Rainforests, Waterfalls, & Volcanoes
Explore Hawai’i’s Big Island and stay at the historic Thomas Guard House, located in the community of Reed’s Island, where the Hawaiian royals used to reside. Built in 1916 by the banker Thomas Guard, the house is a stunning example of neo-classical architecture. The property has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places and has hosted some famous guests—including George Lucas during the production of Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, which was shot in the nearby rain forest. This insider’s exploration of the Big Island is perfectly timed to help you escape from the winter weather. This enchanting setting will create memories for a lifetime!
- Visit Hilo’s historic downtown and step back in time.
- Explore the museums, shops, galleries, and restaurants
- mingle with the friendly and diverse residents
- Take daily excursions to experience the area’s natural wonders—magical waterfalls, lush gardens, and dramatic volcanic landscapes
Style/Themes: Big Island Mansion
Prices from: $4,295
Start & End City: Hilo, HI
Group Size: 6-14
Meals Included: 5B, 3L, 3D
Activity Level: Moderate
Accommodation Level: 4 Star private historic home
- Day 1: Arrive Hilo, Lili’uokalani Gardens, and Independent Dinner
Arrive at Hilo Airport, meet your guide and transfer to the Thomas Guard House. Take an optional walk through the peaceful Lili’uokalani Gardens, an authentic Japanese garden dedicated to Hawai’i’s first Japanese immigrants. Then enjoy an optional dinner with your fellow housemates at the elegant Hilo Bay Café, featuring stunning bay views and fine contemporary American, as well as Hawaiian and Japanese cuisines.
Meals Included: None
- Day 2: ‘Akaka Falls, Honoli’i Beach, and Carlsmith Beach Park, Welcome Dinner
Enjoy the daily breakfast, served at Thomas Guard House on the open veranda, or lanai.
After breakfast, tour ‘Akaka Falls State Park, 14 miles north along the Hamakua Coast. Visit two gorgeous waterfalls on a pleasant 0.4-mile uphill hike that takes you through a lush rainforest, filled with wild orchids, bamboo groves, and draping ferns. Easily accessible, this hike takes less than an hour.
Follow the paved footpath to the 100-foot Kahuna Falls. Continue to follow the loop around the bend, where you’ll discover towering ‘Akaka Falls, dropping 442 feet into a stream-eroded gorge. Beautiful ‘Akaka Falls is perhaps the Big Island’s most famous waterfall.
Later, visit Honoli’i Beach. Popular among the local surfing crowd, Honoli’i beach is a mix of black sand, coral rubble, rocks and beach glass. Perhaps beachcomb for glass along the shore.
Return to Hilo for lunch at a local restaurant, then visit Carlsmith Beach Park, with a black sand beach and beautiful views of Hilo Bay and Mauna Kea. Watch locals swim and surf. Take an optional swim and perhaps see a Honu, or Hawaiian green sea turtle.
In the evening, savor a home-cooked dinner featuring fresh farm-to-table delicacies prepared at the Thomas Guard House by a local Hawaiian chef. (B,L,D)
- Day 3: ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center and Downtown Hilo, Optional Mauna Kea Summit
In the morning, visit the world-famous ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center, a public science center dedicated to sharing and interpreting the astronomy conducted on the summit of Mauna Kea. ‘Imiloa presents the astronomy atop Mauna Kea within the framework of native Hawaiian traditions of navigation and exploration. Tour the facilities and learn about the ongoing scientific and cultural research within the context of the community. Watch a show at the world’s first 3-D digital dome in the planetarium and stroll through gardens featuring native and Polynesian-introduced plant life.
After lunch, tour Hilo’s historic downtown – the Big Island’s biggest small town – featuring century-old wooden storefronts housing a variety of sophisticated galleries, shops, restaurants, and cultural sites. If you like, walk on Kamehameha Avenue facing beautiful Hilo Bay and discover the variety of shops, restaurants, and attractions. Or choose to visit the Pacific Tsunami Museum or Lyman Museum.
