HAWAII — Hawai´i Volcanoes National Park

This is a very unique national park in that it contains two active volcanoes and a variety of terrain. At the centre is the Kilauea Caldera which is the youngest and most active volcano in the world. The landscape is just amazing with many craters and cinder cones and hills of pumice and hardened lava everywhere. In a few places amongst the lunar-like terrain you will see the tropical forest that was once found here trying to fight its way through. Kilauea has been erupting since 1959 and has destroyed large parts of the landscape hut you won’t see large fountains of lava spewing into the air as here it mostly oozes and creeps along. Always remember that the lava is unpredictable and you won’t always be able to see much action. It is a good idea to check the park’s website before visiting this area to see if parts of the roads have closed due to volcanic action.
For information about the park visit the following website at: http://www.nps.gov/havo/index.htm

The sights found here are:
Crater Rim Drive
Kilauea Visitor Center
Volcano Art Center
Sulphur Banks
Steam Vents
Jaggar Museum
Halema´uma´u Overlook
Thurston Lava Tube
Kilauea Iki Crater
Devastation Trail
Chain of Craters Road
Mauna Ulu
Kealakomo

Crater Rim Drive

Crater Rim Drive
This 18 kilometre drive circles around the caldera of the volcano, Kilauea. If you are only spending a short time in this park then this is a good road to use as it takes you to all of the main sights, through rainforest and desert and lots of scenic spots in as little as an hour if that is all you have but of course you can take much longer if you wish. All of the sights are well marked so you won’t get lost. On the website of the park there is a Crater Rim tour which is great if you have limited time here as it will take you past most of the sights including the Steam Vents, Sulphur Banks, the various overlooks, the Jaggar Museum, Thurston Lava Tube and Devastation Trail. Just be aware that at times sections of the road may be closed due to volcanic activity. You should start your drive at the Kilauea Visitor Center to find out any pertinent information.
For information about the Crater Rim Drive Tour visit the following website at: http://www.nps.gov/havo/planyourvisit/craterrimtour.htm

Kilauea Visitor Center
The visitor’s centre is found near the park entrance and should be your first stop in the park to find out all the information you will need to visit the park including updated information about the volcano activity and road closures. Inside the centre you will find exhibits showing how the Big Island was formed, ecosystems in the area as well as Hawaiian legends.
For information about the Kilauea Visitor Center visit the following website at: http://www.nps.gov/havo/planyourvisit/kvc.htm

Volcano Art Center
The Volcano Art Center is found inside the Volcano House lodge which is found next door to the visitor centre. It is a gallery shop selling island pottery, paintings, woodwork, jewellery and so on. It is a great place to browse even if you don’t buy anything as all the merchandise is of a high standard.
For information about the art centre visit the website at: http://www.volcanoartcenter.org

Steam Vents

Steam Vents
These steam vents are caused by water in the form of rainwater soaking into the ground and heated by hot rocks and released into the air as steam. If you take a short walk from here you will come to a part of the crater rim called Steaming Bluff which is more impressive especially in the cool morning air.

Sulphur Banks

Sulphur Banks
The sight of these Sulphur Banks found near the Steam Vents is quite special with piles of steaming rocks of different shades of yellow. Be aware that this area can be dangerous and the fumes that you smell are full of toxic gases and can be harmful especially if you have breathing or heart problems. There are warning signs everywhere that you should look at and follow.

Jaggar Museum
This museum is found right on the edge of the rim of Kilauea Caldera and the views from it are amazing if the weather is clear. The museum is very small but it contains numerous exhibits that explain the history and behaviour of Hawaiian volcanoes. The museum and gift shop are open daily from 8.30am to 8.00pm.

Halema´uma´u Overlook

Halema´uma´u Overlook
If you had visited Halema´uma´u in the 19th century you would have seen a different sight to what you see today. Then you would have seen a boiling lake of lava compare by some to the ‘fires of hell’. In 1924 there was rapid subsidence which caused a series of eruptions which resulted in the crater doubling in size and all lava activity to cease. There has been one more eruption since this but this caused little change in the crater. This crater is considered the home of Pele, the goddess of fire and several ceremonies are performed here throughout the year to honour her. The Halema´uma´u Trail starts from here which you can hike.

Thurston Lava Tube

Thurston Lava Tube
This is one of the most popular stops in the park and at times it can be very busy especially when the tour buses arrive. The Thurston Lava Tube is a large and very well-preserved as well as accessible example of a lava tube-type of cave. Lava tubes are formed when the outer crust of a flowing river of lava begins to cool and crust over, but the lava continues to flow under it and when the flow has completely drained away, the lava tube is left behind. The lava tube is found on the east side of the Chain of Craters Road intersection and to get there you will need to walk on a 15-minute loop through rainforest.

Traveller's Tip

Make sure you bring a torch when you come here because after you visit the first tunnel which is lit there is a longer tunnel to see which is found on your left and is unlit.
Kilauea Iki Crater

Kilauea Iki Crater
This is the site of one of Hawaii’s most violent volcanic eruptions. In 1959 an eruption caused lava to shoot to around 580 metres into the air and the crater floor turned into a bubbling lake of molten lava. You get a great view of this crater from the overlook but you can also hike across the crater floor which is quite an experience considering there is a lake of molten magma around 70 metres below the surface.

Traveller's Tip

The Kilauea Iki Crater was used as a setting for the 2001 remake of the film Planet of the Apes.
Devastation Trail

Devastation Trail
This is a short, easy walk across what was once a rainforest before the 1959 eruption of the Kilauea Iki Crater. This is not the best trail in the park and should only be walked if you enjoy easy hikes and you have enough time to see the other sights you want to visit in the park.

Chain of Craters Road

Chain of Craters Road
A drive down this road is one of the highlights of a visit to the Volcano National Park because it can be different every time you come depending on the volcanic activity in the area. The Chain of Craters Road follows a line of pit craters and ends where a 2003 lava flow crossed the road. You will need to allow two or three hours for this drive, depending on how often you stop. There are no services along this road so make sure that you have enough petrol and plenty of water to drink. When you reach the end of the road, park along the side before the small ranger station and you can take a 1.5 kilometre walk to see the lava entering the ocean. This distance changes from time to time as the lava flow changes. If you’re very lucky you may see hot lava entering the ocean.

Traveller's Tip

If you visit at sundown, you may be able to see the red lava flowing down the side of the mountain. This will of course depend on where the lava is flowing when you visit. Check with the visitor’s centre before you go.
Mauna Ulu

Mauna Ulu
Mauna Ulu which means ‘growing mountain’ was formed after an eruption of Kilauea in 1969 and it continued to grow until the lava flow stopped in 1974. By then it had covered an area of 10,000 acres of parkland and added 200 acres of land to the coast. It is best seen by walking past the parking lot to where the end of road is covered in fresh lava flows. You can take a relatively short hike which is called the Pu´u Huluhulu Overlook Trail of around 8 kilometres return from the parking area which crosses over lava flows and climbs to the top of a cinder cone with magnificent views of the surrounding area.

Kealakomo

Kealakomo
You will find this lookout standing at an elevation of over 600 metres around halfway along the Chain of Craters Road. The lookout has a covered shelter with picnic tables and the most glorious view over the ocean.