Hawaii Hike and Explore

Explore the Wonders of the Big Island of Hawaii

Waipi Aloha! Experience the natural beauty of the Big Island as your journey visits a dramatic variety of all things Hawaii. Explore Volcanoes National Park and hike trails to crater rims, cloud forests and lava flows. Soak up the sun and watch sea turtles munching on seaweed in the surf. Trek through several of the Big Island’s unique ecosystems, and visit the southernmost city in the US. Spend a few days along the beaches at the northern tropical end of the island hiking the coast, and swimming in clear, warm Pacific waters. Hawaiian culture and history will fascinate and delight you! Lodging is provided in comfortable cottages and bed and breakfasts.

Sample Itinerary

DAY 1:  Meet your trip leader at the airport in Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii. Enjoy dinner together and an evening in Hilo as you prepare for a week of exploring the Big Island. Spend the evening getting to know each other and discussing expectations for the trip.  

DAY 2: Spend the day visiting Volcanoes National Park where you will take several day hikes in a wide range of habitats and ecosystems including rain forest, lava fields, black sand desert, crater rims and caldera interiors. Day hikes will take you to places such as the floor of Kilauea Iki crater, the Hapu'u fern forest, the Pu'u Loa Petroglyphs, and the Thurston Lava Tube.

DAY 3:  Visit the dramatic Black Sand Beach at Punalu'u, where you may see Hawksbill Turtles and Green Sea Turtles munching seaweed and resting right on the beach. Tour a local coffee mill and then take a loop hike into a deep, seldom visited, agricultural valley and then drive from the southern-most point in the U.S. to the "Kona side" of the island.

DAY 4: Spend the day at two beautiful historic parks - Pu'uhonua o Honaunau and Kaloko-Honokohau. Activities include hiking the 1871 Trail, coastal exploration of ancient Hawaiian village sites, and swimming. There's even the chance of whale watching from the beach.

DAY 5 and 6: Take day trips to explore the northern end of the island. Hear the amazing story of Pu'ukohola Heiau, one of the most sacred places in Hawaii, and explore dramatic Pulolu Valley. Cool off before dinner at the beach with a little swim. Overnights at local Kona lodging.

DAY 7:  Return to the Hilo side in the morning, visiting Akaka Falls on the way and enjoy one last lunch together in this interesting old Hawaiian city. Your trip officially ends at noon. Transportation to the airport will be provided on this day. Please schedule your departing flights for after 2pm. Mahalo!

Please note: This sample itinerary represents our usual trip to the Big Island. Your trip may vary depending upon availability of lodging options, volcanic activity, and other events taking place on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Travel, Terrain, Etc...

TERRAIN/ROUTE CHOICES: Many of the trails on the Big Island of Hawaii are fairly flat and easy, with gentle ups and downs. Others are more rugged. Trails may present obstacles like roots and rocks. Some sections may be steep. Volcanic rock is brittle and sharp so sturdy shoes are important. To protect the fragile ecosystem, WI uses Leave No Trace travel techniques.

TYPE OF TRAVEL/DISTANCE: The emphasis will be on relatively short day hikes, ranging from 1 to 5 miles in length. The pace of the trip is designed to be moderate. You will be hiking in varied terrain and weather conditions. More challenging routes can be provided, depending on group desires. You will carry a small day pack with your lunch and other gear that you want access to during the day (like rain gear, binoculars, camera, sunscreen, etc.), and you will carry your own water.

WEATHER: Temperatures in the interior can range from 40F at night to 85F during the day, with average temps ranging between 65-85F. You will probably experience a wide range of weather during your trip, including some rain on the Hilo side of the Big Island.

YOUR GROUP: The group size is typically 7-11 participants, plus one or more Wilderness Inquiry staff. Each group consists of people of various ages, backgrounds, and abilities, including persons with disabilities. Our trips are cooperative in nature. WI staff will assist you in whatever areas you need, however most people pitch in where they can. Part of the adventure involves learning about daily trip and cooking activities.

ACCOMMODATIONS: We will stay in locally run Hawaiian lodges, cottages and hotels. Typically there are 2-3 people per room, matched by gender or requests to room together. In most rooms, solo travelers have single beds and couples share beds.

SINGLE TRAVELERS: If you are traveling alone, you will feel at home with a welcoming group. When rooms are shared, we match same gender solo travelers. If you would like to have your own room throughout the trip, you may purchase a single supplement for an additional fee. Please email or call us if you would like this option.

MEALS: We’ll enjoy a variety of meals, some served in local restaurants and others we’ll prepare ourselves. When cooking together, we’ll work with fresh fruits and vegetables, beef, and chicken in creating tasty meals with local ingredients--including award-winning Kau coffee. Count on hearty breakfasts, picnic trail lunches, and lively dinners, all shared. While we’ll enjoy happy hours together, purchase of alcoholic beverages is not included in the trip fees.

