We got to do this tour with this guide because 'our regular' guide group was fully booked for the day we wanted. Turns out this was good luck. Our guide was quite experienced, but was starting this out as a new venture on his own. So we got a private tour. We've taken this tour with another excellent operator, but this time it was actually better. The structure here is a bit different, instead of a larger van with 8 to 10 people, this tour is in an SUV so only a maximum of 5 to 6 people and we got it as a private tour.
This tour was a bit more expensive -- but the reason for that is that while the other tour does an 'al fresco' picnic dinner at the park which can be problematic in rain, this tour includes a dinner at a restaraunt which was very nice indeed.
Because we've been to the volcano over a dozen times over the years and because this turned out to be a private tour, we got to share experiences with the guide which was very nice indeed.
Also, the SUV presented a more comfortable ride home from the volcano -- that's a 2 hour drive and comfort is a good thing.
Visiting Mauna Kea was a childhood dream come true for me and my husband. We were extremely excited about this tour. Our tour guide and driver, Daisy, was very knowledgeable about the history of the island. It was a great pleasure listening to her talk about the history of Hawaii and how it developed over the years as an Island. Her knowledge about the flora and fauna of the island was impressive. The Visitor Center was crowded but that was expected given the time of the year and the popularity of the mountain. It was getting really chilly and as was suggested by Daisy, we were carrying jackets and warm caps with us. Daisy was an amazing driver all the way up to the summit and she told us the history behind each peak and crater at the summit. She also gave us detailed descriptions of the observatories up there. Make sure to carry at least one heavy warm jacket for this tour. It gets extremely cold and the wind chill with the thin air does not help the fact. Watching the sunset and the beautiful colors of the sky from Mauna Kea was an experience I am never going to forget. We were also able to see the tip of Maui from the summit. On our way back, we stopped at the visitor center again for the Star Gazing organized by the volunteers at the visitor center. They had set up huge telescopes to see astronomical objects like Saturn/ Andromeda galaxy/ Proxima Centauri etc. It was not extremely clear but I tend to appreciate every bit of the vast universe that I can see. They also showed us some constellations using a laser light into the sky. We were lucky to have a clear sky for that half hour of the star gazing tour. The wind did become extremely chilly after a point and we then returned to our SUV. Daisy had got water and a fleece jacket for each traveler in the tour. That acted as an extra shield from the piercing wind chills. She also gave each one of us an Instant Noodle packet with a pack of hot chocolate. That helped us avoid the long queues at the visitor center to purchase the same. It felt warm after indulging in that light hot dinner during our Star Gazing adventures. Overall, this was an excellent, safe small group tour. I would recommend this tour to any person who wants to learn a lot about the Island and its amazing history while standing on the world's tallest mountain measured from the ocean floor.
This is a tour that I would recommend to anyone!!! Jon, our guide is extremely knowledgable, warm and friendly. I somehow didn't realise upon booking that it was a small group experience. I went with some friends and that worked perfectly for us because it was a very personalized tour. We had several questions throughout the day about the Hawaiin culture, history, landmarks etc and our guide didn't mind answering even the most trivial question and made us feel quite comfortable which is important when you are on a tour for 12 hours. On this tour you do not end up asking 'is it over yet'. You get to see a lots of the island and for us a major reason for booking was to be able to see the glow of the volcano at night, and that was delivered!!! Our guide thought of everything to make the day's experience as pleasant as possible and even volunteered to take pictures of my friends and I at some of the major stops so all of our group photos at these spots were not selfies taken with our selfie stick! It is a great way to experience what the Big Island has to offer and to see the Volcano National Park. It is well worth it and highly recommended!!!
Whilst on holiday we did a helicopter tour, went on a submarine, attended a Luau and did the observatory at sunset trip - but we think this trip was our favourite. The tour is operated by Jon who is the owner of Kona Adventure tours. It is a small group - on ours it was just us and a mother and daughter. The tour is bespoke and Jon is flexible depending on what you want to see - and he is willing to flex the day depending on your interest. We stopped at the place of sanctuary first for lunch. One of our fellow travellers mentioned ice cream - so we then stopped for an ice cream. My partner mentioned turtles - so we then stopped at a black sand beach and saw some turtles. We then went onto the Volcanoes national park and some steam vents and viewed the impressive Kiluaea crater - which was smoking away in the day light. We then went for a lovely dinner at a local restaurant. Following nightfall we went for a walk in a lava tube - which we had pretty much to ourselves. Jon also gave us a walk through the rain forest at night - and he is very knowledgeable about the plants and wildlife which exists. we also did a bit of star gazing through binoculars. We then went on to the crater again - which was supposedly to see the glow - however it was more spectacular than that and we were lucky enough to see lava splattering out of the crater. We were also blessed with clear weather so we were really lucky. I would heartily recommend this tour - we felt it was a our trip when we were in Hawaii.
Over the years we have gone on a trip quite similar to this This year, when we tried to arrange with them, they were unavailable for our dates.
So, using Viator we found this alternative. A bit more expensive but worth the difference.This tour uses an SUV -- 4 tp 6 passengers -- and for this tour it was only my wife and I -- a private tour. And the seats for travel are much more comfortable. Because it was just my wife and I and we frequent travelers to the volcano, we got to 'customize' a bit. Lunch was at a park in Hilo -- warmer and a bit more comfortable. Instead of the lava tube in Hilo which can be fun, we chose to stop at Rainbow falls in Hilo. Again, our choice.
While at Volcano National Park, again, we passed on the Thurston Lava tube which can be fun, but we've done that a lot to go an a short hike -- one we'd not done before. Again, that's an advantage with a smaller group.
Then one of the major plusses here compared to what we've done in the past. With the other tour operator was the evening dinner is 'al fresco' -- and at the park it can be chilly and rainy. dinner was at a nice resturaunt - indoors, food cooked to order. That was a pleasure -- we were nice and cozy for the evening look at the volcano glow.
Being in an SUV the trip back to the Kona side was more comfortable as well. I had an excellent time chatting with Jon our knowledgeable guide.
This is an excursion and guide we will definitely seek out next year when we return with friends.