In a national park that draws 2.5 million visitors a year, I was surprised to find myself in absolute solitude. I hadn’t seen another hiker since I’d set out two hours earlier. I sat down on a boulder shaded by red-blossomed ohia trees and giant tree ferns to eat the lunch I’d brought and I heard nothing but birds singing as I looked out through the mist over the Kilauea Iki Crater. Volcanoes National Park, a World Heritage Site that will celebrate its centennial in 2016, covers 333,000 acres on the southeastern side of the Big Island of Hawaii. No matter what you think a volcano is supposed to look like (and my sole reference was the faux one in front of Las Vegas’ Mirage hotel), you will find the park isn’t what you expected. The terrain – from cloud-shrouded rain forest to arid coastal cliffs to stark black lava flows broken by vents where puffs of steam rise – ranges from beautiful and exhilarating to harsh and unnerving. The best way to experience it is step by step, so that you can absorb the drama of the landscape. I had flown into Kona, which meant a three-hour drive on the Mamalahoa Highway along the coast and around South Point to the park. (The Big Island has two major airports: Kona, on the dry, leeward side of the island near the big resorts of Kohala and Waikoloa; and Hilo, on the rainy, windward side. The smaller of the two airports, Hilo is less than an hour away.)
The tiny village of Volcano, which is at a 4,000-foot altitude, can be surprisingly chilly and is often overcast, sometimes with ordinary clouds and sometimes with “vog,” a mix of moist air and sulfate aerosols from the volcano. I was grateful to have a small space heater and multiple quilts in my room at the Aloha Junction Bed & Breakfast and happy I had brought a fleece jacket. Volcano has a general store where you can pick up food and snacks to take on your hike, and a good casual restaurant, the Lava Rock Café, that serves three meals a day. Even if you’re not a guest at the 33-room Volcano House, you can eat at the Rim Restaurant there. The hotel underwent a $3 million renovation last year and has spectacular views of the caldera, so it’s definitely worth a stop. Even the short, partially paved Sulfur Banks trail behind the neighboring visitor center is worth a walk, since it passes some spectacular vents that take little imagination to envision as an underworld beast’s panting mouth. In contrast, delicate white bamboo orchids grow among the grasses that line the walk. The park entry fee is $10 for seven days, so you’re free to come and go as long as you show your receipt. There are 155 miles of marked hiking trails, including some coastal routes with shelters that are for multi-day hikes and one extremely challenging path that ascends to the 13,677-foot summit of Mauna Loa.
Hiking on lava
Although the park never closes, if you’re going to camp overnight, you need to check in with the rangers at the visitor center for a permit. Even if you’re not staying overnight, it pays to be prepared with hiking poles, especially for traversing the black “aa” lava – that’s the rough, sharp kind, as opposed to the silvery “pahoehoe” lava, which is elegantly rippled. Hiking shoes or boots are also a smart idea, as is a waterproof sun hat, sunglasses and a generous supply of water and sunblock. A rain jacket can be a lifesaver, since rain can come on suddenly. When I visited, the lava wasn’t bubbling up at its current tourist-friendly location below the Thomas A. Jaggar Museum in the Halemaumau Crater. While the lava lake’s locale along Crater Rim Drive further secures Kilauea’s reputation as a “drive-by volcano,” it also means that the longtime drop of lava into the ocean, which caused enormous clouds of glowing orange steam to rise for a spectacular show after dark, has ceased for now. It’s important to understand that the lava’s pathways are whimsical, so there is no guarantee as to what it will be doing when you get there. The Puu Oo vent has been producing continuously since 1983, but not always in locations that are easily accessible.
Right now, the fuming lava lake at the Halemaumau Crater in the Kilauea Caldera has put some of the most popular hiking trails off limits, including part of the 11.6-mile Crater Rim Trail that circumnavigates the entire caldera. Likewise, parts of the Byron Ledge and Halemaumau trails, which lead right into the boiling crater, are closed. However, my favorite path, the Kilauea Iki Trail that traverses the “little” (iki, in Hawaiian) Kilauea Crater is open. The trail is a 4-mile loop, and while its hills, slippery footing and uneven lava mean it isn’t easy, it’s comfortable for an experienced hiker. At about the halfway point, you come to the Thurston Lava Tube and, equally important, bathrooms and drinking water, which are rare in the park’s outlying areas. The lava tube is an enormous cave formed as surface lava hardened and underground lava continued flowing. It’s worth detouring to see.
When I last visited, the lava was still making its way to the sea and demanded a long hike across fresh aa lava at the end of Chain of Craters Road. I had expected to feel joy as I got close to the active flow. After all, where else can you see the creation of new land? Instead, I was overwhelmed with the destructive power of the 2,100-degree glowing lava. Park Service signs warning of the potential for death if the sulfurous plume shifted direction did nothing to lighten my mood. On the most primal level, it was terrifying. Little wonder that the traditional Hawaiian religion includes much placating of the fire goddess Pele.
