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Best Places to Visit - Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, Big Island

   Best places to visit in Volcanoes National Park






Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park     

















































Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park,  was established in 1916 and is the premier attraction on the Big Island . We don't know if it's the same mysterious force that causes  kids (both young and old) to be attracted to large, powerful things (for example trucks, cranes, trains, big jets, explosions, you name it) but almost every visitor to the Big Island hopes to see  volcanoes spewing lava, making noise and doing those interesting things only volcanoes can do. Because eruptions are now occurring, see the official Hawai'i  Volcanoes National Park website  for details on road closure and other up-to-date information.

Over half of "Volcanoes" is designated  a wilderness area, which provides unique hiking and camping opportunities. In recognition of its outstanding natural values, Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park has been honored as an International Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site.

The Park is a living museum with 70 million year of volcanism on display.  Your first stop at the Park should be the Visitor Center.  The park encompasses 333,000 acres, provides diverse environments and ranges from sea level to the summit of the earth's most massive volcano, Mauna Loa (13,677 feet). The park's other well known volcano, Kilauea,  is the world's most active volcano.  A  visit to the park provides insights on the birth of the Hawai'ian Islands through views of dramatic volcanic landscapes.  For an overview map of the central portion of Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, click this link .


The most popular areas of the park, not surprisingly, are those where there is flowing lava.   The prized lava flows are those  flowing into the ocean, where the mixture of hot and cold results in explosions, steam, flying rocks and lots of noise.  Unfortunately, in 2003 the coastal flows changed course.  Up until that time it was quite easy to see lava cascading into the Pacific, but it is rare to see the same thing now, without a long hike.  See this page  of the Hawai'i National Park Website to see "What's Going on With the Volcano?"

Kilauea, the Park's most active volcano (shown in the image at the page head),  has been in a constant state of eruption since 1983. To research the latest details of eruptions and the location of  lava flows in Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, check out this United States Geological Survey website that reports on volcanic activity at the park. For those who want less detail, check the National Park link in the paragraph above.

Obey the posted warnings!

Many people are stunned by the beauty of flowing lava at night and hike out to where the current lava flows can be observed. Lava is dangerous and walking on cooled lava flows can be dangerous, but many take the risk.  In order to prepare for your visit, you will need some gear - don't leave home without it.  See this link for details and cautions - http://www.nps.gov/havo/planyourvisit/yoursafety.htm

There are many dangerous areas in Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park and you should not hike without checking in at the Visitors Center and asking the best and safest locations for hiking.  The Park website page listing closed areas is provided here .

The prevailing northeast trade winds generally blow fumes from the volcano away from visitor areas. However, during times of weak winds or winds from the south (the opposite direction), volcanic fumes may impact visitor areas, prompting the park to close.

The hazy/smoky/smog-like conditions caused by volcanic fumes are known as (VOG)and should be avoided. If you are indoors (hotel, visitor center, etc.) - stay indoors with windows closed and air conditioning or air filter turned on - until conditions improve. You may be asked to evacuate.  If driving a car: Keep vehicle windows closed and run your car air conditioner until you leave the area.

For a map of the summit area of Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, follow this link .

Lava flows at night are magnificent.  Unless there are authorized trails to active flows, do not enter.

Directions to Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park.

Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park is 30 miles southwest  of Hilo on Highway 11 (a 45 minute drive). The Park is 96 miles southeast of Kailua-Kona on Highway 11 (2 to 2 1/2 hour drive).  If your hotel is located on the Kohala Coast, you can either head south through Kailua-Kona  as described above or cut across to Honokaa, down to Hilo and then southwest for the Park, a  125 mile trip  via highways 19 and 11 (2 1/2 to 3 hours). As you can see, this is a long trip from the west coast of the Big Island and you might want to stay near the Park if you plan to try an view the lava flows at night.



The weather at Volcanoes varies from one end of the park to the other.  We suggest that you dress in layers and be prepared for cool weather and rain, especially at the Kilauea Summit.  Other parts of the park are very dry.  Wherever you hike, you should be sure to bring plenty of bottled water. It is generally warm and dry near the coasts and you may be tempted to wear shorts - if you plan to hike in to see any active lava  areas, jeans offer better protection.  Be sure to take sunscreen.

Mounded, distressed lava in the crater Kilauea Iki

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This viscous lava is typical of the Hawai'ian flows



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By day or night the lava flows on the Big Island are extraordinary












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