For the last several years, the Jaggar Museum and its overlook have enjoyed one of the best vantages for spotting glowing lava in Kilauea's summit lake. A must-stop location for all Hawaii Volcanoes National Park visitors, the elongated, single-room rock building houses exhibits on volcanology and Hawaiian culture, with large windows facing the Halemaumau crater. Regular displays include real-time monitors where you can cause your own “earthquake” by jumping; historical volcanic measuring and data gathering equipment; artifacts including the various and unusual types of Hawaiian volcano eruptive material; historical photographs; and a massive mural detailing the fire goddess Pele's relationship to other Hawaiian deities.
Though it’s possible to see the fumes coming out of the crater during the day, or even the nene, Hawaii’s endangered and endemic goose in the parking lot, nature’s real show here happens at night. That’s when the glowing lava, reflected by the vog (volcanic fog) emits a bright orange glow that can be seen for miles. If you’re really lucky—as some visitors were during a brief period in April and May 2015—levels in the lava lake could rise, bringing with it the chance to see lava itself with your own eyes, day or night, as it spills onto the crater floor.
The museum is located off Crater Rim Drive, about 2.5 miles from Volcano House, the only hotel in the park. The museum is open daily from 8:30am until 5pm, but sometimes stays open later for geology talks by park rangers or during certain times of the year. A small gift shop sells HVNP-branded apparel and trinkets as well as informative book and DVDs. Because the summit lake eruption is a natural phenomenon, there is no guarantee the eruption will be occurring in the park during your visit.