Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is almost overwhelmingly vast. I’ve been several times, and these are my tips to help ensure you get the most out of your visit.
If you’re a hiker, there are over 150 miles of trails you can enjoy. If not, there are still several hours worth of driving and other activities.
At present, you can only see lava by helicopter. The current lava flow is actually outside Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
- Don’t forget the basics. Sunscreen, hat, water. Camera. On the sunscreen, even if you’re not hiking, that few minutes out of the car here and there add up over time.
Driving all of Chain of Craters Road gives the best overview. No, you can’t see any active flows from the road, but you’ll drive through a number of microclimates: everything from dense wetlands to “forty years later, still almost no growth.” Personally, I prefer to drive all the way to the bottom to see the Holei Sea Arch, then make my stops on the way back. Yes, even though I’ve done that several times before. Why? It’s 38 miles of “Oh. My. God.”
Walk through the Thurston Lava Tube. How many times in life do you get to walk through a lava tube and live to tell the tale? Seriously cool.
Stop in various places to look at the different kinds of flows. From rough a’a to ropy flows to fields that look like giant gophers burrowed underneath, Kilauea has many different kinds of volcanic terrain to examine.
Some of the interesting things to see are outside Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Here are a few of them:
- The Great Crack is 8 miles long, 60 feet wide, and 60 feet deep rift in Kilauea located west of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park in the Ka’u desert (which is not technically a desert).
Punalu’u black sand beach, also in Ka’u. Sea turtles can sometimes be seen here. Unlike a lot of other “black” sand beaches, this one has darker sand than others I’ve seen on (many) other islands.
Right now, the Kalapana viewing area is closed, but there is always the chance it may re-open at some point in the future. It’s amazing to go through this neighborhood of homes surrounded by lava fields. When it was open in 2012, I was able to walk on flows that were about a year old—close to where I’d seen lava flowing the prior year, in fact—and I took this picture.