"Wow, can we do that again! ...flew so close to the volcano."
All Hawaiian volcanoes are produced by a plume of lava known as the Hawaiian magmatic hot spot. This plume of lava rises up from deep within Earth's mantle and burns through the seafloor crust to form volcanic mountains that eventually rise above the surface of the sea to form Hawaiian Islands.
The Hawaiian Islands are actually just the summits of these massive volcanoes that grew up from the ocean floor as much as 18,000 feet below the water's surface.
The Big Island is the youngest Hawaiian Island, less than a half a million years old, and its two major volcanoes are Mauna Loa (which includes Kilauea Voclano) and Mauna Kea. These massive volcanoes are a sight to behold from the vantage point of a helicopter (when clouds do not interfere). Mauna Kea rises to 13,796 feet above sea level. Mauna Kea is considered the tallest mountain on Earth if measured from base to summit, towering up more than 6 miles from the ocean bottom.
The volcanic activity of the Hawaiian hot spot lava plume continues today on the Big Island at Kiluaea Volcano, and a Safari Helicopters tour will survey the diverse array of volcanic formations throughout the whole area where this activity has recently occurred and also where it is happening right now!
The aptly named Chain of Craters Road descends 3,700 feet from the summit of Kilauea Volcano to the sea, and has repeatedly been blocked by lava flows with more than 9 miles of the road covered since 1986. The Pu'u O'O Volcano flows into the ocean (fluctuating between Chain of Crater Rd and Kalapan Back Sands Beach) and sends up plumes of volcanic gas and smoke. From a helicopter this is a most impressive sight to behold.
There are four main districts in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park including: the Upper Rift Zone; the Mauna Ulu Zone; the Hilina Pali Zone; and finally the Coastal Zone, which is where the lava from Kilauea Volcano meets the sea (note: our Hawaii helicopter tours do not visit all districts – we only fly to where the current volcanic activity is taking place).
The Upper Rift area of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is where the road begins and where many old craters are located. The landscape in this area is also very lush as it receives much rain. The Mauna Ulu area is only a few miles down the road from the Upper Rift Zone but is much more sparse in vegetation because of lava flows in the mid 1970s.
Also sparse in vegetation is the Hilina Pali zone which has steep cliffs caused by huge landslides. The Coastal Zone is also very sparse with vegetation because of little rainfall and very recent lava flows.
Expect to be absolutely amazed at the incredible sights you will see from a Hawaii volcano helicopter tour. There are so many unique land formations and visible volcano history before your eyes that it is difficult to encapsulate it all in words.