Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

Secluded Rainforest Hideaway Near An Active Volcano Offers The Perfect Escape

Volcano Village Estates on the Big Island is the best family-friendly place to stay near Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

If you're not an adventurer at heart, then it's hard to imagine spending any amount of time near the most active volcano in the world, let alone sleeping near one. However, if you love nature and are looking to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life, staying at the Volcano Village Estates on the Big Island will be an unforgettable Hawaiian experience.

Located in Volcano – near the northeastern (Hilo) side of the island – and within walking distance of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the boutique-style Volcano Village Estates is the quintessential, secluded, rainforest hideaway with a Big Island bed and breakfast experience. Set back away from Highway 11 on Hale Ohia Rd. (for privacy), you'll find three different lodging options. The historic Dillingham Residence is the centerpiece and can be reserved by room (three possibilities) or combined and reserved altogether to create a larger space for families traveling together. Families will also love the roomier modern bungalows, while couples would enjoy one of the six cozy Volcano rainforest cottages.

The Bungalows are the Perfect Family Destination Or Romantic Retreat

Whichever lodging option you choose at Volcano Village Estates (VVE), each accommodation has a unique charm that makes it ideal for different travelers. Our family chose the Pele Bungalow, which happened to be the one the most recent owner, an architect, remodeled for himself when he lived on the property. The modern space was perfect for our family of three, and although we only spent two nights on the property, we could have easily spent a week in this spacious and luxurious hale (Hawaiian for 'house').

Most of the bungalows were built in 2015 and have heated floors, artistic lighting, modern designs, and eclectic Hawaiian furnishings. Pele also has loft ceilings, higher-end finishing finishes, a full kitchen, a dining room, and a full sitting area. In addition, Pele is the only bungalow with a television, one that swivels between the living room and the bedroom.

The pune or sofa folds into a double bed perfect for our daughter. The modern bathroom has heated towel racks to warm up after the shower. Fluffy bathrobes are in the closets, so it feels just like home. We loved having a dehumidifier in the bungalow since you can imagine how humid it would be in a rainforest.

Pro Tip: Pack light rain jackets, cozy sweats, and waterproof shoes as you are in a rainforest, and it can be chilly and wet early in the morning and at night.

Insider Tip: An additional bungalow is accessible through an adjoining door of Pele. The Poliahu Bungalow has a king-sized bed and a full bathroom. Views of the rainforest are just outside the window. These two bungalows, when combined, make an excellent retreat for a bigger group.

Multiple families could be accommodated in the Dillingham Residence on the property. At the same time, the more private sanctuary of the Cottages would be just suitable for a smaller family or a romantic haven for couples. This beautiful property has everything you'd need.

Why is Volcano Village Estates such a special place?

The service and attention to detail at Volcano Village Estates are stellar. When we first booked our bungalow, the innkeeper Pua contacted us and asked about our plans for our trip to Hawaii. She gave us directions and a time frame for travel from the airport to Volcano. Pua went over everything we might need and gave us some ideas of things to do in the small town nearby, including which restaurants to try. She suggested we stop at a grocery store on the way to pick up a few items as our bungalow had a full kitchen. At her recommendation, we bought milk for our coffee and cereal, fruit, juices, water, alcohol, sweets, snacks and items for sandwiches. We also purchased a mini cooler to keep perishables cold since we'd be hiking in the National Park all day.

Insider Tip: Not on the required list, but a necessity for us, was poke. It's a native Hawaiian cuisine of diced raw fish paired with onions and rice. Our family could eat buckets of poke, and the Foodland on Mamalahoa Hwy had some killer sauces.

Pua also asked about our food preferences and if we had any allergies. Every morning, an authentic Hawaiian breakfast, complete with tropical fruits, is provided to all guests, which highlights the stay. The breakfasts were delivered to the refrigerators the night before with heating instructions for the morning. Guests can wake up at their leisure or eat when they're hungry. We would wake with the sun and warm up the breakfasts in the oven as we lounged and blasted music on the built-in surround sound; such an incredible way to start the day.

As daylight disappeared, we loved relaxing in the modern comforts of the inviting Bungalow. The outside lanai is off the living room and has a wood deck, an intimate firepit with chairs, and a soothing jacuzzi. After hiking through Volcanoes National Park at least 10 miles or more each day, unwinding in our private hot tub at night was relaxing and surreal. The beckoning rainforest, only footsteps away, gently glows in the moonlight as a light mist falls; it's heavenly. The only sounds you'll hear all night long are the rain drips and the Coqui (tiny inch-long tree frogs) chirp, chirp, chirping.

Restaurants Near Volcano Village Estates

If you picked up enough groceries, preparing your own meals in the kitchen after a long day of exploring would probably be the easiest thing to do. However, if you don't feel like chopping veggies and waiting for the oven to heat up, several worthy dining options are nearby.

Insider Tip: If you decide to dine out or get takeout, do so early as most restaurants close by 8 pm, and there could be a significant wait list if everyone has the same idea.

