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Mauna Loa

Mauna Loa: Our most recommended tours and activities

Hilo: Fly over Volcano National Park and Waterfalls

1. Hilo: Fly over Volcano National Park and Waterfalls

Take a helicopter ride over ever-changing scenery at Volcano National Park with this tour from Hilo. Journey over black sand beaches where lava once flowed into the sea. Take off from Hilo and fly directly to Volcano National Park. See the caldera of the Kilauea volcano. Admire the Pu'uo'o' volcanic cone. Snap pictures of the massive volcanos Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. Discover new lava fields that are forming and go over old lava fields. View how waterfalls create a deep blue pools amid jungle greenery.

MaunaKea Stellar Explorer From Kona

2. MaunaKea Stellar Explorer From Kona

For an out-of-this-world experience, check out Maunakea Stellar Explorer. The in-house stellar explorers are the best and most experienced in Hawaii, with one having created the Mauna Kea Visitor’s Center and operated it for a decade. Staff have written noted articles and reviews for well-known astronomy magazines and have worked at world-class observatories. Next, you’ll travel across Saddle Road between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, two of the tallest and most massive volcanoes on Earth. Your National Park Service trained guide will discuss the volcanology, geology, and history of these monstrous wonders, as well as providing in-depth narration on the various lava flows and flora and fauna that you’ll be passing by. While you’re taking in the breathtaking terrestrial views, your guide will prepare some heavenly views just as stunning. Setting up a state of the art solar telescope for your viewing pleasure, your specially trained guide will let you safely watch the sun come alive in true color with vibrant solar flares, sunspots, prominences, and any other current activity, weather permitting. Lastly, your guide will take you to one of the preferred locations on Mauna Kea for nighttime stargazing. You’ll observe deep sky and planetary objects through a large aperture Dobsonian telescope under one of the darkest and most pristine skies on planet Earth. The Dobsonian telescopes are a true purist’s experience to view the night sky. Their fast focal ratio enables you to see sprawling wide field views of objects that simply aren’t possible with the types of telescopes used by other tours. Depending on what is visible in the current sky and weather permitting, you’ll observe galaxies, nebula, star clusters, planets, double star systems, the moon, and much more; all the highlights and showpiece objects like you’ve never seen before. 

Big Island: Hilo Doors-Off Lava and Rainforest Adventure

3. Big Island: Hilo Doors-Off Lava and Rainforest Adventure

On this helicopter doors-off experience, you will see the best of the Big Island, with views only accessible by air. See giant waterfalls flowing down gorgeous cliffs and active glowing lava. For those wanting to see Hawaii from a bird's eye view, this tour will take you there. Jump aboard the Hughes 500 Helicopter doors-off and fly over one of the most active volcanoes in the world. Find out for yourself why this is the ”hottest helicopter ride on Earth.” After over 35 years of activity, Kīlauea Volcano has made its mark on the geological structure of the island. Witness otherworldly landscapes like the incredible 8-mile river of frozen lava from Fissure 8 to the Pacific Ocean, the newest black sand beaches, and enormous craters created by recent events. Along the way, view Mauna Loa’s vistas, the beauty of lush Puna rainforests, and mesmerizing Hilo waterfalls. With no windows to shoot through, there is no better way for you to share crystal clear photographs and videos of your experience. Many of these Hawaii waterfalls are accessible by air only so you will gain exclusive access to some of the largest waterfalls on the island. 

