Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Have you ever dreamed of standing atop an active volcano? Of witnessing lava flows, or exploring ancient craters? Well, with a visit to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, that dream can become a reality!

Located on the Big Island of Hawaii, Volcanoes National Park is home to two of the world’s most active volcanoes; Kilauea and Mauna Loa.

With its stunning landscapes and fascinating geological features, a journey to this one-of-a-kind park is sure to be unforgettable.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park history

The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park was established in 1916, making it one of the oldest national parks in the United States. Kilauea, Mauna Loa, and Hualalai are the three volcanoes found in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

  • Kilauea is one of the most active volcanoes on Earth and has been erupting continuously since 1983. In 2018, the volcano experienced its most destructive eruption in centuries, causing widespread damage to nearby communities.
  • Mauna Loa is the largest active volcano on Earth and last erupted in 1984. The volcano covers half of the Island of Hawaii.
  • Hualalai is an extinct volcano, it will never erupt again. The national park covers the first two of these volcanoes. Hualalai is located on another island.

Things to do in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Kīlauea Visitor Center

Kīlauea Visitor Center is located in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island of Hawaii. It is the first place you should visit when you go to the park. It is the first building on the right after the entrance.

It serves as a center for visitors to learn about and explore one of the world’s most active and fascinating volcanoes. The visitor center features interactive displays that teach guests about Hawaiian culture, geology and the wildlife that lives around Kīlauea.

There are also numerous ranger-led hikes available to explore nearby trails or participate in educational programs offered at the center.

Best hiking trails in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Kilauea Iki Trail

Kilauea Iki is a 4-mile out-and-back trail located in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The trailhead is located at the end of Crater Rim Drive, and the trail itself passes through a lava field that was created during the 1959 Kilauea Iki eruption.

Havaii Volcanoes National Park Kilauea Iki Crater
Steven Van Blarcom

The Kilauea Iki Trail is a great way to get up close and personal with some of Hawaii’s volcanic history. The lava field through which the trail passes is covered with cracks (known as “lava tubes”), and there are several steaming fumaroles along the way. The trail ends at the summit crater of Kilauea Iki, which offers stunning views of the surrounding area.

Thurston Lava Tube

Thurston Lava Tube is one of the most popular attractions at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The tube is a lava-formed cave that is big enough to walk through. It is lit up with lights, so you can see the different features of the cave. The Thurston Lava Tube is a great place to learn about the formation of lava tubes and to see some of the unique features of these caves.

Havaii Volcanoes National Park Thurston Lava Tube
Pravin Prakash / Flickr
Havaii Volcanoes National Park Thurston Lava Tube Trip
Ricardo de la Torre

If you’re interested in hiking the Kilauea Iki Trail, be sure to wear sturdy shoes and bring plenty of water. The trail can be quite slippery in places, and there is no shade or water available along the way.

Mauna Loa Summit Trail

Mauna Loa Summit Trail is the highest and most challenging hike at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. This 4 mile roundtrip trail takes hikers up to the summit of Mauna Loa, one of the world’s largest volcanos.

Along the way, hikers will witness some stunning scenery including lava fields, craters and cinder cones. The summit reaches an elevation of 13,677 feet making it a strenuous but rewarding experience.

From atop Mauna Loa you have a bird’s eye view of beautiful Hawaii Island as well as parts of Maui and Kahoolawe in clear weather conditions. Make sure to bring plenty of water as this trek can take several hours!

What are the dangers of visiting the park?

When lava meets water, it can create steam explosions that hurl rocks and debris. These dangerous incidents have occurred in the past, injuring and killing people. If you are visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, be sure to stay on marked trails and obey all posted signs.

Another dangers of visiting the park is being exposed to high levels of sulfur dioxide gas. This gas can cause respiratory problems, so it’s important to avoid breathing it in. If you’re visiting the park during a volcanic eruption, be sure to wear a mask or respirator to protect yourself from the gas.

What to do if you see a volcanic eruption?

If you see a volcanic eruption while visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, there are a few things you should do to stay safe.

  • Try to stay upwind of the eruption if possible. This will help you avoid breathing in any harmful fumes or ash that could be present. If you can’t stay upwind, cover your mouth and nose with a cloth or mask to filter the air.
  • Avoid touching any of the lava flows or rocks that have been heated by the eruption, as they can be extremely hot and cause burns.
  • Evacuate the area as quickly as possible if instructed to do so by park staff or emergency personnel.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park entrance fee

Up-to-date information on entrance fees can be found on the NPS official web pages.

Where to stay at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

There are many lodging options available near Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Some of the most popular include Volcano House Hotel and Kilauea Military Camp. All of these options offer unique views and activities that are sure to make your stay memorable.

  • Volcano House Hotel

This hotel is the only lodging option located inside the park boundaries. This historic hotel has been welcoming guests since 1846 and offers stunning views of Halemaumau Crater. The hotel also features a restaurant, bar, and gift shop.

Havaii Volcanoes National Park Volcano Hotel
Volcano Hotel

Volcano Hotel is a place where you can stay to experience how beautiful the lava looks at night and take night walks.

Where is Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is located on the Big Island of Hawaii, near the towns of Hilo and Volcano.

How to get to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

There are two airports that service Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Hilo International Airport (ITO) and Kona International Airport (KOA). Hilo is the closest airport to the park, located just 30 miles away. Kona is located about 100 miles from the park.

If you’re flying into Hilo, there are a few different options for getting to the park. You can take a taxi or shuttle. There are also a few different rental car companies located at the airport.

If you’re flying into Kona, there are again a few different options for getting to the park. You could rent a car and drive yourself. Just be aware that the drive from Kona to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is about at least 2 hours long.

If you are looking to get to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park by car from one of the airports, here is the simple way.

  • From Kona International Airport, take Highway 11 south towards Hilo and follow it until you reach Volcano Village. From here, take a left onto Old Volcano Road which will lead you directly into the park.
  • Alternatively, from Hilo International Airport take Highway 19 north for about 15 miles then turn right onto Highway 11 for another 8 miles before taking a left onto Old Volcano Road.

Conclusion

Visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is an amazing experience that will stay with you for a lifetime. With its breathtaking landscapes and unique geological formations, it’s easy to see why this park should be on everyone’s bucket list of top places to visit.