Visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Explore the Dynamic Beauty of Volcanic Wonders
Why visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park now?
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 – an active volcano eruption, fantastic hiking and gorgeous landscape will inspire you below to have this one of kind experience on the BIg Island now.
Best time to visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and see the live lava action at Kilauea Crater
Check out this new video I just uploaded sharing the live volcanic action around Kilauea crater and the caldera at Halemaumau. The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is a fantastic place to visit now and see the lava and plumes from the center of the crater.
A Unesco Heritage Biosphere
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.
How to get to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
To get to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, there are several options available:
- Fly to Hilo International Airport (ITO): Hilo is the closest major airport to the national park, located approximately 45 minutes away by car. From the airport, you can rent a car or take a taxi/ride-share service to reach the park.
- Fly to Kona International Airport (KOA): Kona Airport is located on the western side of the Big Island. Although it is farther from the national park (about a 2.5-hour drive), it can be a viable option if you plan to explore other areas of the island as well.
- Rent a car: Renting a car is a popular and convenient option for reaching the national park. Both Hilo and Kona airports have car rental services available. Be sure to book in advance, especially during peak travel seasons.
- Take a guided tour: Joining a guided tour or excursion is another way to reach the national park. There are various tour operators that offer transportation to and from the park, providing insightful commentary along the way.
- Public transportation: The Hele-On Bus service operates on the Big Island, including routes that pass near Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. However, public transportation options are limited, and schedules may not align perfectly with your desired itinerary.
Once you have reached the park, there are shuttle services available within the park to help you navigate and explore its different areas. It’s recommended to check the park’s official website or contact the visitor center for the latest information on transportation options and any possible restrictions or closures.
Drop by the Kilauea Visitors Center first
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
Volcanoes National Park in Hawaii offers a plethora of popular attractions that showcase the dynamic beauty of volcanic wonders. One must-visit highlight is the Kīlauea Volcano, where visitors can witness breathtaking lava flows and explore the mesmerizing Thurston Lava Tube. The park also features the stunning Halemaʻumaʻu Crater, known for its active lava lake and impressive steam vents. For a unique experience, the Chain of Craters Road allows visitors to marvel at scenic viewpoints, ancient petroglyphs, and even witness the dramatic meeting point of molten lava and the ocean. With its dramatic landscapes and ongoing volcanic activity, Volcanoes National Park captivates visitors with its natural wonders and offers an unforgettable adventure
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 inside tips to visiting Volcanoes National Park
Here are some inside tips for visiting Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island of Hawaii and explore the main attractions around the park.
Check Lava Conditions: Before visiting, check the current lava conditions as they can change. You can do this by visiting the park’s website or contacting the visitor center. Witnessing active lava flows is a rare and incredible experience.
Visit at Night: The glow from the lava can be best seen at night. Consider taking a guided night tour to see the lava and stars simultaneously.
Hike with Caution: If you plan to hike, be prepared with sturdy footwear, a flashlight, and plenty of water. Some trails can be challenging, so assess your physical fitness before embarking on hikes.
Jaggar Museum: Explore the Thomas A. Jaggar Museum to learn about volcanology and the park’s history. Don’t miss the fantastic views of Halema’uma’u Crater from the observation deck.
Stay at Volcano Village: Consider staying in the nearby Volcano Village for easy access to the park. This allows you to explore early in the morning or late in the evening when the park is less crowded.
Sulfur Vents and Steaming Bluffs: Explore the sulfur vents and steaming bluffs, but be cautious of toxic gases. Pay attention to park ranger advice regarding safety.
Junior Ranger Program: If you’re traveling with kids, encourage them to participate in the Junior Ranger program. It’s a fun and educational way for them to engage with the park.
Bring Layers: The weather can vary greatly in the park, from chilly at higher elevations to warm at lower ones. Dress in layers to accommodate changing conditions.
Respect Wildlife: Keep a safe distance from wildlife and follow park guidelines for responsible wildlife viewing.
Park Closures: Occasionally, sections of the park may be closed due to volcanic activity or other safety concerns. Check for updates before you go.
Visitor Center: Start your visit at the Kīlauea Visitor Center for up-to-date information, maps, and ranger-led programs.
Stay Safe: Always prioritize safety. Follow posted signs and warnings, especially near active volcanic areas. The park’s conditions can change rapidly.
Remember that Volcanoes National Park is a unique and dynamic place, so your experience may vary depending on the current volcanic activity. Enjoy your visit and the incredible natural wonders that this park has to offer!
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)
Check out topics visiting the Big Island
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Conclusion on why visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
In conclusion, there are compelling reasons to visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The park’s captivating attractions, such as the Kīlauea Volcano, Thurston Lava Tube, and Halemaʻumaʻu Crater, offer a unique opportunity to witness the dynamic beauty of volcanic wonders. The park’s ever-changing landscapes, including lava flows and steam vents, provide a mesmerizing experience. Exploring the Chain of Craters Road allows visitors to appreciate scenic viewpoints, ancient petroglyphs, and the awe-inspiring sight of molten lava meeting the ocean.
Whether you’re a nature enthusiast, a lover of geological marvels, or simply seeking an unforgettable adventure, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is a must-visit destination that promises to leave you in awe of its natural wonders.
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