Hawaii Forest & Trail’s
The Big Island Tourism Board hooked us up with Hawaii Forest & Trails. They are an amazing tour company that has been around for 18 years. They are huge in protecting the environment and have access like none of the others. I took two of their tours and they all included access fees, snacks, meals, and beverages, plus the use of outdoor gear like walking staffs, day packs, warm jackets and rain gear. The first tour was a 12 hour marathon of Volcanoes National Park and the other was of Hualalai Mountain — one of Hawaii’s three volcanoes and the tour also includes a stop at an organic coffee farm. Details of both can be found here: Hualalai Mountain &  Volcanoes National Park. FYI: These guys also are big into birding so if you are a birder be sure to check them out. Reservations & Information, Toll Free: 800 464-1993, Local call: 808 331-8505 or email at: info@hawaii-forest.com.

Lava Tube at Kaumana Caves
Our first stop on the volcano tour was a visit to a lava tube at Kaumana Caves. Most tour companies take groups to the Thurston lava tube which is full of tourists and has built in lights so you can’t get a real feel. If you want the real deal that will make you feel like you are in “The Goonies” then take the steep staircase down to the tropical forest and enter into the opening of the Kaumana Caves. It’s about 20 minutes from Hilo and it was formed by an 1881 Mauna Loa eruption. The tube is extensive and dark so each person will need a flashlight. We walked in about 200 yards (it felt like more) and that was just the tip of it. Supposedly if it wasn’t caved in in parts the tube is 22 miles long. There’s not much down there except dripping water from a few roots and cool volcanic ash formations. You can find Kaumana Caves for about 4 miles along Kaumana Dr (Hwy 200).

Other Highlights and Observations
-There aren’t any bats like I was expecting
-It’s about 15 degrees cooler once inside.
-Before walking down the stairs look up in the trees and you will spot wild orchids – when was the last time you saw that?

In The Cave We Learned:
– Hawaii has the most active volcanoes in the world and they are the most studied since it’s so easy to get up close to them.
-Hawaii has shield volcanoes. The biggest difference in these types is Hawaii has a lot less silica so it doesn’t take as much pressure — that’s why people can be close to them. Basically the volcanoes are laid back like the locals. “They are more user friendly here.”
-Three W’s is how native species made it to Hawaii: Wings, Wind and Water
-Two native species are left in Hawaii– Monk seal and Hoary bat.
-There are NO snakes in Hawaii!

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