Kona: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Tour

4. Kona: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Tour

First travel south into Kona coffee country for the first stop at the Bay View Farm, a working 24-acre coffee farm nestled on the slopes of Mauna Loa Volcano, just above beautiful Kealakekua Bay. See the coffee beans growing on the trees and learn about the various steps and processes in making coffee, all of which happen right on the farm. Sample 100% Kona Coffee at a gorgeous overlook with stunning views of Kealakekua Bay and the monument to Captain Cook standing on the only sliver of British land in the United States. Continue the adventure as you head through the South Kona and Ka’u Districts. Enjoy the stunning views of the region, alternating between stark lava flows and the Hawaiian dry forest, which are visible through the huge picture windows of your tour vehicle. Stop briefly at Punalu’u Bake Shop, the southernmost bakery in America. Offering the finest time-honored Hawaiian sweetbreads since 1991, the Bake Shop offers an array of breads and cookies available for purchase. Shortly thereafter, arrive at picturesque Punalu’u Black Sand Beach. Lined with swaying coconut palm trees, this is one of the best black sand beaches on the island. Stroll along the beach and look for honu (Green Hawaiian Sea Turtles) feeding just offshore, or sun-worshipping on the sand. Enjoy a picnic-style lunch here, weather permitting. Next, travel to the crown jewel of the Big Island, the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Visit the Kilauea Visitor’s Center, the Volcano Art Center, and the famed Sulphur Banks. Take a hike out to Keanakako’i Crater and step over the sinkholes and cracks in the roads left behind by the historic 2018 eruption. Then make your way to Mauna Ulu, one of the most culturally important locations in the Park. Take a quick break at Volcano House, which has been welcoming guests such as Mark Twain and Jack London to Kilauea since 1864. At the end of an epic day, enjoy drop-off to your hotel.

Big Island: Full Day Circle Island Tour From Kona

5. Big Island: Full Day Circle Island Tour From Kona

Travel south into Kona coffee country for the first stop at Bay View Farm, a working 24-acre coffee farm nestled on the slopes of Mauna Loa Volcano just above beautiful Kealakekua Bay and known for the best Kona coffee since 1984. Here you will see coffee growing on the trees and learn about the various steps and processes in making coffee, all of which happen right here on the farm. Sample 100% Kona Coffee at a gorgeous overlook with stunning views of Kealakekua Bay and the monument to Captain Cook standing on the only sliver of British land in the United States. The adventure continues as you head through the South Kona and Ka’u Districts. Stunning views, alternating between stark lava flows and Hawaiian dry forest, are visible through the huge picture windows of your tour vehicle. Stop briefly at picturesque Punalu’u Black Sand Beach. Lined with swaying coconut palm trees, this is one of the best black sand beaches on the island. Look for honu or green Hawaiian sea turtles feeding just offshore or sun-worshipping on the sand. Next travel to the crown jewel of Hawaii, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Visit the Kilauea Visitor’s Center, the Kilauea Iki Crater Overlook, and Steaming Bluffs. Walkthrough the famous Volcano House to view the smoking and steaming Kilauea Caldera. Dropping down into the lush eastern side of Kilauea Volcano, your next stop is Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Farm. In operation for more than 30 years, Mauna Loa has more than a dozen mac nut flavors to choose from, and visitors can watch the factory floor through glass windows. Big Island Candies is the next stop in Hilo-town. Founded in 1977, Big Island Candies is synonymous with quality. Big Island Candies welcomes everyone with samples of their amazing confections, still handmade using only the highest quality ingredients. Peek through the windows into the factory or browse the selection of gorgeous jewel-box gifts. Travel through quaint Hilo town where you drive along the historic waterfront and along the Onomea Scenic Route, a  four-mile section of the original old highway punctuated with historic wooden bridges, waterfalls, and lush tropical foliage. Waipio Valley, known as the Valley of Kings, is a place of impossibly steep cliffs carved by plunging waterfalls cascading more than a thousand feet to the valley floor below. Waipio Valley is still home to taro farmers as it has been for a thousand years. Look closely from the overlook and glimpses of the wild horses that roam the valley floor might be possible.

