Mauna Loa Tours
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Mauna Loa’s status as the largest active volcano in the world doesn’t stop travelers from flocking to the rugged mountain—in fact, it attracts them. With its last eruption occurring in 1984, the volcano is known for non-explosive activity, making it an inviting and worry-free destination to explore on scenic drives or backcountry trails.
Set within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Mauna Loa’s unfurling flanks make up half the landmass of the Island of Hawaii, and its 13,679-foot (4169-meter) peak is high enough to catch the occasional snow. Most visitors to Mauna Loa explore the volcano on a scenic drive—you can also book a guided tour to enjoy the views without worrying about driving. If you want to explore on foot, opt for guided treks ranging from day hikes to multi-day backpacking trips. To get a scope of the true size of the volcano, take a helicopter flight above Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Things to Know Before You Go
- It can be cold and windy on the mountain, so bring warm layers and a windbreaker if you plan to get out of your vehicle.
- Multi-day hikes require permits and spots are limited, so contact the National Park Service before planning a backcountry trip.
- Some areas (such as the Mauna Loa Lookout) have wheelchair- and stroller-accessible walkways and vault toilets.
- Volcanic rock makes sturdy shoes a necessity if you want to hike the trails.
How to Get There
Mauna Loa is located an hour’s drive from Hilo, within the Hawaii Volcano National Park. A popular choice for viewing the park is to drive Saddle Road, which cuts between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea. To explore the upper reaches of Mauna Loa, turn off Saddle Road onto Mauna Loa Observatory Road and follow it to the Mauna Loa NOAA Atmospheric Observatory, which sits just below the summit at 11,140 feet (3395 meters).
When to Get There
While the mountain is a popular destination year-round, plan your trip in the spring or fall to avoid the worst crowds. You can also visit in the late evening or even after dark for stargazing. Trail closures are common in the park, so check the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park website before planning a hike.
Hiking to the Summit of Mauna Loa
The summit of Mauna Loa can only be reached on foot and is accessible by two backpacking routes. Both are considered strenuous due to rugged terrain and high altitude. You can choose a challenging day hike that begins at the Mauna Loa Observatory or a trek of more than 30 miles (48 kilometers). The route includes cabins where hikers can stay along the way.
Address: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii, USA, USA
3 Tours and Activities to Experience Mauna Loa
Look down on the varied landscape of the Big Island from the air on a helicopter tour from Kona. This flight is longer than typical heli tours and provides the opportunity to be wowed by Hawaii’s amazing natural features, from waterfalls to volcanoes to rainforests. Fly along the coast and over Waimanu and Waipio valleys, and spot island industry like macadamia nut orchards. Upgrade to guarantee a window seat.
Taking safety measures
Face masks required for travelers in public areas
Face masks required for guides in public areas
Hand sanitizer available to travelers and staff
Soar above the Big Island’s volcanic steam vents, rainforests and rugged coastline on an air tour by Cessna Plane. Enjoy almost two hours of flying time as you explore Hawaii’s most iconic island, and explore a dynamic landscape of simmering volcanos, crashing surf and lava flows. Take in commentary from your pilot as you bank above Hawaii Volcanos National Park and get extraordinary aerial views of Kilauea and Mauna Loa, then watch for migrating whales as you glide over the coast’s beaches, farms and renowned surf breaks.
Watch night fall over the Pacific on a 2-hour sunset air tour of the Big Island, and explore steaming calderas, rainforests and Hawaii’s rugged coast. Leave Kona in a Cessna plane and soar above the Hawaii Volcanos National Park; see Kilauea’s lava flows glow in the dusky light as you enjoy your pilot’s commentary on the island’s landmarks and history. Capture unforgettable images through the plane’s viewing windows, glide over the coast’s beaches and surf breaks then catch the night’s first stars as you touch back down in Kona.
Frequently Asked Questions
The answers provided below are based on answers previously given by the tour provider to customers’ questions.
What's the best way to experience Mauna Loa?
The best ways to experience Mauna Loa are:
- Experience Hawai'i Big Island Helicopter Flight from Kona
- Big Island Air Tour by Cessna Plane
- Big Island Sunset Flight from Kona
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