Amazing Lava eruptions at Volcanoes National Park (updated 2023)

After a two-year hiatus Kilauea volcano has come back again with a vengeance recently with display of steam, ash and gas thrust height into the night sky. The active lava emerging and coming down the sides of the caldera and mixing in with the water created large steam plumes rising over 30,000 feet above Halemaʻumaʻu crater. Vivid displays of yellow, orange and red mixed in with the plumes to illuminate the night sky and creating a frenzy of admirers with locals and visitors coming down into the national park to view the recent eruptions and steam clouds.

Even though the lava isn’t visible directly from any of the viewing platforms, the fiery red glow and steam clouds eerily blowing up the sky create an amazing display, especially at nighttime when the red and orange colors are vivid and streak bright colors combined with steam and gas into the dark skies. Lava eruptions at Volcanoes National Park is stirring more interest in visiting the park again recently with recent activity in the caldera.

With so many different periods of activity and dormancy, you’ll be amazed to witness nature in full force. Keeping attuned to current happenings at the park will give you an insight to planning a trip when this actually happens at the park.

Lava eruptions at Volcanoes National Park

Why Visit Hawaii Volcancoes National Park now

Volcanoes National Park has been relatively quiet the past two years prior to a destructive and expansive lava intrusions into the lower Puna district above land and in hidden lava tubes only to enter into subdivisions and demolishing entire neighborhoods in no time. In face over 700 homes burned to the ground from Pahoa area all the way down to the ocean.

At this current writing the lava eruptions at Halema’uma’u crater are alive and active with eruptions happening all around the caldera of the crater area.

Visiting Volcanoes National Park for the current lava eruptions

Visiting Volcanoes National Park for the current lava eruptions

Kilauea – Pele Awakens

The entire island was startled with major rumblings and earthquakes that were felt on the entire island with the largest at 4.4 registered late into the evening on Sunday night. This quickly set the volcano at Kilauea ablaze with a plume of lava, ash and steam into the sky and awakening the caldera which had been silent for over two year.  A steady stream of visitors started to enter the park to witness the spectacular display of blazing yellows, oranges and red steam and smoke from the lava entering the caldera known as Halemaʻumaʻu crater.

Ho’okupu to Pele at the rim of  Halemaʻumaʻu crater

Ho’okupu to Pele

It seems that the Hawaiian goddess Pele is awake again in midst of the Halemaʻumaʻu crater. Special tributes and offerings of Ho’okupu where place at the time in her honor in unexpected places along the rim of the caldera for her to enjoy. Culture and tributes the Hawaiian ancestor were in full display along with the many admirers of this natural event. It is beautiful to see the mutual respect and tributes by followers and other admirers of the goddess with these colorful leis, fresh flowers, tropical fruits and other ho’okupu to Pele.

Halemaʻumaʻu crater lei offerings to Pele
Offerings of Ho’o kupu to Pele

Fruit Offerings of Ho'o kupu to Pele at volcanoes national park
Fruit offerings of Ho’o kupu to Pele

Lei Offerings of Ho'o kupu to Pele
Lei Offerings of Ho’o kupu to Pele

Visiting the park to view eruptions at viewing platforms

Visiting the park to view eruptions

The best time to actually view the fiery displays are at night time and dusk to capture the change in daylight gives a different perspective to seeing the plumes before it gets dark. Entrance to the park and parking is busy at dusk now around 6 PM, so plan ahead to secure parking and also follow social distancing measures which is mandatory along with wearing masks in the park. You can check out the park service website here for more details.

There are many viewing areas for volcano eruptions at Volcanoes national park

There are many viewing areas to see this and other hiking spots that you can go to get a view of the explosions. You can visit the welcome center to talk with rangers on the best places to visit without the hassle of parking and viewing.

There are many viewing areas for the volcano eruptions at Volcanoes national park

Hike the trails for different viewings of the Eruption at Kilauea

Hike the trails for different viewings of the Eruption at Kilauea

If you are looking for more adventure experiences in the day time or night, why not go for a hike around the park. The best places for viewing and hiking with caldera and eruptions views would be the Crater Rim trail which is a 3 mile hike loop and the Kilauea Iki Trail. You can also hike from the Steam vent areas closer to the observation viewing point with many viewing spots around the caldera rim to see the eruption during the day time and night.

Other hikes that have some views to Kilauea and the eruptions as an option with less crowds include the Devastation trail and the Sulpher banks with a fantastic view of the crater from above around the hula stand area.