High Country Private 4x4 Adventure with Sunset Dinner

6. High Country Private 4x4 Adventure with Sunset Dinner

Hidden, Rare and Unique: A One of a Kind Adventure! Discover the natural beauty of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea on this 4x4 adventure day trip. Look for rare plants and birds in Mauna Kea forest reserve with your naturalist guide. Admire views of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa on a sunset picnic.  Be picked up from the comfort of your accommodation and hop aboard a comfortable, fully customized, Toyota Sequoia that truly is a rugged yet luxurious 4X4 adventure vehicle. Travel on a road built through lava flows in a Martian-like landsacpe as you explore the northern flank of the largest volcano on earth, Mauna Loa. Take in the sights of from the Mauna Loa Observatory which has been recording atmospheric changes since the 1950’s and boasts the longest record of direct measurements of CO2 in the atmosphere. Explore the rare and lesser known high elevation dry forest around the slopes of Mauna Kea volcano. Search for the endangered and endemic Hawaiian Honey creeper the Palila (Loxioides bailleui), the last finch-billed honey creeper in the main Hawaiian Islands. Witness other rare and endemic birds such as the Hawai‘i ‘Amakihi, ‘Apapane, Hawaiian hawk, and the Hawaiian short-eared owl. Hawaii has some of the best birding opportunities in the world due to the evolution of the islands and the presence of the rare bird species. Go for a guided walk through the Mauna Kea Forest Reserve and learn about the unique plants and animals found in the area. Get a better view of birds with the use of provided Nikon ProStaff binoculars. Marvel at Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa as you enjoy a delicious picnic dinner in the sub-alpine dry forest. Stargaze with a top-of-the-line Vaonis Stellina telescope at a private location before returning to your accommodation.

From Kona: Elite Volcano Hike

7. From Kona: Elite Volcano Hike

Explore Hawaii’s explosive side on foot with this tour. First, travel across Saddle Road between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, two of the tallest and biggest volcanoes on Earth. Learn more about the volcanology, geology, and history of these wonders from your National Park Service certified guide and enjoy an in-depth narration of the various lava flows and flora and fauna that you pass by. Afterward, explore Kaumana Caves, part of the lava tube system that brought lava as close as 1.5 miles from downtown Hilo in 1881 and take a peek inside the dramatic cathedral-like space. Next, head to Mackenzie State Recreation Area, where the historic eruption took place in 2018. Take a hike along the now-closed highway, and then follow the lava flow through the pine forest to the altered coastline and cliffs overlooking the new black sand beach. Afterward, head to Isaac Hale Beach Park. Be sure to check out the boat launch ramp, now sitting in a pond cut off from the ocean by a berm of lava and don’t forget to look for steam still rising from the cooling lava as you drive across it before stopping for a picnic-style lunch. Next travel to the crown jewel, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Briefly visit the Kilauea Iki Overlook before heading off on foot down the paved road to Keanakakoi. Get a birds-eye view of the Kilauea Caldera and the enormous Halema’uma’u Crater. Pass by the famous Sulphur Banks, through ancient forests of tree ferns, and look for native bird species and incredible rock slides. Enjoy some dinner after your sightseeing.

Kailua-Kona: Volcano and Kohala Landing Helicopter Tour

8. Kailua-Kona: Volcano and Kohala Landing Helicopter Tour

See the immense beauty of Kailua-Kona on Hawaii’s Big Island. Depart from Kona International Airport for a helicopter tour over the Kona coffee district and towards Kohala. Explore the mountains with a special landing after skirting 3 towering volcanoes: Hualālai, Mauna Kea, and Mauna Loa. Venture into the area surrounding Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to hunt out any current lava activity and see historic flows frozen in time. Sweep north to Hilo town and the lush rainforests of the east. Notice how the windward side of the island is transformed by the water caught by the mountains. Next, disembark deep in Kohala and walk the same fertile valleys that Hawaii’s King Kamehameha the Great did as a child. Learn about local legends, culture, and diverse wildlife in an area normally only accessible by hours of hiking. After exploring on the ground, take to the air again to view the drastic landscape change from windward to leeward, and see world-famous white-sand beaches and resorts on the route back to Kona.

