Four Seasons puts luxe spin on Kilauea tour

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The Four Seasons Resort Hualalai’s Volcano Pop-Up experience, with helicopter transportation for up to four people, is being offered through 2017.
The Four Seasons Resort Hualalai’s Volcano Pop-Up experience, with helicopter transportation for up to four people, is being offered through 2017.
It came to Helen Barry-Cooper, director of the club division, while they were taking an after-lunch dip in a river. Some of the managers from the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai on the Island of Hawaii were on a brainstorming retreat to cook up new ways to provide something special for guests. Why not do a Four Seasons Volcano Pop-Up, Barry-Cooper thought, an exclusive off-site Four Seasons experience in a secluded location on the island with built-in tours of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park?


"The Four Seasons has never done a pop-up anywhere before this, and there was a lot of logistics to figure out," said Austin Watkins, Four Season Hualalai director of marketing. "We take a lot of inspiration from the island and our surroundings, and we thought this would be a wonderful, one-of-a-kind experience."

After eight months of planning, including finding just the right cottage near the park, the Volcano Pop-Up experience launched in March.

The Four Seasons Resort Hualalai‘s Volcano Pop-Up experience includes a stay in an 1,800-square-foot cottage in a rain forest near Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
The Four Seasons Resort Hualalai‘s Volcano Pop-Up experience includes a stay in an 1,800-square-foot cottage in a rain forest near Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

First, a helicopter lands on the resort's golf course and takes up to four people over the Kohala Mountains, where riders can spot waterfalls, hidden valleys, black sand beaches and working ranches. The first stop is a secluded picnic spot beside a waterfall, which is then followed by a guided hike to Kamokuna in the national park, where a million gallons of lava pour into the ocean each hour.

Then, an expert volcanologist joins the group for the exploration of Kilauea Volcano, which has been erupting continuously since 1983. Guests are then shuttled to the Four Seasons Pop-Up, a secluded cottage tucked into the rain forest and decked out with all of the amenities of the resort, including the Four Seasons bed, service and food.

The two-level, 1,800-square-foot cottage boasts a fireplace, a flat-screen TV, WiFi, an outdoor sauna house and a whirlpool. Before dinner, guests can enjoy cocktails while enjoying a private performance of hula and Hawaiian music. Dinner is capped off with s'mores on the lanai, and the evening is highlighted by a guided night walk to the Kilauea Caldera, where the lava stands out against the backdrop of the volcanic rock fields.

"For me, one of the most amazing parts of the whole trip is going to the Kilauea Caldera overlook after dark," Watkins said. "It's very remote, and the glow of the lava feels very primordial. You can actually hear the lava moving. It's one of those tiny moments."

In the morning, after breakfast, the helicopter takes guests on a Kau Coast excursion, including stops in the Kona coffee district and volcano rift zone. Before returning to the resort, the final stop is a relaxing sojourn on a remote beach where visitors can snorkel, sip mimosas and recline in the sand.

The Volcano Pop-Up experience is built to be temporary and is currently scheduled to last through 2017. The total cost for up to four participants is $39,500.

Courtesy Blue Hawaiian Helicopters
Hawaii by helicopter

A number of operators offer visitors a chance to explore the Islands from above. Click here for a sampling of packages.

While this helicopter experience is at one end of the luxury-and-cost spectrum, there are plenty of providers and helicopter trips to choose from that fit every budget and schedule.

Because many areas on the Islands are remote and difficult to reach or inaccessible by vehicles, a helicopter can often be the most time-efficient and sensible way to get a feel for the island's geography and features. Hawaii Island, with its hidden valleys and grand volcanoes, and Kauai, featuring Waimea Canyon and spectacular waterfalls, are two islands where taking to the air can be well worth the effort. Depending on the length of the tour, number of sites and whether or not there are multiple landings, a standard helicopter tour can range in price from $150 to $500.

"Helicopters do have an added importance in Hawaii when it comes to tourism," Watkins said. "It makes the island more approachable and accessible for people visiting. While some of the natural wonders can be seen via trails, many people aren't physically up for the hike or they simply don't have the time. Helicopters are really the only way to see some of the spectacular natural features, especially on Hawaii Island."

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