Hawaii Volcanoes National
Park - things to see and do
Volcano Touring - Hawaii Volcanoes
National Park is worth a couple visits. It costs $10 per vehicle to
enter but the pass is good for 7 days. There are some
free days too. It is an easy one hour drive
away from the house. You can never be sure how hot or cool it will
be at the visitor center so bring a hat, comfortable walking shoes,
an umbrella, your sun screen, and plenty of water but also a shirt
or jacket for your arms just in case. Use the cooler we keep at the
house and pack a picnic lunch and drinks. The views are pretty
amazing and there are plenty of picnic tables.
When you first arrive you will want to
stop at the Kilauea Visitors Center to orient yourself. In the
center is a large 3D model of the park and the rangers behind the
desk will be glad to fill you in on the latest volcano activity and
advise you on what drives and walks you might want to take. It also
has videos and exhibits.
Crater Rim Drive – when open,
this road circles the Kilauea Caldera and from this road there are
many lookouts and easy walking opportunities. The map provided by
the park features this road and the rangers will be able to tell you
if any section of it is closed due to volcano activity.
Steaming Bluff – this is a good
place to stop and is close to the visitor center. A short walk from
the parking area takes you to multiple views of the Kilauea Caldera.
Once finished here continue the drive down the road to the recently
active Halema’uma’u Crater. The road may be closed past this point
in which case back track and continue the drive back past the
Visitor Center to the areas discussed below.
Other highlights on the Crater Rim
Thurston Lava Tube – very
cool and an easy walk. You can visit this in less than an hour.
Kilauea Iki Crater hike-
this 4 mile loop trail hike takes 3-4 hours or so and is a
moderate to difficult hike. It has a 400 foot descent and at the
end you hike back out. This is an amazing hike. Apply sun
screen, bring your hat, plenty of water and maybe a snack.
Depending on how much sun exposure you’ve had you might want a
light shirt for your arms. My favorite version of this hike
starts out of the Thurston Lava Tube parking area. As you face
the crater turn right and begin a gentle descent through the
forest into the crater. Once you are in the crater you will see
minor vents here and there. As you continue the hike through the
crater notice the cliffs off to the right – there are often
white birds soaring in the area. If you have the time you can
take a small side trip to the area and is an interesting place
to stop and have your snack or lunch. Once you are back on the
trail continue the hike to the end of the crater and hike up
through the woods back to the parking lot.
Devastation Trail (one
mile roundtrip) – a little ways past the Thurston Lava Tube is
the parking area for the Devastation Trail. This is an easy walk
that ends with an overlook of the Kilauea Iki Crater.
Chain of Craters Road - this
drive is quite scenic and whether you take it all the way to the
ocean at the end is not important. There are many places to stop and
craters to visit.
Pu’u Huluhulu – this 3
mile round trip moderate hike is one of my favorites and is
usually not crowded. As usual take a hat, water, and be prepared
for weather changes. The walk goes over and along lava flows to
an ancient cinder cone. When the lava flowed here in the 70’s it
left this forested cinder cone untouched. On some days you can
see in the distance vent activity at Pu’u O’o crater which has
been discharging magma and steam since 1983.