Discover the Wonders of Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park: A Comprehensive Guide
The Kīlauea volcano, the most active volcano in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and is seen by millions of tourists each year. This makes it the most visited attraction in Hawaiʻi and the most visited volcano in the world.
The Kilauea Volcano
The Big Island consists in total of five separate volcanoes: Kohala, Mauna Kea, Hualālai, Mauna Loa and Kilauea. Mauna Kea measures 13,796 feet and is the tallest mountain in the state and the tallest sea mountain in the world. Mauna Loa is the largest volcano on Earth in terms of volume and area covered. The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park encompasses two of these volcanoes: Mauna Loa and Kīlauea.
Despite all of these impressive figures Kīlauea is the most famous of the Hawaiian volcanoes, and rightly so! As the youngest and most active of the five volcanoes you can often see its lava either flowing into the ocean or glowing in the immense Halema’uma’u crater that crowns the park grounds..
Things to do in The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
It is easy to spend multiple days in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park without getting bored. There are many short and long hikes in the park and plenty of interesting spots you can easily reach by car. The park also organizes a very interesting weekly lecture series called “After Dark in the Park“.
Park attractions include the following highlights, but please remember that there is far more in the park that deserves your attention
- Kilauea visitor center
- Halemaʻumaʻu crater overlook (the glow)
- Kīlauea Iki crater + hike
- Thurston lava tube
- Chain of Craters road (scenic drive)
- Day hikes
- Volcano art center
- The sulphur banks
- The Mauna Loa Road Scenic Drive
- The free junior ranger program + workbook (kids aged 12 and below)
- Keanakākoʻi Crater + Halemaʻumaʻu overlook
- Seeing lava in the park
Here’s a rundown of the top 10 activities that should definitely be on your itinerary.
1. Embrace the Challenge: Hiking the Kīlauea Iki Trail
This 3.4-mile trail promises diverse landscapes, transitioning from rainforests to the stark terrain of volcanic craters. The Kīlauea Iki Trail isn’t just a hike; it’s a journey through different worlds, offering an immersive experience into the heart of the park’s volcanic activity.
2. Exploring the Crater Rim Trail
For the ultimate hiking experience, nothing compares to the Crater Rim Trail. This 7.6-mile trail skirts the edge of the volcanic craters, offering unparalleled views of the Kīlauea Caldera. For a more in-depth experience, consider turning this adventure into a one-way journey to explore its entire length without retracing your steps.
3. Up, Up, and Away: Hawaiʻi Volcanoes Helicopter Tour
If you prefer a bird’s eye view, opt for a helicopter tour over Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park. Especially during an active eruption, the aerial perspective offers a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to witness Mother Nature’s raw power from a safe distance.
4. Dive Deep into History at Nāhuku (Thurston Lava Tube)
The 0.4-mile Thurston Lava Tube Trail leads you through a lush forest before plunging into the dark, echoing depths of a lava tube. This easy walk is perfect for all ages, providing a glimpse into the geological forces that shaped this land.
5. Witness the Sulphur Banks: Haʻakulamanu Trail
Discover one of the park’s unique geological wonders by walking the Haʻakulamanu (Sulphur Banks) Trail. The 1.3-mile journey unveils a landscape of steaming vents and volcanic remnants, reminiscent of primordial Earth.
6. The Native Wonderland: Kīpuka Puaulu Trail
Experience the serenity of ancient Hawaiʻi on this 1.2-mile trail. The Kīpuka Puaulu Trail takes you through a native forest, isolated by the surrounding lava flows, home to unique species that provide insight into Hawaiʻi’s ecological history.
7. Step into the Past with Puʻu Loa Petroglyphs
The easy 1.3-mile Puʻu Loa Trail offers cultural enrichment, leading to extensive fields of ancient petroglyphs. These rock carvings provide a direct connection to the native Hawaiian culture, illustrating the lives and beliefs of the early inhabitants.
8. Adventure at Mauna Loa
For the hardcore adventurers, the challenging Mauna Loa Trail leads to the Red Hill Cabin and offers an intense backcountry experience. This lengthy hike requires preparation and permits but rewards with unmatched isolation and scenic vistas.
9. Descend into Beauty: Halemaʻumaʻu Trail
This 1.6-mile trail is a scenic route down into the Kīlauea Caldera, especially captivating in the early hours as the morning mist interacts with the tropical sunlight. It’s also an excellent opportunity for birdwatching.
10. Enjoy a Guided Tour
To make the most of your trip, consider a guided tour. Expert local guides provide insightful information, enhancing your experience within the park. Whether exploring lava flows or learning about local flora, a guided tour offers a comprehensive and educational adventure.
Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park is a realm where the power of the earth manifests itself both quietly and explosively. Whether witnessing the creation of new land or exploring lush native forests, visitors leave with a deep appreciation for nature’s might and delicacy. Each journey to the Big Island reminds us of our duty to protect these wonders for years to come.