Chasin’ Lavafalls with Hawaiian Lava Boat Tours

Over the last few years our adventures around the world have led to many cherished memories, countless hilarious moments, silly inside jokes, and a few magical experiences where it felt like the whole world stopped in time. From skydiving, to scuba diving, to whale watching, and beyond, there have been quite a few moments that were so powerful I get butterflies thinking about it years later.

And having a front row seat to the birth of an island might just take the cake when it comes to some of those unforgettable moments in life.

On our first trip to the Big Island back in 2014 we spent an entire day exploring Volcanoes National Park. We watched lava boil from the lookout point at the Halema’uma’u Crater (say that ten times fast!), we hiked, we viewed the lava fields from above on a helicopter tour, and we saw the glow of the volcano after sunset. And after an adventurous day of volcano-ing there was just one thing missing — we wanted the unforgettable experience of seeing lava pour into the ocean.

Glow of the volcano at night

The glow of the volcano at night

Big Island Volcano Helicopter Tour

Two years later, as our annual Christmas trip to Hawaii rolled around, we realized that we were finally going to get that chance. Not only was the lava pouring into the Pacific, but we had coincidentally decided to head to the Big Island for Christmas. (Talk about perfect timing!)

We realllllly wanted a front row seat to the Big Island’s most popular construction site, so I searched the internet high and low to learn more about the different lava tours available. One afternoon I just happened to stumble upon Hawaiian Lava Boat Tours (on Instagram of all places) and it didn’t take long to learn that this locally owned company totally rocks (see what I did there). 🙂 They offer two lava tours a day, take out a small number of lava chasers at a time, have comfortable seats on the boat, and the best part of all was that they were slightly cheaper than some of the more popular alternatives. (How could I say no to such a great offer?)

It was dark and way too early two hours before sunrise when we met Captain Kai and his first mate, I’kai’ka, at Issac Hale Beach Park on the east side; and as we cruised out of the harbor I noticed an eerie mist rising from the water — it felt like we were in a swamp in the Bayou instead of a harbor on a tropical island — however, I soon learned that the mist was simply an effect of the nearby volcano warming the water in the harbor.

We cruised South towards the Kalapana lava flow and a constellation-filled sky shimmered above as bioluminescence lit up in the wake of our boat. I’ve always heard about the fascinating bioluminescent scuba dives in Hawaii, but have never actually witnessed the phenomenon first hand, until now. And as we neared the 61g flow at Kalapana, the sky began to glow a brilliant shade of orange.

The boat eventually came to a stop and it was hard to believe my eyes: 2,000 degree hot liquid rock spilled from the Earth like a waterfall.

Hawaiian Lava Boat Tours

Kalapana Lava Flow

Kalapana Lava Flow

The lava falls poured into the ocean and warmed the surrounding water to a comfortable 112 degrees Fahrenheit. And while I was tempted with a quick swim in the hot-tub like waters, the frequent volcanic explosions at the surface made it so I stayed safely put inside of the boat. These explosions catapulted bright-orange pieces of liquid lava more than 100 feet into the air, at times landing on the cliffs above the falls; and as our eyes focused in on the silhouettes standing at the edge of those cliffs I couldn’t help but worry that those hikers were standing just a little bit too close.

Kalapana Lava Flow

I never realized that giant lava rocks could float on the surface of the sea, and I found it ridiculously hilarious to see these rather large pieces of extremely hot volcanic rock sputter by the boat like tiny (oddly shaped) sail boats. After the boulders cool down enough they lose steam and sink to their new home on the ocean floor over 200 feet below. 

When we booked our lava adventure I knew that it was going to be a blast (pun intended! 😉 ), however, I never expected that this adventure would be one of the coolest — or should I say hottest — things we’ve ever done.

Hawaiian Lava Boat Tours

Hawaiian Lava Boat Tours

Kalapana Lava Flow

Hawaiian Lava Boat tours

Kalapana Lava Flow

Mahalo Hawaiian Lava Boat Tours for the trip of a lifetime. And Mahalo Pele for one of the best experiences of my entire life. 

