Gary Marrow, Kapohokine Adventures and Sharon Gonzalez Marriott International Gary Marrow, Kapohokine Adventures and Sharon Gonzalez Marriott International

Big Island volcano vacations

Far from keeping people away, the massive Hawaiian Kilauea volcano is now drawing more tourists than ever since it erupted in May, according to a local operator who visited New Zealand recently.


Gary Marrow, Kapohokine Adventures, says people are now flocking to Big Island, Hawai’i, for the lava experience. ‘Our helicopter tours are being booked out two weeks in advance, and more helicopters have been called in from Maui to cope with demand.’ He says the spectacle is dramatic and safe. ‘The lava has taken everything it can in that area, there’s nothing left to take (as in residential homes).


More lava has poured out in the last month than in the past 30 years and now it’s flowing directly into the ocean, plus there is a new fissure blasting into the air. The lava is moving at some 38,000 gallons per second and has created two miles of new land, he adds. ‘The lava flow is no longer in the national park so we have no restrictions, helicopters can fly directly over it; the fissure goes up to about 150 feet and the helicopters fly at 400 to 500 feet.’


Kapohokine Adventures offer three ways to see the action – by air, land and sea, says Marrow. Other companies have not fared so well, however. Landscape changes and the closure of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, along with reluctance of some visitors to venture near Kilauea, has reportedly caused some operators on the Big Island to close down. Darragh Walshe, of Hawaii Tourism Oceania, says while some markets cancelled their trips following the eruption, New Zealanders were not fazed and continued to travel to the Big Island. Marrow says 17% of his clientele are from New Zealand and Australia. 


By Kathy Ombler