“Hot Stuff” On The Big Island
While there are many reasons to visit the “Big Island” of Hawaii, none are bigger than the opportunity to get an up-close look at Kilauea, the world’s most active volcano.
Head to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which encompasses nearly 218,000 acres from sea to summit and beyond. It includes Mauna Loa (the world’s largest volcano) and Kilauea, which has been continuously erupting since January 1983. This eruption phase has added over 500 acres to the Big Island.
Witnessing Kilauea’s molten lava flows, curling steam clouds, vast lava fields, heated steam vents, sulfur banks, prehistoric lava tubes and huge summit caldera is an unforgettable experience. Established in 1916, the park also offers more than 150 miles of hiking trails. The 20-mile drive down Chain of Craters Road will take you through some of the most desolate land on earth, into the Kilauea East Rift Zone and to the current lava flow from Puu`Ō `ō Crater.
Park attractions include the visitors center, where helpful rangers provide the latest weather, driving conditions and current volcanic activity. The center houses an intriguing display of photographs and artifacts, a free film, maps, books, hiker’s permits, a schedule of ranger-led walks and more.
Volcano House Hotel
Nearby, the Volcano House is Hawaii’s oldest continually operated hotel (it dates back to 1846). Volcano House is perched right on the Kilauea Crater Rim overlooking the caldera and provides guests with one of the more unique dining views imaginable.
The Volcano Art Center, meanwhile, exhibits the volcano-inspired works of more than 250 artists. And the Thomas A. Jaggar Museum offers cultural and geological displays, photographs, videos and topographical maps.
Crater Rim Drive is an 11-mile drive that circles the Kilauea caldera, traveling through a fern-filled rain forest past overlooks, hiking trails, earlier lava flows and petroglyph fields. Don’t miss the Devastation Trail and Thurston Lava Tube. About halfway around is the turn off for Chain of Craters Road. The 3,700-foot drive down this road brings you to the point where molten lava meets the ocean. After dark, multiple lava flows illuminate the mountainside in the distance. Call ahead for the latest lava viewing update.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is open daily. The Kilauea Visitor Center is open from 7:45 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. For More Information, call Hawaii Volcanoes National Park at (808) 985-6000.