One of the top attractions to visit on the Big Island and a must see is Volcanoes National Park. With an ever-changing environment with an active volcano and natural phenomena at the Kilauea Caldera, a visit to the park is the highlight to visiting the island. Covering an expansive area of over 523 miles, there is a lot of nature, fantastic hikes, gorgeous vista points and historic sites to visit around the national park. Why visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park now you ask, check out the photos and details below to inspire you to visit the island for a one of kind experience.
What to do and see at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Noted as both a national park and a UNESCO Heritage Biosphere site, this expansive park has had an active volcano erupting for over 30 years and was silenced in 2018 after devastating lava eruptions throughout the Puna district with destruction and lava over taking large parts of the eastern district and flowing directly into the ocean. The lava eruptions are active again in the Halema’u’mau crater, filling up and rising up from crater floor rapidly, eventually it may actually flow into the Kilauea caldera.
Drop by the Kilauea Visitors Center
A good first stop is to go to the Kilauea Visitors Center for an orientation of what is open, trails you can go on and other daily updates that is happening at the park. Ranger talks and led tours are offered daily. You can watch the fantastic movie, get a map and check out which trails and look out points are open to the public now. With the recent lava eruptions at Volcanoes National Park active again at Kilauea caldera, visiting is at an all time high in the park.
Popular attractions at Volcanoes National Park
Kilauea and Halema’u’mau crater
The main highlight to visiting Volcanoes is seeing Kilauea volcano and the active lava oozing and bumbling out of the Halema’u’mau crater in the middle of the large caldera. With steam and ash plumes coming out of the crater now, you can actually view the active volcano at night where the plumes and lava can be viewed from a safe distance in various lookout points and trails around the park. The easy lookout points to view lava activity would be the Steam vent lookout point, Observation lookout point, the
Best times for viewing are typically night, but you can see the activity also during the day time and parking is easier considering how popular the viewing is now with the lava active again at Halema’uma’u
Crater Rim Drive
The once circle loop called the Crater Rim is now continues on as the Chain of Craters road on the left side of the park with popular attractions you can visit to include Crater Rim Trail, Kilauea Iki trail, Thurston Lava Tube, Pu’u O’o vent, the Grand Arch and the Pu’u loa Petroglyphs. Along this route are a variety of fantastic overlooks into the caldera and other dormant cones, ancient and new lava flows and other historic sites around the Chain of Crater road.
The main inn overlooking Kilauea caldera with a fantastic overlook viewpoint, wonderful dining/bar and lounging at this classic national park inn.
Volcano Art Center
The previous original inn has been converted into a fabulous art gallery with rotating exhibits and exceptional artwork featuring the local flora, fauna and Volcano inspired artwork from local artists and crafters on the island.
Recent lava History of Volcanoes National Park
In just recent history, lava filled up the crater at Halema’uma’u and eventually came down-hill through lava tubes through the eastern rift to open up into a lush subdivision and wiping out over 700 homes on its way to the ocean and demolishing farms, homes and tropical landscape into a moonscape. After 2018, eruptions were silenced until recent with lava entering the crater and filling up Halema’uma’u again and creating a spectacular lava/plume and ash showcase that is visible and safe to view and photograph at a distance.
Volcanoes National Park hikes
If you plan on doing some hiking around Volcanoes National park, make sure to drop into the visitors center first for any updates or restrictions on the hiking trails, any guided tours or restricted areas. Popular trails to visit around the park include the Crater Rim and Kilauea Iki Trail, Steam vent rim trail, Pu’u Loa Petroglyphs, Devastation Trail other popular hiking trails here for you to explore.
Along the crater rim areas, you may even find tributes to the Hawaiian diety Pele that is present again in the caldera.
Fun facts about Volcano National Park and interesting stories
There are several Mo’olelo or stories, myths and legends about the national park that help shape the culture and history of this sacred place to the Hawaiian people. Originally Hawaiians shared their history and tradition verbally and passed down by the Kupuna or elders of a community. Check out these wonderful Mo’olelo of the park here to learn more about this sacred place to the Hawaiian people.
Volcanoes National Park hours and visiting after hours
The national park is actually open 24 hours daily. The visitors check in and entry gate is open from 9am to 5pm daily. The visitors center has a limited opening during Covid and is open from 9am to 5pm daily. You can drop by to use the facilities, ask questions, get a map and also support the gift shop.
Weather at Volcanoes National Park
Weather is unpredictable in the park with many micro climates and always changing conditions to include rain, wind, cooler temperatures. You should bring layers and dress appropriately. If you plan on hiking, wear appropriate and comfortable hiking shoes to protect your feet and balance. Check out this website weather updates here for daily weather reports in the park.
More tips to visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
If hiking or viewing in the many overlooks, make sure to stay on all the trails and designated zones especially changing conditions in the park that can make things difficult for visibility or changing weather. around the park.
If hiking, wear appropriate clothing and shoes and bring water with you, also many of the hiking areas have limited services available outside of parking and porta potties.
Look out for cracks, unstable or uneven elevation changes, steam or other intrusions that you should try to avoid.
More information to visiting the park
Visit nps.gov/havo(link is external) or call 808-967-8862
Or check out
Daily eruptions updates http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov
A live cam view of Kilauea HVO Webcams (usgs.gov)
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