Big Island, Big Adventures

Guided adventures are gaining in popularity on the Big Island and throughout Hawaii, so it's a good idea for vacationers to lock in at least a few of them ahead of time so they don't miss out on their top picks.  Hilo Ocean Aventures' Manta Raiv

For those who love being out on the water, one of these just might be a new enterprise, Hilo Ocean Adventures. "I have personally sailed the coastline of at least 100 islands, and have never seen anything as spectacular as the waterfalls of the Hilo coast," says Capt. Steve Turner, the company's veteran skipper.

Turner explains that the relative youth of the BigIsland means that its waterfalls flow dramatically over the cliffs and into the ocean. Thus, visitors can't see most of them from land, even from the coastal road—they are only visible from the air or by boat.

Hilo Ocean Adventures has two regularly scheduled outings, a three-hour waterfall cruise and, during the winter months, a two-hour whale-watching cruise. Both depart on the agile 25-foot Manta Raiv vessel, which carries no more than 15 passengers. Prices start at $89 and $39, respectively; bottled water is provided. Mark Curtis, company president, serves as agent liaison. Call him at 808-756-4100, or visit www.hilooceanadventures.com.

Inland, the HawaiiVolcanoesNational Park continues to be a huge visitor draw. Hawaii Forest & Trail has modified its popular Kilauea Volcano Adventure to include a voluntourism element for adventurers who are so inclined. They work with park employees at a stewardship plot, helping to remove invasive plant species such as ginger.

Waterfalls on the Hilo coast

This outing takes travelers to key places of interest within the expansive HawaiiVolcanoesNational Park. Travelers, led by an interpretive naturalist, explore the park while driving and on foot.

Sights range from a lava tube and volcanic formations to time in a rainforest and possibly views of flowing lava. Prices start at $155 for adults and $120 for children 12 and younger, and group size is limited to a maximum of 10. It includes bottled water, a midmorning snack of fruit, beverages and pastries, a deli lunch with beverages, and use of a daypack, walking stick, and warm clothing and rain gear.

The agent contact is Chris Colvin, director of sales and marketing. He can be reached at chris@hawaii-forest.com. Call Hawaii Forest & Trail at 800-464-1993 or visit www.hawaii-forest.com.

Meanwhile, Fair Wind's private and small-group outings on the upscale Hula Kai are regularly booked by VIPs and others looking to explore the Kona coastline in style. The 55-foot vessel has been plying the waters off the Kona coast since last year. The craft's nimbleness enables the captain to bring sailors close to sea caves and lava tubes. Every day is different, but they should watch for spinner dolphins, pilot whales, turtles, parrotfish and humpback whales in season. The Hula Kai accommodates up to 42 passengers, and has such niceties as fresh-water showers and a Bose sound system. Private charters are about $5,000 for a five-hour journey, with breakfast, barbecue lunch and snorkeling at multiple spots. The travel agent contact there is Penn Henderson, director of sales and marketing, at penn@fair-wind.com. Call Fair Wind at 800-677-9461 or visit www.fair-wind.com.