Opportunities for Adventure Abound on Big Island

From diving to whale-watching; from sportfishing to nature trekking, the Big Island's diverse scenery and ecosystems make it an ideal destination for the adventure traveler. The following is a sampling of activities:

Air Tours

  • Island Hoppers offers aerial tours, with departures from Kona and Hilo, of the Big Island's dramatic mountain, volcano and ocean scenery. The company uses aircraft fitted with extra-large windows for maximum viewing enjoyment. (800) 538-7590; [email protected]; planet hawaii.com/above.
  • Hawaii Helicopters, Hawaii's only twin-engine helicopter company, offers tours from both Kona and Hilo airports. Passengers can select from several departure times daily. The company uses air conditioned, dual engine, state-of-the-art fleet. (800) 994-9099; [email protected]; www.hawaiiheli.com.
  • Safari Helicopters operates aerial tours of the Big Island in $1.2 million, air-conditioned B2-7 ASTAR helicopters. Each craft has picture-window viewing, extra legroom and stereo headsets for passengers to hear the guides. (800) 326-3356; [email protected]; www.safariair.com.
  • Blue Hawaiian Helicopters, which was a recent winner of the AAA 5-Star Diamond Award for Quality and Service, offers flightseeing excursions by new float-equipped ASTARs, flown by experienced, military-trained pilots. (800) 745-BLUE; [email protected]; www.maui.net/-blue.
  • Biking

  • The nonprofit Big Island Mountain Biking Association provides maps of the island's most picturesque biking trails, along with detailed information on distances and approximate riding time required, suggested routes, the highlights of each trail and suggested bike rental shops. (808) 961-4452; www.interpac.net/-mtbike.
  • Fishing

  • Ihu Nui Sportfishing operates 31- to 39-foot Bertram and Silverton vessels, staffed by top tackle professionals and crew, for sportfishermen angling for marlin, ahi, ono and mahi mahi. (888) 244-8684; [email protected]
  • Sea Wife Charters operates fishing excursions aboard its 38-foot craft, the Sea Wife II, for marlin, ahi, aku, wahoo and mahi mahi. Anglers are allowed to keep their catch. Charters are available. (888) 329-1806.
  • Nature Tours

  • Hawaii Forest & Trail operates nature, wildlife and bird-watching tours to unspoiled areas of the Big Island. The focus is on the natural terrain, rare ecosystems and indigenous plant and animal life. All tours are limited to groups of 10. (800) 464-1993; [email protected]
  • Range Riding

  • The Dahana Ranch Roughriders -- actually a paniolo (cowboy) family -- invite visitors to saddle up and experience the uplands of Waimea at an elevation of 3,000 feet. Ranch hands-for-a-day enjoy the cool mountain air while learning firsthand about life on a working cattle ranch. (808) 885-0057.
  • Snorkeling, Diving and Sailing

  • Live/Dive Pacific offers live-aboard dive adventures on the Big Island (and elsewhere) aboard its Pacific Aggressor fleet of scuba dive yachts. The luxury vessels, which are available for charter, feature deluxe staterooms, food and beverage service, sundeck and, in some cases, hot tubs and wet bar. The ships are handicapped accessible. (800) 344-5662; pac-aggressor.com.
  • Fair Wind operates snorkeling, scuba and "snuba" (a combination of the two) excursions to Healakekua Bay, a secluded marine sanctuary with a wide variety of undersea life. Along the way, passengers aboard the 60-foot catamaran (wheelchair accessible) enjoy glimpses of dolphins and, in season, whales. Onboard facilities include a 15-foot water slide, showers, and bar. (800) 677-9461; [email protected]; www.fair-wind.com.
  • Sea Quest offers rafting and snorkeling tours and eco-adventures by rigid hull inflatable boats to the remote area between Keauhou Bay and the Place of Refuge. The choice of tours includes snorkeling at Capt. Cook's Monument and explorations of the Sea Caves and Lava Tubes on the Kona Coast. (808) 329-RAFT.
  • Jack's Diving Locker offers trips to 60 dive sites, featuring views of spectacular coral reefs and tropical fish, for beginners and experienced divers. In addition to its daytime programs, the operator offers Manta Ray night dives. The boat is equipped with restroom and shower. (800) 345-4807; [email protected]; home1.gte.net/divejdl/html.
  • Eco-Adventures operates day, night, long-range and Blue Water charters at more than 65 dive sites. The vessels have showers and restrooms and offer lunch service. (800) 949-3483; [email protected]; www.travelbase.com/activities/scuba/eco-adventures.
  • Kohala Mountain Kayak Cruise specializes in family-oriented recreational adventures that spotlight the island's ecology, history and culture. Professional guides lead trips that highlight the Kohala Sugar Plantation's irrigation system and sites associated with Hawaii's legends. The company uses double-hulled, high-tech kayaks with a five-person capacity, and picks up at major resorts. (808) 880-6922.
  • Atlantis Submarines provides expeditions for underwater buffs. Passengers can travel 120 feet down for spectacular views of coral reefs and tropical marine life. The high-tech craft are air-conditioned and feature giant viewing ports. (800) 548-6262; www.cyber-hawaii.com/vacation/corp/oaa/atlantis/atlantis.html.
  • Whale Watching & Dolphin Encounters

  • Captain Dan McSweeney, a specialist and guide with extensive experience in the field, offers whale-watching expeditions of the Kona/Kohala Coast. Included are special microphones that allow tour members to listen to the sounds of the whales. (888) WHALES-6; [email protected]
  • Eye of the Whale Marine & Wilderness Adventures specializes in visits to the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary and whale watches during the height of the season, from January through March. From April through December, the company also offers Dolphin Watch expeditions and snorkeling explorations of the coral reefs teeming with sea turtles and other marine life. (808) 889-5556; [email protected]; www.aloha.net/-e-whale.
  • Dolphin Quest, at the Hilton Waikoloa Village Hotel, offers daily up-close, on-site encounters with dolphins, supervised by a marine mammal expert. (808) 885-2875; [email protected]
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