If I had to sum up my opinion of the sights in Volcanoes National Park, it would only be one word, "Amazing!" It is so amazing you could only compare it to some other natural wonder such as the Grand Canyon in Arizona. This national park is famous for its Chain of Craters Road, Crater Rim Road and the active volcano, Kilauea. The sights in this park are many and impressive.
Because this is a national park, there is an admission fee which I believe was a $10 flat fee for everyone in the car. Tours are available to this park, but having a rental car gives you freedom of time and movement to cover the vastness of this area.
One of the craters to be seen just off of Crater Rim Drive. You're advised not to stay too long because of the strong sulfer fumes in the air and their detrimental effects. This area is also one still used by native Hawaiians for native rituals and traditions.
On the back terrace of the Volcano House Hotel is one of the most breathtaking views in the park. The hotel sits on the rim of the Kilauea Caldera. There is no charge for entering through the hotel to the back terrace. This area provides a wonderful place from which to view the crater and stop for a light meal or snacks to have outdoors. You'll also find a full service dining room and gift shops here.
The most popular and incredible place to visit in Hawaii. The Volcanoes National Park was established in 1916. Over 333,000 acres housing the world's most active volcano. Mauna Loa Volcano stands at 13,677'. A full day is necessary, and that will barely crack the surface of this enormous place. Hiking, camping, backpacking and even exploring by car are all available options. If you are lucky, you might even see the volcano erupt while you are visiting.
This park is on the SE aspect of the Big Island and occupies a fairly large region. There are several areas of interest in the Park. First, there is the large Kilauea Crater within which lies the Halemaumau Crater - Craters within Craters. To the SW, lies the large Kau desert. The road out to Hilina Pali gives you a great outlook over the landscape. There is the road north up the lower slopes of Mauna Loa - along which is the Kipuka Puaulu, a small forested area where you have a chance to see some of the remaining native Hawaiian bird species. Farther up, at the road's end, begins the long trail to the top of Mauna Loa. There are some very rustic cabins up high to stay at. The round trip hike is about 3 days.
Lava is the holy grail of the Volcano National Park. Everyone sets out in search, most come back disappointed. To ensure success, book with a travel group.
I went with Arnott's Lodge and can attest to their high degree of professionalism and fun. Tours range in price from $60-$90 for 5 hours and they provide transportation, park fees, knowledgeable local guides, and flashlights. Most importantly, they know where NOT to step on freshly cooled lava and the best places to view live flows.
Remember to wear sturdy boots and long pants. Bring your camera, tri-pod, video camera whatever as you won't want to miss it. And pack plenty of water.
And above all, if you drop your keys, don't bother to reach in for them.
I consider it a wonder to actually witness lava flowing from an active volcano. There are some spots better than others on the Big Island to witness the lava flow, and whether you pay a high fee or not, it's all worth it. Visit the Hawaii Volcano National Park first for volcano facts.
We travelled via private vehicle about 30 minutes or so to a site outside of Hilo, parked our car and entered an area after paying a small fee (approx $5 a carload) Here we locked up our car and commenced to hoof it the rest of the way over cooled lava rocks to the edge near the ocean that provided us the best view of the recent lava flow from the mountain down to the ocean! Even as it rained off and on during our trek, I was determined to get some great shots of the lava flow. In this particular photograph, the lava broke through slightly cooled rock causing a bright pouring of fresh lava to spew out of the newly formed ridge. I used ISO 1000 to capture this picture (looks like there's a person kneeling in the lava)
We arrived to the site when it was already dark; there were no lights only national park employees, with flash lights, giving parking directions. We parked the car and started walking on the hard, black lava path. Armed with flash lights people slowly followed the marked trail towards the view point. Walking on the lava rock wasn’t easy, it was slippery which made all the visitors to walk very slow. On our very far right side we could see the lava and the view was amazing. It looked like red, burning snake path that runs down the hill and disappears somewhere in the dark. Some smart tourists brought tripods with them and could take great pictures, others like myself tried to stabilize their cameras as much as possible and take at least one non-blurry picture. Being disappointed by the blurry pictures, 2 months later, I got a tripod as a X-Mas gift. :)
After walking on the rocky path for about 25 minutes we finally arrived to the viewpoint. The picture was amazing and about 100 people were sitting and standing on the rocks hypnotized by the creation of the mighty Kilauea. It was quiet and only the sound of lava splashing into the ocean interrupted the silence.
