Kilauea Iki crater is one of the most visited spots in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, and its most popular hike cuts across the floor of the crater—a walk into the heart of an active volcano. Though today the crater looks tame from above, steam vents still rise from areas with moisture, and the otherworldly terrain of the crater floor is unique among others in the Hawaiian chain.
Begin the somewhat strenuous 2-hour journey across Kilauea Iki in a descent from the edge of a tropical rainforest. Take a guided walk to learn about the adapted flora along the trail and see nearby highlights.
Guides typically combine walks through Kilauea Iki with tours of the park that also may include a stop at the summit of Kilauea Caldera, a walk through Thurston Lava Tube, and a drive down Chain of Craters Road. Although Kilauea remains an active volcano, the center of the activity is in a separate section of park.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Ideal for those with an interest in volcanoes and natural history, as well as active hikers who want to go off the beaten path.
- While paved pathways like the Crater Rim Trail are wheelchair accessible, the steep and uneven surfaces of Kilauea Iki crater are not recommended.
- Bring sturdy hiking shoes and a windbreaker; be prepared for possible rain.
- Many guided tours include entrance fees to the national park.
- There is no public transportation within the park.
How to Get There
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is reached via Highway 11. It’s about a 45-minute drive (30 miles, or 48 kilometers) southwest of Hilo and about a 2.5-hour drive (96 miles, or 154 kilometers) southeast of Kailua-Kona. Most visitors arrive by car or as part of a guided tour from either location.When to Get There
With a tropical climate year-round, the park is open every day, including holidays. Morning is best for avoiding crowds and soaring temperatures, with fewer visitors arriving during spring and fall. Check weather conditions and volcanic activity warnings for possible trail closings. Day trips departing from Hilo, Kona, and Kohala resorts can last up to 12 hours.How the Kilauea Iki Crater Was Formed
In 1959 fountains of lava from Kilauea Iki crater erupted nearly 2,000 feet (610 meters) into the sulfur-filled air. As lava spouted from the small crater near the summit of Kilauea volcano, it formed a lava lake that measured 10 feet (3 meters) deep, a bubbling cauldron of freshly formed earth. To date, the area is home to some of the most intense activity volcanologists have experienced in the Hawaiian chain.