Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
So, why visit the Big Island of Hawaii? OK, it’s in Hawaii and a super place to vacation (that’s the obvious), but it also has an awesome active volcano that has been pushing out bright red lava for many years. The Volcanos National Park is the biggest tourist destination in the islands and the most visited active volcano in the world.
How Do We Get There?
From Hilo: travel 30 miles southwest on Highway 11 (a 45 minute drive); from Kailua-Kona: 96 miles southeast on Highway 11 (2 to 2 1/2 hour drive), or 125 miles through Waimea and Hilo via highways 19 and 11 (2 1/2 to 3 hours). It is well worth the trip and there is much to see on the drive.
Kilauea Visitor Center
Kilauea Visitor Center, on the Crater Rim Drive is a great start for any trip to the National Park. The visitors center is open from 7:45 to 5:00 pm daily. There are some great videos being played hourly as well as a load of fascinating photos and information. The Rangers also lead hikes from the Center.
The Steam Vents and Steaming Bluff
These steam vents show us what effects can come along with the volcano. Small amounts of sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide are released at Steam Vents (why didn’t I pay attention in Chemistry). Heated water brings these to the surface as “stinky steam”, but it’s a great site to visit.
The Thurston Lava Tube
Access to the lava tube is through a small pit crater. The trail descends along the wall of the crater then across its floor. The 20-minute walk at Thurston Lava Tube will give you a close-up look at a Hawaiian rainforest and the lava tube. Hawaiian’s actually lived in these tubes in the early days of the culture. This tube was formed about 500 years ago. A flashlight is helpful and this trail could be slippery.
The Volcano House
This is a great historic hotel located right in the National Park. This hotel was built in 1846 and has hosted many presidents as well as the famous of America and the world. Sit by the fire and enjoy the cozy environment. This hotel also has an amazing restaurant with a full view of the crater. They have the best view in town. They offer a great buffet breakfast, with a beautiful morning view of the crater.
Chain of Craters Road
This scenic drive down from the Crater Rim Drive is about 19 miles in length and drops from the rim area down to the sea. This road once formed a circle but has been cut off due to multiple lava flows across the road. There are no services except toilets along the way so be sure to prepare with food and drinks in a cooler. Stop along the way at Pu’u Loa about 16 miles from the start of the road. Puʻu Loa is a very scared and religious place for many of the people of Hawaiʻi and has been used ritually for over 500 years. It is the largest petroglyph field in the State of Hawaiʻi so stop and take a look, but remember it is truly a sacred spot.
Be sure to check the National Park website for the latest lava and weather updates https://www.nps.gov/