage is that you need to get up early as the tour departs just after 2 am(!) from the HFT headquarters in Kona. Some pick-up points are visited between 2 am and 3 am north of Kona at the Waikoloa resort area.
- The 1st advantage is that the tour lasts between 7 an 8 hours, which means that you’ll be back in time to take an early morning nap on the beach to recover from the nighttime adventure.
- The 2nd advantage is that the Mauna Kea summit will be very quiet because most people that visit the Mauna Kea summit do so for sunset.
This tour takes you to the top of the tallest volcano on earth to see the morning sky light up in brilliant shades of red, orange, purple and blue. You will hear about the cultural and scientific significance of the mountain and see the world’s greatest collection of astronomy equipment.
Highlights of the Mauna Kea sunrise experience
Highlights of the Mauna Kea Sunrise Experience are:
- See the night sky on the slope of Maunakea before the day’s first light
- Take in the sunrise at the top of Maunakea, amidst the world’s largest collection of research telescopes
- Enjoy breakfast at Onizuka visitors center followed by a short walk through the Maunakea Silversword enclosure
Mauna Kea summit and stars experience
The Mauna Kea summit an stars experience takes you to the summit of Mauna Kea to see the sunset from the tallest volcano on our planet (to wit: it measures more than 10,000 m (33,000 ft) from the base on the ocean floor).
This tour is the better choice for people that don’t like to get up early as tours depart from Kona between 1 and 2 pm (there are several more pickup locations north of Kona towards Mauna Kea). The 7 to 8 hour (round trip) tour will have you back in time for desert at your own place.
Highlights of the Mauna Kea summit an stars experience
Highlights of the Mauna Kea summit and stars Experience are:
- Enjoy a private picnic dinner at Historic Humuula Sheep Station, located at 7,000 feet elevation
- Your guide will share historic accounts of early travelers through the mountain lands
- Delight in the awe-inspiring sunset at the top of Maunakea, the highest point in the Pacific
- Stand amidst the world’s largest collection of research telescopes
- Sip hot chocolate during your private stars how at 9,000 feet elevation with an 11” Celestron telescope
Tours to the Volcano
Hawaii Forest & Trail organizes multiple volcano-themed tours that include both the standard popular destinations (such as the unmissable Hawaii Volcanoes National Park) and off the beaten stops with private access. Their knowledgeable interpretative guide take you to current or recent eruption sites, craters and lava tubes to illustrate the volcanic history of Hawaii:
- Volcano Unveiled (12 hours total duration, easy to moderate hiking, private lava tube and farm visit)
- Discover Volcano Country (7 hours total duration, tour from Hilo include visit to black sand beach, a ranch and the Ka’u coffee mill)
- Epic Island Volcano Journey (Mini all-in-one Big Island tour, 11.5 hours total duration)
1: Volcano Unveiled
Volcano Unveiled is an in-depth volcano experience led by a National Park Certified Guide who shares a mix of natural and cultural history about the island’s formation, telling the stories behind the ever-changing landscape of our island home.
Note that to participate with this tour you need to be able to hike on rocky or uneven terrain, and that cool, wet or muddy hiking conditions can occur.
Highlights of the Volcano Unveiled Tour:
- Learn about the the historic events that recently changed the landscape of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park forever.
- Enjoy 2-3 miles of hiking around the park’s most dynamic terrain
- Drive off-road to a private lava tube known for its bright yellow and gold microbial mats living on and accenting the cave walls. This lava tube is only accessible to Hawaii Forest & Trail guests
- Enjoy late afternoon pupu (appetizers) on the farm surrounding our exclusive lava tube.
2: Discover Volcano Country
This tour lets you explore the remote and rugged landscape of Ka’u. Ka’u is a district full of history and home to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, historic farming plantations, ranches, and the famous black sand beach of Punalu’u. This tour shows what it’s like to live on two active volcanoes and offers a good blend of nature and culture.
Discover Volcano Country Highlights:
- Discover the all the “must see” spots within the Park including the dramatically changed Halemaumau Crater
- Discover breathtaking views of Kilauea and the Kau coast and catch a bird’s eye view of the Halemaumau Crater from a private view point on Maunaloa
- Sample & shop for award-winning farm fresh coffee at Kau Coffee Mill, along with other
- Hawaii Island grown treats like macadamia nuts, honey, & chocolate
- Walk across a crystal-fine black sand beach as you search for basking sea turtles at Punaluu.
- Immerse yourself in stories of Hawaiian legends and mythology with a focus on Pele,
- Hawaiian goddess of fire lightning, wind, & volcanoes
- Explore a historic 165 year old working ranch known for its sprawling view planes, native forest, and wildlife such as cattle, goats, sheep & horses.
3: Epic Island Volcano Journey
One tour to cover many “must do” experiences all over the Big Island in one day. An expert guide takes you by waterfalls, coffee and fruit farms, a lava tube, and the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, for a tour that is a great blend of history and culture.
Epic Island Volcano Journey Highlights:
- Explore an active volcano and all the must see sights of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
- Search for sea turtles as you stroll the fine crystal black sands of Punalu’u.
- Delve into a private cave system and learn how lava tubes are formed.
- Enjoy private Kona Coffee Farm and mill tour at Kona Joe’s
- Explore a 1,000 acre Tropical fruit farm and see Rainbow Falls from a private viewing deck.
Waterfalls and Birdwatching Tours
Below is an overview of all tours organized by Hawaii Forest & Trail on the Big Island. Click on any tour below to find out detailed information including highlights, pricing, frequently asked question and the availability schedule.
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