A guided tour can be a hassle-free way to see lots of attractions on all the islands without having to worry about the details yourself. Plus it's a great way of making new friends. Globus visits the main Hawaiian Islands, including the Big Island, on their Grand Hawaii Vacation. Aloha Hawaiian Vacations offers an all-inclusive, seven-day adventure to the Big Island. Trafalgar also offers several Hawaii itineraries that include two to three nights on the Big Island, depending on the tour. Usually, visits to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park are included.
Globus. On their Grand Hawaii Vacation, Globus visits the main Hawaiian Islands, including the Big Island. Guests visit the Kona Coffee Living History Farm, taste Hawaiian sweetbread, and visit the world's most active volcano, Kilauea. This is a very popular tour and they sell out quickly. Check online as tours to the Big Island frequently change, and some years, only interisland cruises are available. Hawaii. 866/755–8581; www.globusjourneys.com. From $3,100.
Aloha Hawaiian Vacations. Hawaii. 800/256--4211; www.aloha-hawaiian.com.
Trafalgar. Offering a wide range of Hawaii tour itineraries and pricing, Trafalgar is great for visitors who want to see a lot of Hawaii without having to arrange all the fly-drive-hotel details themselves. On most of their Big Island legs, the company takes you to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, with stops along the way, and then gives you a free day to enjoy snorkeling, whale-watching, or manta ray dives. Hawaii. 866/809--8426; www.trafalgar.com. From $3,439.
YMT Vacations. Billing itself as the best choice in affordable travel, YMT offers a 13-day, four-island tour and a 12-day Hawaiian Islands cruise and tour. Hawaii. 877/322–6185; www.ymtvacations.com. From $1999.
A tour of Kilauea Volcano—the most active volcano on earth—is even better when led by an actual geologist, volcanologist, retired ranger, or even botanist. Mother Nature does not offer a money-back guarantee, so keep in mind that seeing active lava cannot be promised.
Friends of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. With tours tailored to small groups, the Friends of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park offer custom tours that help you make fascinating discoveries and learn details about such geologic features as lava tubes, vents, and fumaroles. Tours are tailored to your interest and group size and last four to eight hours. Hawaii. 808/985–7373; fhvnp.org. From $325.
Kapoho Kine Adventures. This outfitter's Evening Volcano Explorer Tour takes you through the once thriving village of Kalapana (destroyed by lava in 1989) and its historic Painted Church, finishing up in the national park, where you'll stop at various craters, vents, and flows. The tour ends with dinner and wine tasting at the Volcano Winery. West-side pickups available in Kailua-Kona and Waikoloa locations. 224 Kamehameha Ave., Hilo, Hawaii, 96720. 808/964–1000; www.kapohokine.com. From $129.
Artists and free spirits have made Hawaii Island a known and respected haven for the arts, including printmaking, jewelry making, oil painting, sculpture, pottery, photography, and glassworks. The tiny hamlet of Volcano, across from the national park, draws the fantastically talented, many of whom live in the village and sell their works at the Volcano Art Center gallery or at their own small shops.
Volcano Art Center. Whether you want to learn about Hawaiian arts, history, and culture; astronomy, ecology, botany, or the geology of the Hawaiian volcanoes, Volcano Art Center can design a program for your group that utilizes the talents of local artists, scientists, performers, historians, park rangers, storytellers, and guides. The staff arranges transportation, accommodations, meals, classes, and lectures. Hawaii. 866/967–8222; 808/967–7565; www.volcanoartcenter.org. From $10.
If you're a bicycling enthusiast, you've got exciting options on the Big Island. Most airlines accommodate bikes as luggage, provided they're dismantled and boxed.
Bicycle Adventures. Take a seven-day Hawaii tour that includes biking, hiking, snorkeling, sailing, and whale-watching. Accommodations, meals, and park admissions are included. Hawaii. 800/443–6060; www.bicycleadventures.com. From $3,568.
WomanTours. Catering only to women, so as to provide a safe and bonding travel adventure experience, this company has a nine–night bike tour that circumnavigates the entire island and includes a stop at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park as well as the beautiful Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park. Included are accommodations, most meals, a chase van, and guides. Hawaii. 800/247–1444; www.womantours.com.
Because of its isolated location, nearly 2,500 miles from any major landmass, Hawaii's unique habitats have encouraged many unusual species of birds to evolve. Although many bird species have been lost due to hunting, introduced predators, or loss of habitat, some highly endangered birds still thrive, mostly in the Hakalau National Wildlife Refuge on the slopes of Mauna Kea, where their natural forest habitats have been replanted and protected. Birders from around the world come here and to other parts of the island to spot these amazing creatures—and you can, too, with the help of expert guides.
Hawaii Forest & Trail. This company offers two different bird-watching tours. The Endangered Native Habitat (Rainforest and Dryforest) Birding Adventure takes bird lovers to explore a cloud-misted rain forest on the slopes of Mauna Kea as well as a dry-forest habitat on Mauna Loa. Expert guides help you search native forests for Amakihi, Iiwi, Elepaio, Apapane, and endangered Akiapolaau. The Hakalau Forest tour offers outstanding opportunities in which to spot the rarest endemic birds, allowing exclusive access to the highly restricted Hakalau National Wildlife Refuge. You may even see such thrilling sights as the highly endangered, bright orange Akepa juvenile being fed by its parents. Walking sticks, binoculars, rain ponchos, and meals are provided. 73-5598 Olowalu St., Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, 96740. 800/464–1993; www.hawaii-forest.com. From $189.
Victor Emanuel Nature Tours. This company has multiday trips that include the Big Island, led by well-known birding experts such as Brendan Mulrooney and Erik Bruhnke. Focusing on off-the-beaten path destinations and habitats, the tours offer birders the chance to spot such indigenous species as the amakihi, apapane, elepaio, and the comical scarlet iiwi, as well as endemic birds such as the omao, palila, and akepa honeycreepers. Tour prices include interisland flights and are offered in both spring and fall. Hawaii. 800/328–8368; www.ventbird.com. From $4,895.
Some tour companies cater to culturally inclined visitors interested in discovering the island beyond the usual tourist track.
Road Scholar. This nonprofit organization leads all-inclusive learning adventures, including several cultural and educational tours of Hawaii. A 14-night tour of the Big Island, presented by experts on local culture, includes lectures, excursions, and performances. Coordinated by Hawaii Pacific University, tours begin on Oahu and include excursions to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, visits to Hilo, and walks around the quaint seaside village of Kailua-Kona. Some trips include Maui and the Big Island and are oriented for a slower pace for grandparents. Hawaii. 800/454–5766; www.roadscholar.org. From $2,899.
Sierra Club Outings. You'll stay at a grand Victorian mansion in Hilo while visiting volcanic hot ponds, lush botanical gardens, and attend star parties atop Maunakea, among other destinations on the "Best of the Big Island" tour. With this company, tours include a service-project component, such as restoring critical bird habitats or beautifying gardens. Book early because most itineraries sell out fast. Hawaii. 415/977–5522; www.sierraclub.org/outings. From $2,200.
If you love to hike and want to experience the wonders of walking on the major Hawaiian Islands without the hassles of finding flights and hotels yourself, consider booking with a tour company that specializes in hiking. They can get better rates on hotels, interisland flights, and ground transportation than you can by booking it all separately on your own.