20 Comments

  1. February 8, 2017 / 5:22 PM

    Oh my gravy all over my two scoops rice (that’s OMG! in my world 😉 ) AND Mac Salad too !!
    What a wonderful life experience for you two.
    A hui hou

    • February 8, 2017 / 5:56 PM

      Mmmm… Mac Salad… I LOVE Mac Salad. 🙂 I’ve tried to make it as home, but it’s never as good as what I get in Hawaii. I guess I just need to add “ocean breezes” and “sandy beaches”. 😉

      I am ready to go back and do it all over again. Next time I’d take my zoom lens to get some super close-up shots.
      A hui Hou Auntie!

  2. February 8, 2017 / 6:02 PM

    What an experience! When I was on the big island a few years ago, Pele was much quieter and we didn’t see “the waterfall”. Thanks for sharing.

    • February 8, 2017 / 6:12 PM

      Hey Belinda!
      It’s crazy how active Pele is right now. I kept my fingers crossed for the last six months hoping that it would continue so we could see it for ourselves. It was so much fun. I’d love to go back and take the afternoon tour to see what it looks like in the bright daylight.
      Thanks for reading!

  3. February 8, 2017 / 6:23 PM

    We saw it from the air on a sight seeing flight from Kona during our first time on the Big Island. All of us thought it was awesome, but your photos are spectacular. Looks like we are taking a cruise on our next trip to the Big Island, provided the lava is still flowing.

    Great post.

    • February 8, 2017 / 9:32 PM

      Hello my blogging friends! Thank you for your kind words 🙂 Seeing it by air would be really neat as well because it would provide a whole new perspective. The view from the water was so neat… it made me feel so small!! and it was fun to dip my hands in the warm water 🙂
      I will keep my fingers crossed that the lava flows until your next visit so you can see it up close as well. Cheers to Madame Pele!

  4. February 9, 2017 / 12:07 AM

    What an unforgettable experience you have! Felt like I was there by reading your post! It’s still high on our list of things to see as we didn’t get to witness it the first time round 🙂

    • February 9, 2017 / 10:33 AM

      Thanks, Kristina. I really appreciate that! I try to include small details to capture that “in the moment” feeling, without rambling on about everything. Sometimes it’s easier than others 😉 (haha!) This experience was hard to put into words and I often found myself gushing and rambling on…
      I hope you get the chance to see the lava someday soon. It was incredible.

    • February 9, 2017 / 10:29 AM

      Auntie,
      I can’t WAIT to try this!! 🙂 Mahalo!! I even tried searching your website but I was clearly looking in the wrong spot. Thanks again for sharing…

      • February 9, 2017 / 10:41 AM

        If you Google “Zippy’s Mac Salad” I think I come up twice within the top 5… 1st my post at a food forum and 2nd on my blog 🙂 A hui hou Krystle

        • February 9, 2017 / 2:37 PM

          That is awesome auntie! Nicely done! 🙂

      • February 9, 2017 / 10:42 AM

        Oh and please, if you try this recipe, do take photos and let me know how it goes

        • February 9, 2017 / 2:38 PM

          You got it, Auntie! I will be trying it soon.

  5. February 12, 2017 / 9:08 PM

    We had booked this tour but it was cancelled due to weather and couldn’t be rebooked. We’ll have to go back again!

    • February 12, 2017 / 10:01 PM

      Oh no. I guess it’s a good excuse to plan a trip back. 🙂

  6. February 13, 2017 / 12:28 PM

    This sounds like an amazing experience. We’re planning a Hawaii trip so will definitely have to look into this. Thanks for sharing.

    • February 13, 2017 / 7:28 PM

      We had so much fun that I wanted to go back and do an afternoon tour too. 🙂 You will love it. Hawaiian Lava Boat Tours was wonderful, I highly recommend them!

    • February 26, 2017 / 11:45 AM

      Thank you, Lydia.

Join the Conversation...