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Planning a visit to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Planning a visit to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

When the lava flows, a visit to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (see page 70) requires advance planning. Accommodations are limited and often full in the park, and even helicopter tours must be booked well in advance.

Our feature article will help you plan a visit to the park itself. Where you sleep depends on how you visit the park, flightseeing on which company you use.

Helicopter tours from Hilo or the park

One of the best ways to see Kilauea's eruption is by helicopter. Though recent lava outpourings have frequently been crossing the park road and flowing into the sea, some of the most dramatic sites-- including the steaming Puu Oo vent and its neighboring lava lake--lie in remote parts of the part.

A number of tour companies operate throughout the Big Island, but flight time is expensive (five-passenger jet helicopter charters average up to $500 per hour).

The least costly way to go is to join a jet-powered helicopter tour taking off near park headquarters or from Hilo. These tours generally last just under an hour and are sold on a seat basis.

Volcano Heli-tours, (808) 967-7578, operates from the golf course near park headquarters. A 45-minute tour costs $100 and takes you over Kilauea Caldera and past Puu Oo to the lava lake, down the new flows to the ocean, and then loops back to the landing pad.

Hilo Bay Air, 969-1545; Orchid Isle Helicopters, 969-6664; TMP Helicopters, 935-7000. These three all take off from Hilo airport, and all offer slightly different variations on essentially the same tour: Hilo to Puu Oo and the lava lake, down to the ocean, then either straight back or a slightly longer looping flight back along part of the coast. The basic flight lasts about 55 minutes and costs $125; the loop is about 15 minutes longer and costs $135.

Where to stay and eat

The only accommodation in the park is Volcano House, a charming old 37-room lodge on the edge of the Kilauea Caldera. While rooms tend toward the basic, they are usually full; the view from the dining room is spectacular. Rooms start at $40 double with bath; write to Volcano House, Box 53, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii 96718, or call 967-7321.

At present, Volcano House is the only place in the park serving dinner. Because it's a popular tour bus stop, lunching here is impossible. The nearby golf course club house is usually faster and less expensive.

In the nearby village of Volcano, the four-room Volcano Bed and Breakfast has been open for three years. Rooms (all with shared bath) start at $40 double; a separate studio with bath and kitchenette is also available. Decor in this turn-of-the-century frame house is functional but comfortable, and breakfasts are heaping platters of eggs, pancakes, or French toast. Ask owner Gordon Morse for tips on local attractions. For reservations, write to Box 100, Volcano, Hawaii 96785, or call 967-7216.

A new restaurant and four-room inn, scheduled to open in Volcano since last summer, may finally open in February. Check progress with the Kilauea Lodge, Box 116, Volcano 96785; 967-7366.

Your best base for exploring both the park and the area is Hilo, a charming old Hawaii town that is just beginning to rebound from a long economic slump. An active Main Street program has brought good restaurants and a number of interesting shops into the downtown area.

This is not resort country. Hotels here are older (the Hilo Hawaiian has just been comfortably renovated), but they're reasonably priced and seldom full.

For a list of hotels and services on the island, write to the Hawaii Visitors Bureau, 180 Kinoole St., Hilo 96720.

Fitting volcanoes into your trip

Travelers to the Big Island can fly into either Hilo or Kailua-Kona. Depending on your itinerary, each has advantages.

The volcano is just an hour from Hilo, while from Kona's resort area it's a spectacular but winding 3-hour drive around the south end of the island. Several West Coast cities have nonstop flights to Kailua-Kona; Hilo requires a plane change. Flying into either Hilo or Kona from other major island airports costs $45 to $50.

Both airports have rental cars, but ask about the drop charge if you plan to leave a car at the other airport. For discount air fares and special package rates to Hawaii, see your travel agent.
COPYRIGHT 1988 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1988 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:Feb 1, 1988
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