Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

When most people think of Hawai’i, they think of paradise. With its lush green islands, spectacular waterfalls and gorgeous beaches, it’s easy to see why. But what many people don’t know is that Hawai’i is also home to some of the most active volcanoes in the world. So if you’re looking for an adventure, then a trip to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is a must.

Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park encompasses two active volcanoes: Kīlauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, and Mauna Loa, the world’s most massive shield volcano. The park provides scientists with insight into the birth and development of the Hawaiian Islands, and ongoing studies into the processes of volcanism. For visitors, the park offers dramatic volcanic landscapes, as well as glimpses of rare flora and fauna.

Interesting Facts

Each national park has its own unique history and fun facts, but because Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is so dynamic and its landscape changes every year, it’s even more fascinating.

Here are some fun and interesting facts about Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park:

  • The park was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.

  • Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park encompasses two active volcanoes: Kilauea and Mauna Loa. The large eruption of the Kilauea volcano in 2018 changed the landscape of the park forever and Kilauea remains one of the most active volcanoes in the world.

  • Standing at over 13,000 feet above sea level, Mauna Loa is the largest volcano in the world.

  • The park is home to seven different ecological zones including a tree fern forest, which receives nearly 100 inches of rainfall a year.

  • Many Hawaiians believe that Kilauea is inhabited by a family of fire gods, including Pele, the goddess of volcanoes and fire and the creator of the Hawaiian Islands.

  • Kilauea’s eruption that started in 1983 added more than 500 acres of new land have been added to the island of Hawai’i.

Getting to Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park

The island of Hawai’i, the “Big Island”, has two airports, one located in Kona and the other in Hilo. The Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park summit area, which is the most widely visited section of the park, is a 45-minute drive from Hilo and 2-2.5 hour drive from Kona. 

Most visitors fly into the Kona airport, making that airport a little busier than the one in Hilo. If you can get reasonable flights, I encourage you to fly into one airport and fly out of the other so that you can experience as much of the island as possible. Be sure to check on one-way rental car prices first. If you’re looking for things to do in Kona during your trip, check out this guide.

Don’t worry too much about which airport to fly into, Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is accessible from both sides of the island. You will need a rental car to explore the park as there is no public transportation in the park and other attractions are really spread out across the rest of the Big Island.

When To Visit

Temperatures and conditions vary significantly depending on the altitude and time of year in Hawai’i. The weather at the summit of Kilauea, which is 4,000 feet, changes daily and can be rainy and cold at any time of the year.

The driest season in Hawai’i is May through October, but it can rain any time of the year. The park’s coastal area at the end of the Chain of Craters Road is often hot, dry and windy, with the possibility of showers. If you want to avoid the crowds, spring and fall are generally the best times to visit the Big Island.

Time At The Park

If you want to see the lava up close*, allow at least two full days to visit Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. If you don’t plan to see lava up close, you can fit the highlights of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park into one day, but you can easily spend more than 3 days in the park.

Here are some tips to help you plan your visit to the park:

  • Entry to the park is $30 per private vehicle. Consider getting a National Park Pass before your trip if you plan to visit more than 3 parks in a year.

  • The Kilauea Visitor Center is open daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. and is located on the right just after you enter the park. I highly recommend you stop here on your way in. They have great information boards listing attractions, ranger talks, current conditions, and suggested itineraries for spending an hour, a full day, or multiple days in the park. You can also speak to the rangers for any last minute questions you may have.

  • In most national parks, visitors try to avoid the crowds by getting up early. That goes for Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, but afternoons in the park aren’t to be missed either. Lava viewing is best at night and stargazing can also be spectacular in this area. Make sure you pack enough food for a full day of adventures in the park.

  • There is a second area of ​​the park, the Kahuku Unit, which is only open Thursday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. This guide to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park focuses on the central peak area of ​​the park near the Kilauea Visitor Center, not the Kahuku Unit.

* Caution:
• Stay on marked trails and overlooks, and avoid earth cracks and cliff edges. Do not enter closed areas.
• Hazardous volcanic gases are billowing out the crater and present a danger to everyone, especially people with
heart or respiratory problems, infants, young children and pregnant women.

Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park Maps

Maps of the Hawaii Volcanoes National park are available at the NPS Website.

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