Soar high above our lush gulches on eight exhilarating zipline runs crisscrossing tropical ravines. Enhance your experience by learning about our rich Hawaiian culture and our land’s natural history from your personal tour guides. Test your courage as you make your way across our 200-ft suspension bridge overhanging a beautiful fern grotto. Make sure to hang on tight and stop midway through for a one-of-a-kind photo opportunity of our 60-ft waterfall flowing right alongside our bridge! Take a break in our Mango Hut, and indulge in our delicious, locally-made snacks and beverages, and get a chance to crack open and taste fresh macadamia nuts from the largest organic macadamia nut field in the state of Hawaii! Zip right off our hut to finish your tour with unparalleled views of our Waianaia Gulch and the Pacific Ocean. Don’t leave our island without braving the adventure of a lifetime!!
To book your tour today, please call 808-889-5111 (Extension 1 for BIEA II Reservations).
Each tour consists of eight (8) different ziplines, one (1) suspension bridge, and locally-prepared snacks and beverages. Foods include freshly-made banana cake, local fruit kabobs, trail mix, and macadamia nuts to crack and enjoy. Drinks served will be Aloha Maid fruit juices and water.
Check-in is 30 minutes prior to your tour time at our baseyard in Kapa’au.
Tours run approximately two and a half to three hours long.
$169.00 + tax per person ($176.04), regardless of age.
We offer Kama’aina & Military Rates for everyone able to present a valid HI State ID/License or Military/Dependent ID upon check-in. Please call to inquire about our other discounted rates.
Restrictions & Requirements
Tours depart with a minimum of four (4) guests, and a maximum of ten (10) in order to ensure that the proper personal attention is provided to each guest.
Although a reservation is required, walk-ins are welcome pending availability. During peak seasons, please make sure to reserve at least one (1) week in advance in order to secure your desired tour date/time. Otherwise, 48 hours in advance is usually sufficient time for booking.
Upon check-in, all guests will be required to fill out and sign a waiver prior to going on tour.
For the safety of both our guides and our guests, all participants must be within our weight restriction of 90 – 250 lbs. Guests who do not fall within our weight limits will not be allowed to zip. No refunds will be issued to those who book and are over/under weight. A scale will be provided and all guests will be weighed in upon check-in.
Unfortunately, no unaccompanied minors under the age of 18 will be allowed on tour.
Our zipline course requires a low to moderate degree of physical strength and stamina. Our tour is not recommended for people with heart conditions, seizures, and/or recent bone/joint injuries. Pregnant women will not be allowed to zipline. Anyone with an allergy to bees/wasps must bring their own EpiPen on tour.
We do enforce a strict 48 Hour Cancellation/Change Policy. Any changes or cancellations within 48 hours of your tour time will result in a full charge.
In addition, our tours depart seven days a week, regardless of weather conditions.BIEA II’s zipline course is inspected daily, and is a safe and secure activity to enjoy through several different types of weather conditions. No refunds will be issued due to unexpected weather, unless BIEA II cancels. Although we experience sunny and clear skies most of the year, please keep in mind that our tours do operate through our beautiful rainforests, so rain is a common and natural occurrence! Without it, the breathtaking greenery and our world-famous waterfalls wouldn’t exist. We recommend that our guests dress in layers to accommodate several types of weather conditions.
What to Bring
Close-toed shoes are required (Crocs will not be allowed)
T-shirts with sleeves (tank tops are not recommended)
Knee-length shorts or pants
Long-sleeve shirt or light jacket
Backpack (we provide small packs upon request)
What makes you different from all the other ziplines on the Big Island?
We’re the original Big Island zipline… the very first! With our grand opening way back in December 2008, we are proud to say that we are the premier zipline here on the Big Island of Hawaii!
What do I see during my zipline adventure?
You see plenty! Where to start??
For one, your check-in location in Kapa’au is adjacent to ‘Iole, a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of our traditional Hawaiian landscapes. After your zipline, get a chance to visit their Exhibit Center, or take a hike on one of their many natural trails. For more information, you can visit their website here.
On your way up to the course, you’ll pass through the largest organic macadamia nut field in the state of Hawaii! How’s that for impressive?!
While zipping, you get to take in tropical gulches, ravines, and the occasional view of the Pacific Ocean, all while experiencing the oldest rainforest on the Big Island! Did we mention you can actually see Maui on a clear day?! In addition, we have not one, not two, but three seasonal waterfalls on tour! And one of them just so happens to flow right alongside our suspension bridge, so make sure you have your cameras ready!
I’ve never ziplined before, and I’m nervous! Please tell me I have nothing to worry about!