We recommend:

Kilauea Lodge Restaurant: dinner only, reservation preferred, Dine-in, serving fresh, farm-to-fork flavors and a fine dining experience in an intimate setting.

Thai Thai Bistro & Bar: lunch and dinner, except for Wednesday and Thursday, Dine-in or Take-out, spicy Thai entrees and curries.

Cafe Ono: lunch only, 11 am to 2 pm Thursday thru Sunday only, Dine-in or Take-out, quaint garden cafe with vegan & gluten-free options.

Big O's Pizza: lunch and dinner, hours vary (when the pizza guy gets there), Take-out, located inside the Kilauea General Store in Volcano Village, sub sandwiches and pizzas to-go.

The Rim: breakfast, lunch, dinner, Dine-in, located in Volcano House inside the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park along Crater Rim Drive, freshly caught fish, grass-fed beef, and more, Hawaiian ambiance with the Kilauea caldera and the billowing Halema'uma'u Crater just outside the door; live music by local musicians.

Uncle George's Lounge: lighter fare, snacks, lunch, dinner, Dine-in, located in Volcano House as well, local and domestic beers, signature cocktails, wines, go for the views!

First Time On The Big Island? Here's Everything You Need To Know

Staying on the Big Island for the first time meant our family wanted to explore as much as possible on our 10-day vacation. Several friends told us to plan at least a week, but a two-week trip would be ideal if we wanted to get a feel for this massive island paradise. The Big Island is indeed bigger than all the Hawaiian Islands combined – almost two-thirds of the state's total land mass – and it's still growing – thanks to Mauna Loa and Kilauea, the two active volcanoes.

Visit Volcanoes National Park Hawaii and Walk Inside A Volcano 24 Hours A Day

There's no better reason to make the trip to Volcano than to see an actual active volcano. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is a three-minute drive from the Volcano Village Estates and encompasses the summits of two active volcanoes. You can access the National Park 24 hours a day. It's a UNESCO World Heritage Site with unique geological landscapes. The park has the unique ability to change over time through new lava formations, vents and calderas. Because the conditions are constantly changing, check the Volcanoes National Parks website before your trip and any excursions into the park.

Our family spent over two full days hiking, exploring in the park during the day, and returning again late at night. As a result, we were able to do the following adventures on our trip:

* Hike the Kīlauea Iki Trail and Crater Rim Trail - a moderate hike with a 3.2-mile loop trail around the rim of the crater and then down onto the floor of Kīlauea Iki. Yes, that's right, you will be walking inside a volcano. The hike takes about 2 - 3 hours.

* Explore the Thurston Lava Tube - a 0.9-mile hike through a dormant lava tube. Very cool during the day and incredible in the middle of the night. The walk takes about a half hour.

* Halema'uma'u Steam Bluff and Sulfur Banks - you'll see volcanic gases seep out of the ground, along with groundwater steam. These fumes can reach temperatures of up to 205° F (96° C). The fumes emitted include sulfur dioxide (SO2) and hydrogen sulfide (H2S). One smells like a struck match, while the other smells like rotten eggs. When these two gases react chemically and produce pure sulfur, Hawaiians refer to it as kūkaepele, the waste of Pele. This hike is a little over a mile and takes about an hour.

* Devastation Trial - about a one-mile hike. It's a paved, mostly flat, stroller-friendly trail that takes you to the Pu'u Pua'i Overlook, where you'll see the Kīlauea Iki Crater. If the lava is active, this is an amazing hike at night where you'll see glowing lava shooting into the sky. During the day, it's a bit harder to tell what the lava is doing because it's so far away. This hike takes an hour or longer, depending on how long you stay to watch the lava.

* Drive Chain of Craters Road - this is almost a 20-mile-long road. Without stops, it will take about an hour each way to travel. However, there are so many sights along the way and at the end that you just can't miss. We loved seeing the lava flows from different decades highlighted along the way. The views when you get to the coastline are incredible, and you'll see where the Big Island has grown in size over the years.

* Near the end of Chain of Craters Road, you'll be able to hike to the Pu'uloa Petroglyphs (about a mile and a half) to see the sacred sight of petroglyph images carved out of the hardened lava.

* At the end of the road, a short walk on a paved path, you'll find the Holei Sea Arch. You can view it from the cliffs, but there was a recent collapse of some of the 550-year-old arch, which means both the sea arch and the viewing cliffs may have a short life. If this is something you'd love to see, plan to visit Hawaii sooner rather than later.

Pro Tip: Bring easy-to-carry water and snacks, great walking shoes, sunscreen, hats, and perhaps a cooler bag or backpack to carry it all in. If traveling and hiking with kids, have patience, a positive attitude, kid-friendly activities along the way that will keep them curious and a good backup plan for when they can't walk another step – and you're in the middle of a volcano. The National Parks App will have helpful info for trails and exploring, as will the rangers at the Kīlauea Visitor Center.