In the afternoon, you may participate in an optional a tour of the Mauna Kea Summit. Enjoy a hot picnic-style dinner, watch the sunset from the top of the world’s highest volcano, and view the Hawaiian skies with a local interpretive naturalist. Please consult your physician to be sure you are fit for this excursion. (B, Picnic dinner for those on the Mauna Kea Excursion).
- Day 4: Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park
Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park encompasses two active volcanoes: Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, and Mauna Loa, the world’s most massive volcano. In recognition of the need to preserve Hawai’i’s outstanding natural environment, Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park was designated as an International Biosphere Reserve in 1980 and a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987. The park gives scientists insight into the birth of the Hawaiian Island and is the location of ongoing studies into the processes of volcanism.
Experience the dramatic volcanic landscapes and rare flora and fauna found here. The best and closest place to observe a volcanic eruption is from Jaggar Museum overlook, and other vantage points at the summit of Kilauea provide views of Halema’uma’u Crater.
During daylight, the robust plume of volcanic gas is a constant and dramatic reminder of the molten rock churning in a lava lake beneath the crater floor. After sunset, Halema’uma’u continues to thrill visitors with a vivid glow that illuminates the clouds and the plume as it billows into the night sky.
An optional four-mile hike of Kilauea Iki trail through the lush crater is an invigorating and intimate way to experience the volcanic terrain and ecology. Dine on a picnic lunch of local specialties and tropical fruit. Watch the sunset near the crater, and marvel at the lava “glow”. Then settle in for dinner overlooking the crater. (B,L,D)
- Day 5: Waipi’o Valley, Tropical Botanical Garden, Cultural Performance, Farewell Banquet
This morning, drive to Waipi’o Valley and immerse yourself in this dramatic landscape surrounded by cliffs thousands of feet high. The valley is the childhood home of King Kamehameha I—and an important center for political and religious life in Hawai’i. Waipio Valley was once the home of thousands of Native Hawaiians. The Big Island’s tallest waterfall, Hi’ilawe Falls, cascades down 1,300 feet in the back of Waipi’o.
Afterwards, enjoy a short 0.75 mile hike through the Kalopa forest reserve. Afterwards, enjoy a picnic lunch in the gorgeous surroundings.
In the afternoon, tour the Hawai’i Tropical Botanical Garden. This 40-acre “garden in a valley on the ocean”, situated on the lush Hamakua Coast, is a naturally formed greenhouse benefiting from fertile volcanic soil and natural protection from trade winds. Photographers, gardeners, botanists, scientists, and nature lovers from around the world are drawn to this museum of living plants. Over 2,000 species, representing more than 125 families and 750 genera, are found in this one-of-a-kind garden. Throughout this garden valley, nature trails meander through the tropical rainforest, crossing bubbling streams, passing several beautiful waterfalls, and offering exciting ocean vistas along the rugged Pacific coast.
This evening at the Thomas Guard House, enjoy a special performance of Hawaiian music and dance, followed by a magnificent farewell banquet — the perfect end for your authentic Hawaiian experience! (B,L,D)
- Day 6: Depart Hilo
After breakfast, one of your guides will accompany you to the Hilo Airport for your departure. Check-out time is 10:30 am. (B)
Prices start at:
$4,295 per person, Double Occupancy
$2,190 Single Supplement
- Five nights’ accommodation in luxury home on Reed’s Island
- Select meals: 5B, 3L, 3D
- Arrival and departure airport transfers from Hilo International Airport
- All sightseeing, entertainment, and cultural activities listed in itinerary
- Private vehicle transportation
- Professional local Tour Director
- Local guides
- House manager
- Beer, wine and liquor at two Thomas Guard House dinners
- Gratuities to local guides and tour staff
- Preparatory materials
Not Included: Airfare to and from Hilo, HI; meals not listed as included; optional activities; travel insurance; drinks other than beverages included at Thomas Guard House meals; other items of a personal nature