Hot Lava in Hawaii: A Day Hike To See Lava On The Big Island

Lava Tour on the Big Island of Hawaii

We’ve been traveling so much, it’s been hard to keep up on all the blog posts! Kevin and I recently got back from our packed long weekend on the Big Island of Hawaii. If there is one thing I’m good at, it’s maximizing an itinerary. But one activity that stood out the most was our early morning hike in Hilo, Hawaii, to see an active volcano with Epic Lava Tours.

We did the sunrise tour listed on the tour website as the “most popular” option. But this is not for the weak! The meet-up time for this tour was a painful 4 AM. Clearly, we were not going to get much sleep on this vacation.

It’s dark! Ready to hike with my flashlight and hopefully not break a bone!

They offer an afternoon tour, but mornings are the best time to visit since its cooler and dark enough to see the lava. We left the Airbnb cottage at 3:30 AM and drove to a gas station to meet up with our guides, Jon, and Jeff Judd, a local Hawaiian celebrity of sorts after falling into the lava years ago and surviving. Wait, that can really happen? Apparently so. And he was more than willing to share what it was like. In short: painful!

Are you awake Kevin? This is not the time to sleep walk. You will NOT walk into a volcano on this vacation!

We arrived at Volcano National Park in pitch darkness and our guide Jon was bouncing with excitement after seeing the red glow in the distance. The tour includes a backpack with water, snacks, poncho and a flashlight along with gloves. Why the gloves? The dried lava rock is sharp as broken glass. So these are to protect your hands if you trip (which I almost did a good 15 times in the darkness!).

We headed out to the lava field and steam was pouring out from below. Creepy!

I’m awake… really I am. Though, seeing the lava jolted me more awake than any coffee.

You’ll need to be in pretty good shape to make this hike.  It can vary from 5-10 miles (though our trip was about 5 miles total). We kept a very fast pace as we finally reached the lava within inches!

We made it!

It was a painful wake up, but 100% worth it. We spent time crawling up the volcano slopes, walking within inches of it and even scooping up molten rock. I mean, we were holding lava! How cool is that? Though, it was unbelievably hot. It took a few tries to build up the nerve as I scooped it from the active flow.

Molten lava pouring down the slopes

Kevin gets within inches of the hot stuff!

But the best part of all?  Check out my hot lava scoop!

Last bit of advice? Wear lightweight pants and shoes with treading that you don’t mind throwing out by the end. My old New Balance sneakers were shot. Oh well, they lived a good life.

I sacrificed my sneakers to the volcano. Well, if something had to go, I guess this is the best!


Epic Lava Tours is a fun excursion, and by far the best thing we did on the trip.
– Cost: $165 per person
– The morning tour is about 6 hours, staring at 4 AM  and wraps by 10 AM
– They provide all the gear, but remember to wear lightweight hiking pants and shoes with good treading (that you don’t mind throwing out by the end)

Hot Lava in Hawaii: A Day Hike To See Lava On The Big Island
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Hot Lava in Hawaii: A Day Hike To See Lava On The Big Island
Looking for an adventurous hike on the big island of Hawaii? Check out this insane hike to see hot lava and even pick it up!

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