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Chasing the flow with Lava Ocean Tours

Riding rough seas to watch lava flowing into the ocean is not for wimps

Photo Courtesy: Lava Ocean

Charging through five-foot swells, soaked by waves while clinging to the rail of a 34-foot boat, you realize that seeing lava flow into the ocean isn’t for wimps.

“This is not your powder-puff boat ride,” says Capt. Shane Turpin. “It’s one of the most adventurous things I’ve ever done.”

Turpin and his partner, Dan Smith, run Lava Ocean Tours out of Pohoiki on a boat called Lavakai. Pohoiki, also known as Isaac Kepookalani Hale Beach Park, is on the east cape of Hawaii Island, among the harshest coastlines in the archipelago.

Over time, the business has evolved. “We started out a trip a day, then two trips,” Turpin says. “The next thing you know, it’s six trips a day. We decided it was a good idea. It sure beats laying tile.”

The unpredictability of lava is the hard part, with flows changing all the time or disappearing for a while.

“When lava’s here, it’s hotter,” he says, referring to the bookings, not the temperature.

“But people want to see it, whatever state it’s in. People want to see the coastline. It’s a very scenic coastline: the black sand beaches, sea arches, lava tubes, the junglescape.  … (Whales and) spinner dolphins are regular. It’s an extreme boat ride.”
(808) 966-4200

People with back problems should not attempt this tour.

Hawaii Business magazine invites you to comment on our articles and the issues they raise. Comments are moderated for offensive language, commercial messages and off-topic posts and may be deleted. Some comments may be chosen for inclusion in the magazine on the Feedback page.

Apr 17, 2013 06:05 pm
 Posted by  Mrs. Sibbitt

Dear Hawaii Business,

I am appalled that “Hawaii Business,” a source I trusted and respected, would feature a full article on this business, Lava Ocean, which has constructed it’s own terrible reputation among tourists, local Hawaiians and tour distributers (such as hotels and activity desks). This company has seriously injured people, carelessly watched people puke off the boat, refused to given refunds due to health-related illnesses as well as insulted local and Native Hawaiians where they reap the waters at Pohoiki. Did your author or editors do any research before choosing to ‘honor’ this company with an article? This article is practically all quotes with the owner/captain tooting his own horn. Is this company’s start supposed to string a cord as touching or set an example for other Hawaii businesses? This company simply saw a great way to make money, increasing their trips per day paying no mind to running a good, fair business synergistic in their own local community. Lava Ocean constantly injures and mistreats their guests while disrespecting and alienating the local people around them. This is not a secret and any research would have shed light upon this truth. The managers of the boat launches in the most dangerous oceanic conditions, sacrificing lives in the water or lungs in the lava’s plume only because it is a money-making opportunity—their only priority.

I understand that the lava is a “hot topic” for writers and readers and an incredible wonder of the world that should be experienced in person, but I lose trust for Hawaii Business because you wrote about a negligent and company that does not deserve a page nor word. These men will save a life if they go back to laying tile.

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