For an in-depth exploration of the geological marvels on the Big Island, set your sights on the Kula Kai Caverns. Located along the south shore of the Big Island, this intricate cave system features 1,000-year-old lava tubes big enough to explore. The tubes were once connected to the Mauna Loa volcano but have long since been cut off from that system. Once that happened, ancient Hawaiians used them for shelter during Mauka-Makai journeys and to collect water as needed.
To start off your adventures, you must reserve your tour well ahead of your trip. Their tours go out in small groups, so they end up booked solid weeks out all throughout the year. All guests must have the ability to traverse uneven walking surfaces, stairs, and ladders for most of their tours. They welcome kids ages five and under to go on the lighted trail tour. The other tours are not suitable for little ones, however.
On the day of your tour, get ready to go by wearing light layers and closed-toe shoes. Your guide will provide flashlights, helmets, knee pads, and any other gear you need along the way. They even provide water to keep you well hydrated during your explorations. Plan to arrive about 15 minutes early to avoid getting left behind. They start the tours right on time, despite any stragglers, so they can stay on schedule all day long.
As the tour starts, you’ll follow a guide through the tubes, all while learning about the island’s history and culture. Upon entering the cave system, you’ll get to hear a presentation about how the tubes formed and how native Hawaiians used the land. Fun facts will continue coming your way as you move through each part of the lava tubes.
You’ll get to learn about the endangered native plants around the mouth of the caves. Plus, get info about all the fauna that call the caves and the surrounding area their home, including crickets, owls, and the Hawaiian hoary bat. Your guide may also share info about lava flows, water collection practices, and the formation of calcite stalactites. Keep an eye out for amazing petroglyphs left behind by native Hawaiians with a love for the arts.
Their top tours include:
Lighted Trail Tour
A favorite of kids and adults alike, the Lighted Trail Tour lets you walk through the caves with lanterns lighting the way. You’ll need to climb up 75 stairs to enter the cave, and then traverse rough terrain. All along the way, your guide will teach you about the unique geological formations and the history of the cave system.
The Crawl builds on the Lighted Trail tour to take you through a smooth braid passage at the end. You’ll need to put on your helmet and kneepads to crawl through the small tunnel. As you do that, you’ll get to see lava balls and other interesting igneous rock formations.
If you want to spend the max amount of time exploring the cave, just sign up for the Two-Hour Tour. This experience takes you on a trip through the labyrinth of tunnels well beyond the stopping point for the Lighted Trail and Crawl tours.
The entrance to the caverns is set in a gated community just off Hawaii Belt Road. The tour guides will provide the gate access code when you make your reservations. Abide by the 35 MPH speed limit while driving through the gated community to the parking area on Lauhala Drive.
-Don’t hesitate to ask any questions that come to mind on your tour. Your guide will appreciate the chance to share their knowledge.
-Bring a camera, but don’t be surprised if your photos don’t fully reflect the beauty that you see before you.
-Bring cash, so you can tip your guide after your tour.