Private Big Island Full Circle Adventure Tour

9. Private Big Island Full Circle Adventure Tour

Discover the beauty and grace of the Big Island of Hawaii on a private tour. Explore some of the island's most unique and idyllic locations, including the Kona coast, Punalu'u Black Sand Beach, Hilo's iconic waterfalls, and the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Sit back and relax as all meals and drinks (excluding alcoholic ones) are included throughout your day. Make your way to your first stop: the South Kona Coffee Farm. Travel south along the striking Kona coast and absorb the breathtaking views of lush vegetation and coastline. Listen to your guide describe the cultural history of the area as well as the local flora and fauna. Arrive at an authentic Kona coffee farm where you tour the farm and sample flavorful Kona coffee. Then, visit the southernmost bakery in the United States, Punalu‘u Bakery. World renown for their sweet bread, malasadas, and other delicious treats. Enjoy a malasada and a coffee or tea before heading on to explore the most beautiful black sand beach on the island. Continue your tour to one of the prettiest black sand beaches in all of the Hawaiian Islands, Punalu‘u Black Sand Beach. The jet-black volcanic glass sand here was formed from the rapid cooling of basaltic lava hitting the ocean water and then shattering into tiny fragments. Relax with black sand between your toes while listening to the wind move through the palms. Keep a look out for green sea turtles and endangered hawksbill sea turtles that frequent the beach. Next, make your way to the UNESCO World Heritage Site and International Biosphere Reserve which is the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. This iconic park encompasses the summit of two of the world’s most active volcanoes and extends from sea level up to the summit of Mauna Loa at 13,677 feet. It’s home to critically endangered wildlife and some of the most unique geological, biological, and cultural landscapes on earth. Explore the main attractions in the park including the Thurston Lava Tube, Chain of Craters Road, and a nature walk along the Halema‘uma‘u Crater for unique views of the current eruption and the natural steam vents in the area. Enjoy a picnic lunch in the beauty of the park before embarking on the next leg of your adventure. From the park, venture up to Hilo to visit the picturesque Rainbow Falls and Akaka Falls State Park. Both waterfalls are a sight to behold. Beautiful falls combined with lush vegetation make these stops photo-worthy and truly breathtaking. Travel the 50-mile stretch of the breathtaking Hamakua Coast with its hidden waterfalls, tropical rainforest, and lush green valleys. Described as one of the most beautiful locations in the state, it’s well worth the scenic drive. Arrive at Waipio Valley in the late afternoon. Enjoy the incredible views as your guide explains the rich history of the area. Marvel at the bright sunset views of Waimea as you travel through Paniolo (Hawaiian cowboy) country and take in this historic area with its rolling, green pastures, the home to cattle, cowboys, and one of the largest cattle ranches in the United States; Parker Ranch. Enjoy a local and authentic dinner in Waimea where surf and turf is a definite menu staple. Return to your lodging full, happy, and filled with memories that will last a lifetime.

Other Sightseeing Options in Mauna Loa

Want to discover all there is to do in Mauna Loa? Click here for a full list.

What people are saying about Mauna Loa

Overall rating

4.6 / 5

based on 75 reviews

It was an amazing experience. I was grateful for the help and advice from the front desk - advising me to wear my hair up (if it was long). They were very professional and fun. We were celebrating our 30th wedding anniversary and the front desk shared that information with the pilot. Wade was amazing. Would do it again and highly recommend it for anyone even remotely considering it as an option - very well worth the $$$$$.

Everyone was very nice and helpful, even though one of our party couldn't participate in the helicopter ride, because of the helicopter being over the weight limit. But 2 people in our party had been on a helicopter before so one of them stayed behind, the other 4 people had never been on a helicopter before and everybody enjoyed themselves.

I've never been on a helicopter before so didn't know what to expect. Sam is an amazing pilot with a ton of knowledge about Hawaiian culture, the island, and the volcanoes. The flight was smooth as silk from take off to landing. Highly recommend this excursion!

Darren, the pilot, was very knowledgeable and brought us through some of the most beautiful areas, turning so people on both sides of the helicopter were able to see and get some amazing pictures. The highlight of my vacation!

Great flight! Nice pilot who explained everything very well! Security top! Gladly again!