Our Big Adventure
- Flight Review: Hawaiian Airlines Honolulu to Kona
- Hotel Review: Courtyard by Marriott King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel
- Skyline Eco Adventures Akaka Falls
- Akaka Falls
- Japanese Sweets at Two Ladies Kitchen
- Punalu’u Black Sand Beach
- Daylight Mind Coffee Company Dinner
- Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
There’s a lot to do and see on the Big Island, but perhaps the most iconic attraction of the island is the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. For those that don’t already know, Volcanoes National Park is home to one of the most active volcanoes in the world, Kilauea. It’s been in a constant state of eruption from 1983 to present, having destroyed the town of Kalpana (1992), threatened Pahoa (2014), and added acres of new coastline. But of course, we had to get there, which required another 2 hour drive!
When we finally arrived at the park, it was cold and rainy. While it doesn’t seem like it, Kilauea’s summit is 4,000ft above sea level. Temperatures can be hot to freezing and the rain can come and go quickly, so dress accordingly and bring some warm clothes. Admission to the park at the time of this writing is $15/vehicle, which is good for a few days. And since it was raining, we drove over to the Jaggar Museum.
By the time we got there, there was a slight drizzle, so we walked around a little and snapped some photos of Halemaumau Crater; Kilauea’s summit caldera.
The road beyond the museum is closed thanks to some explosive events at the vent in the crater, so we hung out here till the rain completely passed. Once the clouds were mostly gone, we hopped back into the car and headed back toward the park entrance, and then to Kilauea Iki. This is the site of an eruption in 1959, and a couple of really popular trails. We decided to check out half of the Devastation Trail through some native rain forests and a cinder field leftover from the eruption. We entered from what I think was the backside and were immediately in a stand of endemic Ohia Lehua trees.
These trees are known for their beautiful, vibrant red flowers and are provide important habitat for Hawaii’s critically endangered honeycreepers. If you’re lucky, you may see some of these unique and beautiful birds, and though we didn’t, walking through the forests you’ll definitely hear their songs. After a short walk, you’ll find yourself in the cinder fields.
The landscape is quite striking, and while it may seem desolate, take a closer look and you’ll see some interesting flora taking whole in the cinders.
Due to time constraints we decided to end our hike and head back to the car. From here we drove further down the mountain past more Ohia forests, old craters, and lava fields, and down the pali.
After about 30 minutes of driving, we arrived at our next destination; Pu’uloa.
Pu’uloa is yet another hike, but instead of a hike to see volcanoes or forests, this hike takes you to ancient Hawaiian petroglyphs. There’s a small parking area off the road, from where you’ll walk out into the lava fields. It’s a 0.7 mile hike to the petroglyphs, and while that isn’t far, it is in a lava desert, over very uneven terrain. There’s no facilities here, so it’s important to make sure you bring your own water, wear sunscreen and dress appropriately.
While the trail isn’t really apparent, look for the rock piles every so often to help find your way.
Eventually you’ll be able to see the boardwalk off in the distance, this is where you’re headed to.
The petroglyphs at Pu’uloa are some of the best preserved examples around, likely because of the largely dry conditions and minimal vegetation.
Not all of the petroglyphs are in and around the boardwalks, some can be seen a bit before. Either way, it’s important to keep your distance from the petroglyphs. While they are impressions in the rock, they are easily damaged. And just because damage isn’t visible doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Any abrasions to the impressions only serve to accelerate the erosion process, bringing us ever closer to the losing these priceless artifacts forever. After looking around and snapping photos, we started back towards the car.
Once we reached the car, we set out towards the coast. The drive to the end of the Chain of Craters Road would take us another another 5 to 10 minutes.
At the very end of the road is a small parking lot, most of which is reserved for handicapped parking. You may park along the side of the road shortly before the parking lot, but be sure to keep your eyes open. On the mauka (toward the mountain) side of the road, you can often see the endemic Nene goose grazing on the lava flows above.
Besides the Nene geese, the main attraction here is the Holei Sea Arch.
It really isn’t a hike to see the arch, just a simple walk from the road to a walled lookout point. Beyond the Sea Arch is miles of barren lava fields leading to the area that was once Kalapana.
Occasionally active lava flows and/or sea entries can be seen from this area as well, but during our visit the area was quiet. All that could be seen were a couple of green sea turtles swimming off the coast. During a visit with my family back in 2002, there was an active surface flow in the area, allowing us to see lava up-close. Anyway, after viewing the arch, we headed back to the car and made our way back up the Chain of Craters Road.
From here we made our way out of the park and into Hilo town for dinner, but that’s for another post. After dinner we headed back to the park to view the glow of lava from the vent at Halemaumau Crater.
We arrived right at dusk, but the crowds were already INSANE. Park Rangers made do with the limited parking they had in an effort to accommodate the
stampede large groups of people. If you do decide to view the volcano at night plan on either coming long before sundown, or in the middle of the night when the crowds are smaller. Be sure to bring warm clothing for night viewing, as even during the summer, the temperature can dip down into the 50s.
A trip to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is well worth the time, drive, and entry fee. If you don’t want to drive, there are tours you can take, but my recommendation is to go at it on your own. And if you like to hike, I’d definitely recommend spending more than just a day in the park. This is something the wife and I would like to do on our next visit. There aren’t any resort areas nearby, but the park is home to The Volcano House and cabins for military/DoD.
There’s much more to the park than we’ve explored here; we’ve only scratched the surface. For more information about the various activities and sights, visit the National Park Service. Be sure to also check the NPS website right before your visit, as conditions are constantly changing at the park.