Volcanoes National Park is one of Hawaii’s biggest attractions. It is specifically located on the Big Island of Hawaii, 30 miles from the town of Hilo. The park covers 300,000 acres of lush and volcanic land and famously houses Kilauea Volcano, one of the world’s most active volcanoes.
The park is also home to a second active volcano: Maunaloa. Visiting Volcanoes National Park gives you that rare chance to experience Kilauea and Maunaloa up close. But the park is not just any tourist attraction, it is in fact, a sacred place for Native Hawaiians as their goddess Pele is believed to be living here. Its diverse ecosystem earned it the distinctions of a World Biosphere Site, and a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
You can start your exploration of the park at the entrance near the Kilauea Visitor Center. While here, check out the exhibits in the center, watch a film and learn more about the volcano activity. Park rangers also provide short guided walks around this area. If you do a short walk from the Visitor Center, you will come across another interesting site, – the Volcano Art Gallery.
Hiking and driving are common activities for tourists visiting the National Park. One of the popular driving and walking routes involves going across the Crater Rim Drive to reach the edge of Kilauea Caldera. When you get to the edge of the rim of Kilauea Caldera, you will come across the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory and Thomas A. Jaggar Museum.
At the observatory, you will get the chance to see fantastic views of the park. The Jaggar Museum gives you access to a wide variety of exhibits that reflect the history and describes the activities of volcanoes on the island. Other attractions within the Crater Rim Drive area include the Kilauea overlook, Kilauea Iki Crater Overlook, the Thurston Lava Tube, and the Devastation Trail.
Another famous attraction in the park, which can be reached by foot, is the Halema’uma’u Crater Overlook. From the park’s parking area, it takes around 10 minutes to reach this overlook. While here, you will witness steam vents in action. These vents are created when the rainwater, sinks through the ground and gets heated by lava rocks, rises as hot water through fissures.
The intimidating and legendary Halema’uma’u Crater is approximately 300 feet deep and 3,000 feet across. The crater unfortunately expels 300 tons of sulfur dioxide on a daily basis, so you should avoid it if you are suffering from heart or breathing problems. One spectacular sight in the park that you should experience seeing is when lava enters in the ocean. To view this volcanic activity, drive down the Chain of Craters Road and walk about a mile to the viewing area.
It’s possible to stay overnight at the Volcanoes National Park. The historic Volcano House at the edge of the Kilauea Crater offers accommodation and a dining facility. There are also designated camp grounds within the park. When visiting, bring plenty of food, water and other supplies as the park has no facilities except for the Volcanic House. Since you are exploring an area with very active volcanoes, only follow marked routes, obey warnings and stay out of restricted areas.