What To See And Do Inside Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park protects some of the most unique geological, biological, and cherished cultural landscapes in the world. Extending from sea level to 13,677 feet, the park encompasses the summits of two of the world's most active volcanoes - Kīlauea and Mauna Loa - and is a designated International Biosphere Reserve and UNESCO World Heritage Site.
While you can easily spend a week or two exploring this vast park and still not see everything and not hike every trail, you can check out the highlights in a day or two.
Start at the Visitor Centre, grab a map and chet to the friendly rangers. They'll be able to give you updates on what's going on that day. And with so much volcanic activity you can be sure there will be updates! There is a very handy
Here are the sights you really shouldn't miss:
Kilauea Volcano - The best place to start is the Steaming Vents or one of the two Kilauea overlooks. Better yet, walk the trail which connects all three for the most scenic view of the crater from different angles. You can also grab a coffee overlooking the crater at the Volcano House.
Chain of Craters Road - Drive all the way down to the ocean and marvel at the stunning views. Take a short stroll to Holei Sea Arch. Stop for a picnic at the most scenic spot on the island: Kealakomo picnic tables. For where to get your food see tip number 4 below. If you have a time for a longer walk definitely take the walk to Hawaii's largest petroglyph site Pu'u Loa.
Thurston Lava Tube - Short and sweet, a walk through the lava tube is quite a thrilling experience. Wear shoes with a good sole and be sure to be there as early as possible. Ideally make it your first stop of the day. After 9am it gets very busy. It's on everyone's itinerary for a good reason.
Kilauea Iki Crater - the trailhead to this incredible hike is right across the street from the lava tube. It's a moderately rated trail that takes you through a stunning rainforest and into an inactive volcano crater. It's a really special and one of a kind walk. This is also on everyone's agenda so go early - or for sunset!
Also check out: Devastation Trail, Volcano Art Gallery (near the car park at the Visitor Centre, so much local art in such a small space!), Ka'u Desert Trail (technically outside the park, our favorite local hiking trail!), Hilina Pali Overlook (another beautiful picnic spot), Kipukapuaulu Trail (beautiful quiet and quick loop trail north of the park), Lava Tree Molds (another quick stop north of the main park).
- Visit this link for the latest updates on road closures inside the park which may affect your planned driving route.
- Wear layers. There are several climate zones inside the park and the higher the altitude (especially around the crater rim) the colder it will get. Don't be that tourist wrapped up in beach towels
- Download the National Park Service App here.
- There is a grocer and a cafe with Hawaiian comfort food at the Kilauea Military Camp. (Super insider tip: there is also a bowling alley open to the public - where else in the world can you go bowling next to an active volcano?)
- If you're driving to or from Kona via the southern route, be sure to make a stop at the Kahuku Unit of the national park.