EQUIPMENT AND CLOTHING: If you are new to outdoor activities, you need not spend a lot of money on gear. You need only provide your own personal gear such as clothing, lightweight hiking boots, etc. A detailed packing list will be sent to you upon confirmation of your participation. If you need to borrow personal gear, that can usually be arranged.

A note about the itinerary: Our trips are real adventures in the outdoors. While we'll make every effort to follow the itinerary listed here, elements may change due to weather or reasons beyond our control.
While many people visualize beaches and surfing when they think of Hawaii, the islands also support a rich and diverse set of tropical ecosystems filled with lush natural beauty, active volcanoes, amazing wildlife, and even designated Wilderness.

The interior of Hawaii’s Big Island harbors some of the world’s most spectacular volcanoes. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park achieved park designation in 1916, relatively recently in the island’s history. Park status in effect protects the results of 70 million years of volcanic activity. The park covers 333,000 acres of surface area and almost 14,000 vertical feet, ranging from sea level to the summit of Mauna Loa, the earth’s largest volcano. Measured from the ocean’s floor, it ranks as the tallest mountain on earth, rising about 36,000 feet high. Measured from just sea level, Mauna Loa still reaches an impressive 13,667 feet and makes up half the area of the island of Hawaii. Mauna Loa erupted most recently in 1984, but it remains active beneath the earth’s surface, and a number of other volcanoes in the park also amaze and delight visitors.

Kilauea, perhaps the earth’s most active volcano, also erupts in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. One of the island’s youngest volcanoes, Kilauea has a red-hot magma tap that reaches nearly 37 miles into the earth’s interior. Accessibility to the ongoing eruptions of Kilauea Volcano and the periodic eruptions of Mauna Loa offers opportunity for the scientist and casual observer alike to witness the formation of an array of astounding geologic features including new cinder cones, glowing pit craters, rivers of lava, and fountains of spatter. The park even runs a 24-hour eruption hotline (808-985-6000) so visitors can track volcanic activity.

These mountains are also home to many Hawaiian myth and legend. Kilauea is the home of Pele, the Hawaiian volcano goddess. According to local legends, she caused eruptions long before Europeans arrived on the island and first saw the volcano in 1823.

The significant elevation changes represented on the mountains in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park create a number of distinct climate zones and ecosystems in the islands, habitat for numerous native species like carnivorous caterpillars, happy face spiders, and birds like the colorful Hawaiian honeycreepers. The native flora and fauna on the islands evolved in relative isolation, with limited competition and few predators, so they were ill-equipped to compete with more aggressive species introduced by early Polynesians and Westerners. The islands harbor thousands of species, but nearly half of the 2,400 surviving native plant species remain endangered. Marine animals have fared better, with Hawaiian monk seals, dolphins, and whales in abundant supply year round, and migrating humpback whales in sight seasonally. Congress designated nearly 131,000 acres of the National Park as the Hawaii Volcanoes Wilderness in 1978, as part of the National Wilderness Preservation System. Recognized worldwide for its outstanding values, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park has also been designated a World Heritage Site (1987) and International Biosphere Reserve (1980).

In addition to natural beauty, you will be able to experience some of the fascinating cultural history of the islands. Polynesians discovered the islands about 1,600 years ago, sailing across 2,400 miles of open ocean in large double-hulled canoes. The Polynesians settled on the islands, giving them the name of Hawaii. After immigration from the Polynesian islands ended, a unique Hawaiian culture developed with a rigid caste system. While some people believe that Spanish sailors visited Hawaii in 1627 and described a volcanic eruption in their ship’s log, Captain James Cook usually takes the credit as the first European to visit Hawaii. He arrived in 1778, named the islands the Sandwich Islands, after Britain’s Earl of Sandwich, but was killed the following year in a Big Island land dispute near Kona. Hawaii’s 19th century history followed an accelerated colonial pattern. One king united the Islands in 1810, but thereafter saw a constant influx of missionaries, explorers, farmers, diseases, and exotic species, all changing the traditional Hawaiian way of life. The U.S. annexed Hawaii in 1898 during the Spanish-American War, and Hawaii became a U.S. Territory in 1900. The area played a pivotal role in World War II before becoming the nation’s 50th state in 1959.

Frequently Asked Questions:

 Can I pay more to have my own room on a lodge-based trip?

Yes, most times a single supplement is available on a lodge-based trip. Exact cost and availability depends on the trip.

 I heard about the dengue fever reported on the Big Island. Is it safe to travel there?

The Hawaii State Department of Health has recently confirmed the presence of dengue fever on Hawaii Island (the Big Island). Dengue fever is transmitted by mosquitoes and causes fever and acute pains in the joints. The Big Island and the rest of Hawaii remain safe destinations for visitors and residents, and there are no travel restrictions for any of these locations.