You have absolutely nothing to worry about! Unlike several other ziplines on the island, our guides use a brake-block system in order to gradually slow you down at the end of each line. This allows you to have a hands-free (and worry-free!) experience! There’s no fumbling with cables, or messing with a pair of gloves. And the best part is that, because you’re zipping hands-free, you can take photos and videos while you’re zipping, making the experience that much better.
Is there a place where we can watch the zipliners on tour, but not actually zip?
Unfortunately, our zipline course is on private property, and anyone wanting to experience the zipline tour does need a reservation. Our shuttle drivers take our guests from our baseyard to the actual course, which is not accessible to the public. But, we promise, you won’t regret it if you join your friends and family!
If we begin our tour, and start to chicken-out, can we stop midway through?
Although we try to accommodate our guests as much as possible, once you start, you’re in it for the long haul. You’ll be ziplining across our gulches, crisscrossing from one side to the next, so there aren’t any pick-up points for our drivers to come and get you. Our first “Keiki Line” (or bunny slope) usually gets our guests over any reservations they might have, so this usually isn’t a problem.
I just showed up for my tour, and it’s raining. Can we cancel or postpone our trip?
Since the beginning, our motto here at BIEA II has been, “Rain or shine, we zipline!” And we’re not about to stop now! So, unfortunately (or fortunately!), we do not cancel due to rain. After all, you do zipline through a rainforest, so the occasional showers are always expected. Without it, we wouldn’t have such lush and gorgeous scenery to zip through! And, look on the bright side, the more it rains, the more those waterfalls will be flowing! So we always suggest to dress in layers just in case. And for all you worry warts out there… it is still completely safe to zip in the rain!
I’m not exactly in my 20’s anymore… Can older folks zipline, too?
Absolutely! As a matter of fact, our oldest zipliner was 92… and she’s been on our tour twice! There’s very minimal hiking involved but, for the most part, you’ll simply be flying!
Is there a minimum age requirement to zipline?
We don’t have an age requirement, so long as the minor weighs a minimum of 90 lbs. And, yes, we do weigh in upon check-in to verify! Keep in mind, too, that we do not allow any unaccompanied minors on tour.
My son isn’t quite 90 lbs, can he still zip?
Unfortunately, 90 lbs is the minimum weight that we can accept on tour. Our lines are some of the longest and highest on the island, so it takes a little bit of extra weight to make it all the way across our lines. It just wouldn’t be fun for your son (or for our guides) to get stuck on each line. But the good news is that our sister-company, Kona Eco Adventures, has a minimum weight limit of 80 lbs! Please visit their website here for more information!
How long and how high are your lines anyway?
Our lines range anywhere from 600 – 1,600 ft long and anywhere from 100 – 250 ft high! Woohoo!
Why do you require longer shorts or pants and shirts with longer sleeves?
Well, we utilize a five-point full-body harness that comes over your shoulders, around your waist, and around your upper thighs. We would hate for you to be uncomfortable throughout your tour, especially if the harness continually rubs against your skin.
And what about close-toed shoes… why do we need those?
Depending on your weight, you may find yourself landing lower to our platforms, and we want to avoid any stubbed toes on tour. In addition, our trails consist of a ton of rock and gravel, so we want our guests to be as protected from the outdoor elements as possible.
Can we wear hats and sunglasses?
Hats and sunglasses are all welcome on tour, they’re just at your own risk. Anything you happen to drop on tour will not be retrieved (keep in mind, you’re hundreds of feet up!), so make sure you bring something to secure your items while you’re zipping.
Do we need a reservation, or can we just show up?
Reservations are strongly recommended in order to assure availability for your preferred date and tour time, but walk-ins are always welcome, too.
We want to pay separately when we check-in… Is this possible?
Absolutely! Unless you booked using our online reservation system, we do not charge your card on file until you check-in. So make sure you let the agent checking you in know that you’ll be paying in multiple forms. And don’t forget, we only accept Visa, MasterCard, and Discover (no AmEx), as well as cash, local checks, cashier’s checks, and money orders.
Is gratuity included in our tour price?
Gratuity is not included in the price of your zipline tour, and it’s always welcome! Your guides have a pretty awesome job, and it shows in how they treat their guests. Gratuity, however, is always up to your own discretion.
I had a blast on my tour! Where can I write a review for BIEA II??
Believe it or not, our company continues to rapidly grow primarily through the generous recommendations of our past guests! So, our online ratings and reviews mean the world to us. If you’d like to review our zipline, please visit TripAdvisorhere to tell us what you think!! Oh, and ALOOOOOHA from our ‘Ohana to yours for visiting Big Island Eco Adventures II!
Recently the Kohala coast has been having some unusually high surf swells. Enjoy a beautiful video of the swells shared by Ethan Tweedie Photography. Mahalo Ethan! Great shots!