When you stand in front of spouting lava at Kilauea volcano, or marvel at steam as it rises from vents in Halemaumau Crater, it's easy to see that Hawaii Volcanoes National Park isn't just a national park, but also a place to get a front-row seat to the beauty of Earth's creation. Located on the Big Island of Hawaii, this park offers everything from lush rainforest to lava tubes and rolling black lava fields, where hot steam still rises from fissures and rifts that dot the rugged landscape.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is made up of two different Hawaii volcanoes: Kilauea and Mauna Loa. While 13,000-foot Mauna Loa last erupted in 1984, Kilauea has been constantly erupting since 1983 and is known as one of the world's most active volcanoes. The park is often visited on circle island tours of the Hawaii that also include stops at sights such as Rainbow Falls and the Hamakua Coast. Hawaii Volcanoes can also be experienced on a coach bus tour or a Kilauea volcano bike tour, or even seen from above on a helicopter ride.
Stop in at the park's Jaggar Museum to learn about earthquakes, geology, and seismology; discover how lava still flows to the sea and occasionally covers roads; and hear the legend of Madame Pele, Hawaii's volcano goddess.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Volcanic activity changes on a daily basis, so no two trips are the same.
- Volcano tours get you close to the action, visiting popular sites such as Halemaumau Crater, the Kilauea Iki crater, and Devastation Trail.
- Bring a jacket for the brisk air at the 4,000-foot Kilauea summit, and pack a rain jacket for the lush environment around the Thurston Lava Tube.
- Some guided hiking tours go through rugged terrain, which isn't recommended for wheelchairs or travelers with limited mobility.
- It's important to hike the area around Kilauea safely; consider traveling with a professional tour guide.
How To Get to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is a 45-minute drive south of Hilo and a 2.5-hour drive from Kona. The most popular ways to experience the park are as part of a Hawaii volcano tour, or on a self-guided driving tour of Crater Rim Drive and Chain of Craters Road.
When To Get There
Because volcanic activity is tough to predict, it's almost impossible to plan your trip around lava flow. Weather at the park can range from 45°F (7°C) with rain and wind at the summit of Kilauea to 85°F (29°C) by the shoreline; visitors should travel with multiple layers that are suitable for all conditions.
Has Kilauea Volcano Caused Any Destruction?
Kilauea has destroyed nearly 200 structures over the course of its most recent eruption. The entire village of Kalapana was covered up by the molten lava, and over 500 acres of new land have been created since 1983. As you'll learn on guided tours, parts of the ground are still very brittle due to the surface being so young.