If you are on the Big Island and one of the volcanoes is erupting, lava viewing is a must-do activity for your vacation. There is a lot to explore at Hawaii Volcanoes National park and Big Island in the state of Hawaii was formed by the continuous volcanic activity. It is such a great experience to see this happen all in action inside the Volcano national Park. Out of the four active volcanoes in Big Island, Kilauea Volcano has been erupting continuously and is one of the most active volcanoes in the world.
The volcano is a 30 minute drive from the city of Hilo. The park is opened 24 hours all 7 days and very well maintained. The park has a visitor center, a must stop place to get an introduction to the park, collect the maps,brochures and one of your best options to plan the visit inside the park. We did a one full day trip to the park driving from Kona to Hilo which was close to 2 hour drive time. If you are considering to spend some time in Hilo, plan 2 nights in Hilo to explore other places after visiting the Volcanoes. For more information on Big Island Itinerary, visit my page
Things to see inside the Park
- Crater Rim Drive – This is a 11 mile road that circles the summit caldera and provides very good access to several scenic stops. You can even hike down the 11 mile Crater Rim Trail that is slightly intense hike and gives you a more close up view of the caldera viewing experience.
- Kilauea Iki trail loop – This is a 4 mile hike that takes you across the still crater floor
- Thurston Lava Tube – The Lava tube is a tunnel left behind a river of red lava and is open to public to walk through the tunnel. The entry to the lave tube will look like a rain forest, well connected with walkways and safety lighting.
- Jaggar Museum – A very popular place to visit and learn about the volcanoes and history of the eruptions that occured in the island. You will also find rangers talking about the history of the caldera formation and giving volcano talks to the visitors
- Sulphur Banks
There is a lot to explore at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. People spend whole day here, camping, hiking and exploring. If your intent is to spot some lava, this is probably your best bet, from a safe distance.
Lava Viewing in the Crater
You can see a beautiful view of the Halema’uma’u crater within the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The access to the crater is limited because of safety issues, but there are several overlooks that give a stunning overview of the crater at about 1 mile distance. The most popular and accessible view of the crater can be found at the Jaggar museum and overlook. During daytime an impressive plume can be seen, but the view is truly breathtaking after sunset, when the glow of the lava can be seen against a background of stars. At night, darkness brings a beautiful view entirely and a warm orange glow emanates from the volcano. As the park never closes, you can visit any time throughout the night.
Guided Lava Tours
If the lava flows are on land that is accessible to public, you can join a guided lava tour to get very close to the lava, or join a boat tour to see the lava stream into the ocean. The best option is to book a helicopter tour for a very close live action of the volcano that is expensive and can cost you ~250 – 300$ per person.
Visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is one of the ultimate travel experience when vacationing on the Big Island of Hawaii. It is definitely worth to spend the whole day in this spectacular destination and the beautiful scenic views that you get to experience on the way to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Travel Tips to see the Volcano
1.Planning – Plan plenty of time to visit the National Park. One day Visit is great if you are short of time but highly recommend to view the the volcano in the evening. The weather is unpredictable, and can rain anytime. Be prepared to take light weight rain jackets with you. The park has only one restaurant that is crowded most of the tip and slightly expensive. Please take some snacks or plan to eat on your way to the park.
2. Volcano Viewing (Dusk time) – Highly recommend to stay in the park after dark to see the orange-red color of the volcano. It is so beautiful to see the red glow emanate from the ongoing eruption of the crater that you can see live on action at the Jagger Museum overlook. The park is open 24-7 that allows you to experience the magnificent colors of the volcano after dark.