Big Island Volcano -- Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Kilauea, the most active Big Island Volcano, is located 30 miles southwest of Hilo and 96 miles southeast of Kona in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Like Haleakala National Park on Maui, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

It is extremely well-run and provides a ton of information. Be sure to talk to the park rangers and take advantage of their wealth of knowledge.

Although the park is also home to Mauna Loa, the world's biggest volcano, the star of the show is definitely Kilauea Volcano, the world's most active volcano.

photo courtesy of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Staff

She has been erupting since January, 1983 with no signs of letting up. She? Well, legend has it that Madame Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of fire, lives in Kilauea.

I suggest you visit the Big Island volcanoes when you first arrive so you have time to go back if you choose. I always like to spend two days exploring the park...There is so much to see and do within this park like:

  • Kilauea Visitor Center (hours are 7:45 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.)
  • 150 miles of hiking trails
  • 450 ft. Thurston lava Tube
  • Steam vents

  • Sulphur banks
  • Jagger Museum
  • Devastation Trail (previous lava flows)
  • The most recent lava flow from Pu'u O'o Crater entering the ocean
  • photo courtesy of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Staff

  • Volcano House (one of Hawaii's oldest hotels and the only place to eat within the park)

The 11-mile road around the circumference of Kilauea is called Crater Rim Drive. Chain of Craters Road meets Crater Rim Drive on the side opposite the park entrance and Visitor's Center.

At the end of Chain of Craters Road is where the current lava flow is. Keep in mind that the drive from the park entrance to the current lava flow may take up to 45 minutes.

Suggestion--I think the night views are the most spectacular if the lava is flowing and visible. It is definitely worth sticking around for...The view is mesmerizing! You are actually witnessing new land being formed.

Come prepared for this Big Island activity...Remember to bring appropriate shoes (lava can be very sharp), water (the lava fields get extremely hot during the day), a sweater or jacket (the crater area can get cool), and a flashlight (there are no lights coming back from the ocean).

Please keep in mind that Big Island volcano viewing conditions change daily so there is no guarantee that you will see lava flowing. Be sure to call the park at (808) 985-6000 for current conditions.

Cost: $10 per vehicle, good for 7 days

Although the Volcano House is the only place to eat within with park, there are numerous places to eat outside the park in the town of Volcano. Kilauea Lodge, about a mile from the park, is excellent but also expensive. In fact, anything in this area is going to be on the expensive side.

Warning: Don't take lava home. It is believed to bring bad luck. Remember that episode of "The Brady Bunch"? Maybe not...Anyway, hundreds of lava rocks are sent back to the islands every year.

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