Hike the trails for different viewings of the Eruption at Kilauea here at the steam vent area
Short hikes here at the steam vent area

Night time visits and viewing at Volcanoes National Park

It is very popular and busy to visit the park during the dusk to evening time frame. Expect more traffic and waiting for parking and viewing the lava plumes. Do plan on going earlier so you can secure a parking spot and viewing area with social distancing. You might want to consider going on a hike to offset the parking issues around the various viewing platforms that will be very busy.

Night time visits and viewing at Volcanoes National Park

Night time visits and viewing at Volcanoes National Park a different perspective

Updated news to the lava eruptions at Volcanoes National Park

Scientists at the park do not know how long the eruptions will last but have issued an advisory for all the falling ash and sulfur dioxide which is an irritant to eyes and respiratory conditions. They advise to always have a mask on during a visit for this and also for social distancing measures due to the Covid epidemic.

Check out the latest from the NSGS videos to the eruptions at Kilauea

More inside tips to visiting Volcanoes National Park in Hawaii

Visiting Volcanoes National Park in Hawaii is an incredible experience. Here are some inside tips to make the most of your visit:

Visitor Center: Start at the Kīlauea Visitor Center. Here, you can get updated information on current volcanic activity, trail conditions, and ranger-led programs.

Ranger Programs: Take advantage of ranger-led programs and guided tours. They provide in-depth knowledge about the park’s geology, history, and wildlife.

Safety First: Pay attention to posted warnings and closures. Volcanic activity can change rapidly, so always prioritize safety.

Hiking Trails: Explore the network of hiking trails. The popular Kīlauea Iki Trail and the Chain of Craters Road hike offer unique perspectives of the park’s volcanic features.

Lava Tubes: Visit not only Thurston Lava Tube but also other less-crowded lava tubes like Kazumura Cave and Kaumana Caves.

Starry Nights: Stay for stargazing if possible. The park’s location away from city lights makes it an excellent spot for observing the night sky. Check the park’s event schedule for astronomy programs.

Lava Viewing: Depending on volcanic activity, you may be able to witness lava flows. Check with the park for current conditions and restrictions for lava viewing.

Clothing: Dress in layers. Weather at higher elevations in the park can be cooler, so having warm clothing is essential, even if it’s sunny at lower elevations.

Vehicle Rental: If you plan to explore the entire park, consider renting a vehicle with four-wheel drive. Some roads may require it, especially after volcanic activity.

Closures: Be aware that volcanic activity can lead to temporary closures of certain areas. Check the park’s website or call ahead to confirm access to specific attractions.

Permits: If you plan to camp or hike in remote areas of the park, check whether permits are required and obtain them in advance.

Bring Supplies: Stock up on water, snacks, and essentials before entering the park. Services are limited within the park, and it’s best to be prepared.

Photography: Bring a camera with a good zoom lens and a tripod for capturing the dynamic landscape and lava activity. Be cautious when photographing near volcanic features.

Stay Informed: Keep an eye on the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory website for updates on volcanic activity.

Respect the Environment: Follow Leave No Trace principles, respect wildlife, and do not remove rocks or artifacts from the park.

Visiting Volcanoes National Park is an opportunity to witness the Earth’s ever-changing geology up close. By following these tips, you can have a safe and memorable experience exploring this remarkable natural wonder.

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Pinterest image Lava eruptions at Volcanoes National Park

Where to stay at Volcanoes National Park

Currently the park has limited locations to stay at the park with the main lodge closed but in the nearby Volcano Village are hotels, Inns and Bnb places to stay. Here are the best places to stay close to the park below.

Volcano Forest Inn – A spacious inn with comfortable rooms in a forest setting, quiet location and friendly service.

Aloha Junction BnB – Located in the village, this plantation era home has spacious and comfortable rooms and a good complimentary breakfast.

Kilauea Lodge and Restaurant – An iconic lodge located in the Village with unique old world charm and modern amenities and service. Romantic rooms, public areas and gardens and some cool hikes in the area.

Check out more of the top listings and reviews here on TripAdvisor for places to stay close to Volcanoes National Park.

Check out these other posts on the Big Island

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Family friendly visit to the Big Island

Things to do in Kona

Would you like to visit Volcanoes National Park now?

Have you been to the park during the lava eruptions? Please share your experiences in the comments below.

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Noel Morata is the creator of This Hawaii Life along with a small team of contributors. Living on the Big Island and traveling regularly to the neighbor islands, Noel and team actively search and share the latest information and updates to Hawaii travel, food, adventure and various lifestyle activities on the islands for your planning and vacation. Aloha and enjoy This Hawaii Life.