Insider Tip: Be sure you purchase or have a Park Pass. There are several ways to buy a National Parks Pass for the day or longer. Our family has a National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands Annual Pass ($80) that we can use at any of the National Parks.

Other Adventures and Activities While Staying At The Volcano Village Estate on the Big Island

While there's an entirely realistic chance you would want to stay only within the property at the Volcano Village Estates, please don't unless you're pretending you live in a Hawaiian rainforest while writing your first novel. Make sure you find a little time to venture out of your modern bungalow-style house and experience the Big Island. Your memoir will be way more exciting and your journey more complete.

Spending anywhere from three to four days on this side of the island is something you should plan for when deciding your itinerary. Staying in the Volcano Village Estates bungalows or cottages would make a convenient vantage from where to start and stay for your adventures. Plus, the beds were so comfortable. The authentic Hawaiian breakfasts every morning were healthy and delicious. The Pele Bungalow was spacious, incredibly clean and at the perfect temperature. The beautiful property in the middle of a rainforest was a dream to stay in for two nights. Finally, the innkeeper Pua, made us feel at home during our stay. She brought us anything we needed and had the bungalow cleaned while we were out exploring. If we were to do it again, we'd definitely stay at Volcano Village Estates, but next time for a longer visit.

We recommend at least two extra days for the following day trips easily accessible from the Volcano Village Estates:

* Day Trip to Punalu'u Black Sand Beach and Papakōlea Green Sand Beach

* Day Trip To The Puna District

Overall, We found the Volcano Village Estates to be a serene, tropical paradise in Hawaii and the perfect place to unplug and relax. Sleeping in the heart of a lush woodland jungle while experiencing the thrill of an active volcano in your backyard is a magical experience. This idyllic island hideaway is a slice of paradise for adventure seekers, families, honeymooners and those searching for a romantic getaway.

If you go...

Volcano Village Estates are in the city of Volcano, on the Big Island of Hawaii.

11-3968 Hale Ohia Rd, Volcano, HI 96785 || (808) 967-7986 ||


Cottages start at $275/night || Bungalows start at $320/night || Dillingham Residence starts at $1075/night || We stayed in the Pele Bungalow, which starts at $720/night

Holiday and peak season prices are higher. Rates include breakfast, jacuzzi and parking.

There are two options when flying to the Big Island. The most popular route is to fly into Kona, on the island's west side, where the weather is dry, sunny and typically Hawaiian. However, many prefer to fly to the less populated capital city of Hilo - the closest airport about 45 minutes away - to be near Volcanoes National Park and the beautiful mountains, waterfalls and beaches. You'll often see an overcast sky in Hilo, considered the rainiest city in the US. However, the temperate climate means cooler weather when hiking across the volcano's caldera, something you'll appreciate.

Pro Tip: A rental car is a must as it's difficult to explore without one; all the BEST sights are spread around the island. You could sign up for tours, but having your own transportation gives you the freedom to experience every scenic vista or the black sand beach at your own pace. Do you need a four-wheel drive? The short answer is no, you don't, but our family rented a jeep and had a great time off-roading along the Hamakua Coast.

Good To Know: Be sure to drive carefully as all roads are only two lanes with no passing zones, and the speed limit is usually 35 mph to 50 mph. We counted about 15 overturned, rusted-out vehicles off the side of the road while we were there, so traffic accidents do happen quite a bit there. For the most part, Hawaiian drivers tend to be on the slower Aloha time. If you're visiting the Big Island, slow down and watch out for Nēnē (rare Hawaiian geese), the native birds who tend to mate and breed near Volcanoes National Park.

Insider Tip: Having visited six of the eight Hawaiian Islands, my family can honestly say this is our favorite, and we can't wait to return. We loved the Volcano Village Estates for their modern Hawaiian luxury, the incredible amenities and the thoughtful innkeepers who made our stay so special.


Good To Know: If you'd like a complete itinerary, get ready because more Big Island adventures are coming soon, including where to go and what to do when staying near the Volcanoes National Park. We'll also cover all the places to see and things to do while driving the Hamakua Coast. If you love the Kohala Coast or the Kona side of the island, we have some amazing things to do and see there as well. Stay tuned!

Chanin Victor, the Travel and Lifestyle Editor at the Santa Monica Observer, presents her column "Travel Trends" bi-weekly in the print edition, offering readers a glimpse into the ever-evolving world of travel. Become a Subscriber Today! Beyond her role at the Observer, Chanin is a versatile freelance travel journalist, crafting engaging narratives that transport readers to intriguing destinations. In her 9-5 role, she serves as a creative director, dedicating her expertise to promoting tourism destinations across Southern California, blending her passion for storytelling with her professional pursuits. Based in Los Angeles with her family, Chanin seizes every opportunity to embark on new adventures. Discover her travels and insights at - PLUS - if you're interested in Chanin's family-friendly travel stories, inspiration and travel tips, look HERE: at the Santa Monica Observer!

Volcano Village Estates sponsored this experience; however, all opinions belong to the writer. All photos by Chanin Victor unless otherwise specified.


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