Safety is our top priority and we are monitoring the dengue fever situation closely. We follow recommended prevention techniques as outlined by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) on all Hawaii trips to prevent mosquito bites:

– Stay in air-conditioned or well-screened housing. All of our accommodations on the trip meet this standard.
– Wear protective clothing. When you go into mosquito-infested areas, wear a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, socks and shoes.
– Use mosquito repellent containing at least a 10 percent concentration of DEET.

For additional information:
– State of Hawaii Department of Public Health
– CDC Dengue Fever Information

For more information, visit these links:

National Park Service - Official Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Website

Learn what's happening with Hawaii Volcanoes with volcano watch

National Geographic Feature

Volcano Gallery - Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

National Park Foundation

Friends of Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park

UNESCO World Heritage Site

2017 Dates Fee Registration
3/5-3/11/17  $1895 Register Now
3/12-3/18/17  $1895 Register Now


You will arrive and meet your trip leaders at the airport at 6:00pm in Hilo, Hawaii on the first day of your trip. Please plan your flight arrival to be no later than 6:30pm. If you want help with your air travel arrangements for this trip we recommend that you consult with our travel agency, Travel One, at (800) 247-1311. They are very familiar with our trips and can help you make the best flight connections at the best prices. Detailed meeting place instructions will be sent to you when you are confirmed for the trip.

Click any thumbnail to expand and begin slideshow:

  • A rainbow forms over the ocean while the sun breaks through the clouds to light up the mountainous coast.
    Pololu Cliffs on the north coast of Hawaii's Big Island. photo by: Smith, RH
  • A group of adults takes a break under a large tree with a low canopy.
    The group takes a break in the shade after a hike. photo by: Nord, Roger
  • Two woman stand together on large volcanic rocks in front of a view of the ocean.
    Posing for a photo on a coastal hike. photo by: Lais, G
  • Orange lava flows over rocks at Volcanoes National Park.
    Lava flow at Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island of Hawaii. photo by: unknown
  • Bright yellow-orange spews from a volcanic crater.
    Otherworldly scenes like this one set Hawaii apart. photo by: Nord, Roger
  • Trees on Mahkona Beach in Hawaii offer a vibrant view of the sunset over the Pacific.
    Sunset on the Big Island at Mahukona Beach Park. photo by: Lais, G
  • Steep walls of rock drop into the ocean on the misty Koholo Coast of Hawaii.
    Koholo Coast on the Big Island of Hawaii. photo by: Girard, B
  • In the background, a grove of tall, skinny palm trees grows out of a field of black, volcanic rocks. They are reflected in a shallow pool of water in the foreground.
    Palm trees abound on this tropical adventure. photo by: Lundberg, K
  • Participants gather on the edge of the Waipi'o valley on Hawaii's Big Island.
    At the edge of the Waipi'o valley on Hawaii's Big Island. photo by: Lais, G
  • A sea turtle in a tide pool near Volcanoes National Park.
    Sea turtles at the Big Island beaches photo by: Lais, G
  • A deep purple and pink sky silhouettes the palm tree lined Hawaiian coast at sunset.
    Coastline of the Big Island of Hawaii. photo by: Smith, RH
  • A black and white bird with a red head and yellow-orange beak perches on a vine with a large green leaf in the background.
    The Big Island is the only place in Hawaii where you'll glimpse the Yellow-billed Cardinal. photo by: Crase, N
  • A close-up of a bright yellow Saffron Finch.
    There's plenty to see for bird watchers on the Big Island. Here, a Saffron Finch. photo by: Crase, N
  • Waves crash against large volcanic rock formations jutting out of the deep blue water.
    Where the volcano meets the ocean. photo by: Lais, G
  • A slope of orange-brown rocks with several tall rocks sticking out, overlooking a vibrant blue ocean.
    Hill of the Whale, location of the ruins of the last major ancient Hawaiian temple. photo by: Lais, G
  • Two carved wooden idols sit on a beach at Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park.
    Wooden idols at Pu'uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park. photo by: Lais, G
  • Steam billows up from the horizon on an expanse of volcanic rock.
    Witnessing volcanic activity is one of the highlights of exploring Hawaii. photo by: Lais, G
  • A man stands in shallow water looking for shells, lush green hills in the background across the bay.
    Searching for treasures is one of the many ways to enjoy time on the beach. photo by: Lais, G
  • A steep coastline of volcanic rock surrounded by cerulean blue waters.
    Volcanic cliffs give way to striking blue waters. photo by: Lais, G
  • View of a lush, green valley opening out to a view of the ocean.
    Beautiful vistas abound on this Hawaiian adventure! photo by: Lais, G
  • A group of participants walks down a gravel path surrounded by volcanic rocks.
    Getting from here to there is a fascinating experience with volcanic rocks all around. photo by: Crase, N

Quick Trip Facts:

  • 7 days, 6 nights
  • 1 Wilderness Inquiry guide
  • All meals and snacks included
  • All entrances fees to parks and beaches
  • All ground transportation
  • Pick-up and drop-off from Hilo airport
  • Comfortable accommodations
  • Adaptive gear as needed
Register Now!