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.
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.
More than 150 species of birds live in the Hawaiian Islands. For $5,450 per person double-occupancy, Field Guides has a three-island (Oahu, Kauai, and the Big Island), 10-day, guided bird-watching trip that includes accommodations, meals, ground transportation, and interisland air.
Victor Emanuel Nature Tours, the largest company in the world specializing in birding tours, has two 10-day Fall Hawaii and Spring Hawaii trips to Oahu, Kauai, and the Big Island that cost $4,895 (fall), including double-occupancy accommodations, meals, interisland air, ground transportation, and guided excursions.
Field Guides. 800/728–4953; www.fieldguides.com.
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. 800/328–8368; www.ventbird.com.
One way to manage several Hawaiian Islands on the same trip is to take a guided tour that includes all your travel arrangements in the Islands, including hotels, interisland transfers, and some sightseeing.
Globus has four Hawaii itineraries that include Oahu, two of which are escorted cruises on Norwegian Cruise Line's Pride of America that include four days on the island. Tauck and Trafalgar offer several land-based Hawaii itineraries that include nights on Oahu. Both companies offer similar itineraries with visits to the USS Arizona Memorial National Park and plenty of free time to explore the island. Tauck offers a 12-night Best of Hawaii itinerary. Highlights of the Oahu portion of the trip include a Waikiki outrigger canoe trip and a private dinner at Iolani Palace. Trafalgar has 8- to 13-night multi-island tours.
Atlas Cruises & Tours sells a couple dozen Hawaii trips running 7 to 13 days, operated by various guided tour companies including Globus, Tauck, and Trafalgar.
Atlas Cruises & Tours. This escorted-tour operator, in business for more than 25 years, partners with major companies such as Collette, Globus, Tauck, and Trafalgar to offer a wide variety of travel experiences. Tours run 7–12 nights, and most include Maui. 800/942–3301; www.atlastravelweb.com. From $2,219.
Globus. Founded in 1928 by a man who transported visitors across Lake Lugano, Switzerland, in a rowboat, this family-owned company grew to become the largest guided vacation operator in the world. Globus offers four Hawaii itineraries that include Maui, running 9–12 nights; two include a 7-night cruise on Norwegian Cruise Lines. 866/755–8581; www.globusjourneys.com. From $2,260.
Tauck Travel. Begun in 1925 by Arthur Tauck with a tour through the back roads of New England, Tauck has since spread its offerings across the world. Its 11-night multi-island "Best of Hawaii" tour includes 3 nights on Maui and covers noteworthy sights such as Iao Valley and Haleakala National Park. 800/788–7885; www.tauck.com. From $6,550.
Trafalgar. This company prides itself on its "Insider Experiences," defined as visiting hidden places not found in guidebooks, meeting local people, and sharing traditions you may not discover on your own. Trafalgar offers several itineraries that include Maui, running 7–12 nights. 866/544-4434; www.trafalgar.com. From $2,499.
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.
Hiking the Garden Island is the theme of a weeklong trip to Kauai sponsored by Sierra Club Outings. In addition to daylong hikes of 5 to 9 miles through many of the rain forests in Kokee State Park, participants will have opportunities for snorkeling and swimming at secluded beaches, as well as bird-watching. Hikers also will help in the maintenance of some of the trails. Accommodations are in shared cabins and, as with all Sierra Club Outings, participants are expected to help prepare some of the meals using only local, fresh ingredients. The trip costs about $1,695 per person and includes accommodations, meals, and ground transportation.
Timberline Adventures offers periodic trips to the Garden Island, including its Kauai: Waimea Canyon and the NaPali Coast, a six-day journey into the rain forests of Kokee State Park and Waimea Canyon. With miles of hiking trails, it’s an opportunity to explore Kauai’s inner beauty, including rare birds, waterfalls, and spectacular scenery. Other day trips have you hiking Sleeping Giant and kayaking the Wailua River. Perhaps the best hike is along the Kalalau Trail up into Hanakapiai Falls, with a payoff of tropical tranquility. Cost is $3,495/person for a double booking or $4,395 for a single.
Travelers must purchase their own tickets to and from their gateway city.
Sierra Club Outings. 415/977–5500; sierracluboutings.org.
Timberline Adventures. 800/417–2453; www.timberline-adventures.com.