Unfortunately, we could only stand quite far from the flowing lava, not because it is dangerous to get closer, but because…. Believe it or not…. The area beyond the marked view point is actually a private property! Nevertheless it was a lifetime experience.
Before going lava watching buy a flash light and an extra set of batteries! It is possible to by them on site but you can imagine the price.
Our three hour hike over the lavascape was well worth the journey. It's an intense hike and the markers are difficult to see. Lava flow changes so make sure to check before going our trip was in November 2006. Start off at least a couple hours before the sun starts to go down. By the time you get there it will start getting dark and you will be able to see the lava well. Start heading back before it gets dark. Walking in this stuff is way more difficult than you think and in the dark it will take hours. Bring at least a liter of water/person, sturdy shoes (hiking boots are best), flashlight (at least one/person), hat, light jacket, and compass. Make sure to stop by the Kilauea Visitor Center before your hike to talk with the rangers on the current conditions such as wind direction, air quality and distance of flow.
Once you get there and see the magma spilling into the ocean creating more square footage of earth it will be an unforgetable sight.
This park is built around the site of America's most active volcano. Unlike other volcanoes the Hawaiian volcanoes are not as prone to violent eruptions rather they tend to have events where they ooze lava. These can be periodic large lava flows or just the constant small flows that are constantely happening on the Island.
The volcano started creation of the islands 25 million years ago. It is thought Polynesians came here 2,00 years ago. The highest point is Mauna Kea at 14,000 feet. The ocean floor is 3 miles below the beaches. Pele creates some type of mess for tourists; lava can be right close by.
This was one of the more interesting areas I frequented in my life. Getting there had anticipation. Once we were there and all alone, will it blow while we are driving up or walking? I do not know, but even though they keep you at a distance from the hot volcano parts, it seems eerie to be here at all. The feeling of desolate life and no vegetation gives the impression like you are on the moon.
LEAVE THE LAVA ROCK WHERE IT IS. IT IS AGAINST THE LAW TO TAKE IT AND CARRY BACK TO YOUR HOME. The place is steeped in sacred and superstitious history and you could be blasphemed to death by Pele
This is a wonderful park. You need to allow several days to really see it all. We went here 2 different days and still didn't see it all. There are many trails which can be quite different. Kilauea is the earth's most active volcano and when we were there, it was erupting. They told us that conditions for viewing change so to phone 985-6000 for an update. We went to the end of the Chain of Craters road one evening and one of the younger people in our group hiked out to the current flow. This road just dead ends at the huge lava flow that covered the road. While he hiked, we set up a telescope and were able to see a line of 6-10 orange spots of the lava coming down the hillside. When our young man came back about 2 hours later, he said he had hiked to the flow and actually stuck a stick in the lava.
The steam vents and sulfur vents with yellow or white crystals that form at the mouth of the vent are quite interesting along some of the trails. You can also hike across an inactive crater which is interesting.
A very different area is the dense ohi'a forest with tree ferns that leads to the Thurston Lava Tube. The tube was created when the surface of the lava cooled and turned hard but underneath it, the hot lava kept on flowing 28 miles to the sea. Eventually the lava drained out leaving an empty tube. You can go into part of this tunnel which is very damp and dark. The tree fern forest leading up to the tube was a good place to see native birds such as the Apapani, Amakihi and I'iwi.
I highly recommend taking some of the ranger or naturalist guided tours here at Volcanoes National park. We took one tour and I wished we'd have had time to take more. They give you a real appreciation for the features here and point out things you don't notice when hiking on your own. Our guide was a young naturalist with a British accent and an older man who is a volunteer here. They pointed out areas of vegetation that is favored by the NeNe Geese which were colonizing the lava areas. They also explained the different types of lava. And our hike ended with a nice view of Kilauea volcano with a scope to see the steam coming out.
Of course you have to spend a few hours on this amazing park!
If you are lucky you will be able to appreciate some eruptions up close... We were not, but a couple of days after we left there were some massive eruptions...
On this photo you can see how the lava have eaten an old road at the park.