There are two active volcanos on Hawaii island, Kilauea which is one of the World’s most active volcanos and Mauna Loa which is the largest. We spent an afternoon visiting the Volcano National Park and saw the main active crater on Kilauea.
There are many ways of enjoying the park. If you have one or more days there are several hiking trails and it is also possible to camp within the park. We decided to explore by car which can be done comfortably in around 3-5 hours depending how often you stop and how long you spend at each sight. We had heard the active crater glows red at night so timed our visit to enable us to see it during the day and early evening.
We arrived at the park at around 2.30 pm and called into the visitor centre where we were given a helpful map. We set off to view the Kilauea crater first which is next to the Jagger Museum. This is located a couple of miles from the visitor centre. Lava has been erupting continuously from this crater since 1983 which has added around 500 acres to the land mass of the island.
Near to the crater were the steam vents (above).
We drove the 19 mile ‘Chain of Craters Road’ which was incredibly scenic, starting with rainforest at the beginning (higher up the volcano), driving past several craters and to the barren volcanic landscape as we descended towards the sea. We visited the 500 year old Thurston lava tube (above) which is set within the rainforest. We followed the walkway which descended to the entrance, where the cool air was a welcome relief from the heat of the day. The lava tube has several lights which help guide you through the darkness. The tube could be described as a long black cave tunnel where water frequently drips from the roots of the trees above.
Further along we stopped at Lua Manu crater where you can see the remains of the lava flows from 1974. It’s surprising how quickly trees begin to grow again and the picture above captures ‘before and after’.
At the end of the Chain of Craters road we saw the 60 foot Holei Sea Arch and the black coastal landscape (above).
Entry to the park is $15 per car which enables you to see all of the various sights and points of interest. There are no cafes within the park so it is advisable to bring your own drinks and snacks. The Chain of Craters road is smooth and well maintained right down to the sea with many viewing points and places to stop.
We drove back to the Kilauea crater at around 6.15 pm as it was starting to get dark and witnessed the orange glow of the molten magma from the lava lake within the crater which starts to deepen to red as the sky gets darker. The car park and viewing area were now much more crowded and it was an amazing sight and well worth staying a bit later to see.