Unfortunately we were unable to make the trip to Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park. We decided that it would be too difficult to take an active 11-month-old on an all day trip that would involve lots of time in the car. That didn’t, however, stop us from seeing an active volcano. Josh was able to find a helicopter tour on Blue Hawaiian Helicopters that would take us over the volcano. This tour left out of Hilo, so we did have a bit of a drive in the car. With this being said, there is a very nice new road that made this trip a lot quicker than it used to be. At the summit of the drive we were able to see some mountain peaks off in the distance that were covered with snow. The tour left out of the Hilo Airport, and for those interested, is called Circle of Fire plus Waterfalls. There are two options for the type of helicopter available: the Eco-Star and A-Star. We chose the A-Star, as this was the cheaper of the two options. Apparently the A-Star has less viewing glass and personal space. The A-Star gave us plenty of viewing space and we each had ample personal space. I’m not really sure it’s worth paying more for the extra perks of the Eco-Star.
Our pilot was very knowledgeable and we were able to see smoke and a few areas of red, glowing lava. The entire tour lasted approximately one hour. After seeing the volcano we flew back over some waterfalls that could only be seen from the air. We also had a nice view of Mauna Kea. The pilot was on his was back to the airport when he spotted some whales out in the ocean. He took us over the ocean and we were able to see the whales from above. This was my favorite part of the entire tour! Seeing the entire body of a whale is just incredible!
After we finished our tour we made a quick stop at the Mauna Loa nut factory. I highly recommend stopping here while in Hilo. They have amazing ice cream! They also have some nut products that cannot be found at other stores. My dad was able to find a pretty nice hat for $7.99. This was a nice way to end our day trip to Hilo.