Drive around the crater of an erupting volcano and learn about the cultural importance of lava to the ancient Hawaiians.
The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is home to two active volcanoes, including the most active in the world, Kīlauea. Covering 333,000 acres (1,335 square kilometers) of Hawaii’s Big Island this national park is unlike any other in America. It’s one of the most popular destinations in Hawaii for its scenic drives, stunning views and fascinating natural history and science museum.
Start your trip to the park at the Kīlauea Visitor Center to acquaint yourself with the park’s geography and to pick up maps or join a guided tour. Learn about how volcanoes form, and why some are more active than others. A short film tells the history of the national park and explains the importance of the volcanoes to the native Hawaiians.
Make your way to the Crater Rim Drive, the road that circumnavigates the top of Kīlauea. Peer over the edge to see the lava flow from the center of the earth. Kīlauea has been erupting constantly since 1983 and spills up to 18,000,000 cubic feet (500,000 cubic meters) daily. While the volcano is incredibly active it is also predictable, and the experience is very safe so long as visitors stay on the marked trails.
From the top make your way to one of the park’s hiking trails to experience the contours of the land. The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park has over 150 miles (241 kilometers) of trails that cross craters, deserts and rain forests.
Walk through a cave made of hardened lava at the Thurston Lava Tube to find yourself in a tropical rain forest on the other side. Bring a picnic lunch to eat on your hike, as no food or facilities are available in the park.
The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is located approximately 30 miles (48 kilometers) from Hilo and can be reached by bus, although the service is limited. Visitors traveling by car will have to pay a vehicle fee to enter the park; however, this includes all passengers and parking within the park.