Complete Guide to Visiting Volcanoes National Park
Highlights of Visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Volcano National Park is an incredible National Park that can be visiting in a single day. Below are some of the highlights of Hawaii Volcano National Park:
- Active Volcanoes: Witness the awe-inspiring power of nature as you observe the park’s active volcanoes, particularly Kīlauea and Mauna Loa. Kīlauea has been erupting since 1983. Check the NPS website for current eruption information.
- Halema’uma’u Crater: Located within Kīlauea Caldera, Halema’uma’u is a massive crater. You can walk around the edge of the crater. The inside of the volcano frequently sees volcanic activity.
- Thurston Lava Tube: Take a fascinating walk through a lava tube—a natural tunnel formed by flowing lava. This short walk is fun and impressive.
- Chain of Craters Road: Drive or cycle along Chain of Craters Road, a scenic route that descends from the park’s summit to the ocean. Along the way, you will see multiple craters, lava fields, and stunning coastal vistas.
- Jaggar Museum and Overlook: Visit the Thomas A. Jaggar Museum, where you can learn about the park’s volcanic activity, geology, and history through exhibits and displays. From the overlook, you’ll have a panoramic view of the Kīlauea Caldera and the volcanic plume.
- Pu’u Loa Petroglyphs: A short hike across an ancient lava field takes you the ancient petroglyphs, etched into the rock by Native Hawaiians.
- Kīlauea Iki Trail: Hike the Kīlauea Iki Trail, a 4-mile loop that takes you through lush rainforest, across a solidified lava lake, and into the crater itself. This trail offers a unique perspective on the volcanic landscape.
- Explore unique ecosystems: from the coast to lush forests, to arid craters. You will see unique plant life, including the ‘ōhi’a lehua trees, and keep an eye out for endangered bird species such as the nēnē (Hawaiian goose).
Essential Guides to Visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Things to Know About Visiting Volcano National Park
General Overview of Hawaii Volcano National Park
Hawaii Volcano National Park is an interesting park on the big island of Hawaii with active volcanos and unique ecosystems. You can easily see most of the park in a single day and even a half day is enough to see some of the top attractions.
There are 2 main parts of the park. The easiest and most popular area to visit is just inside the park entrance where you can see Kīlauea Crater, Sulphur vents and the Thurston Lava Tube. If you are just spending a half day in Volcano National Park, prioritize this area.
From the entrance you can also drive down Chain of Craters Road. This drive takes about 1.5 hour to complete round trip plus extra times for stopping. The road descends from the volcano to the coast past volcanic craters, lava fields, and ends near the sea arch on the coast. You can also visit the petroglyphs in this part of the park. This is drive is definitely worth it.
In addition to these two areas, you can also do the scenic drive to Mauna Loa. This drive is about 17 miles through Lava fields and is a great addition if you have time.
Best Time to Visit Volcano National Park
The weather in Hawaii Volcano National Park is generally pleasant all year long with consistent temperatures. The temperatures in the crater part of the park are significantly cooler than the temperature at the coast. Make sure to pack layers and be prepared for cool temperatures at the higher elevations.
How to Get to Volcano National Park
To get to Volcano National Park you will need to fly into the airport on the island of Hawaii (Kona). You can find flights between other Hawaiian Islands. We flew into Honolulu and took a small flight on Hawaiian Airlines to Kona.
From the airport or your resort, the best way to get to the National Park is to rent a car or go with an organized tour group. Check out this guided tour or look for a rental car through Discover Cars.
Need to Know About Hawaii Volcano National Park
Below are a few things to keep in mind when visiting the park:
- Volcanic Activity: The park is home to active volcanoes. It’s important to stay informed about current volcanic conditions, eruption alerts, and safety measures. Check the park’s official website or visitor center for the latest updates and follow any guidelines or closures in place.
- Safety Precautions: Volcanic environments can be hazardous. Be aware of potential risks such as toxic gases, unstable ground, and sudden changes in weather conditions. Follow all posted signs and warnings, stay on designated trails, and heed the guidance of park rangers for a safe and enjoyable visit.
- Weather Conditions: The weather in the park can vary significantly. Be prepared for fluctuating temperatures, rain, wind, and even fog. Dress in layers, wear sturdy footwear, and carry essentials like water, sunscreen, a hat, and a rain jacket. Check the forecast before your visit and plan accordingly.
- Cultural and Natural Importance: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park holds great cultural and natural significance. Respect the sacredness of the land, follow cultural protocols, and treat the park with care. Learn about the history, traditions, and practices of the native Hawaiian people to deepen your understanding and appreciation of the park’s heritage.
How Much Time do you Need in Volcano National Park?
You should plan to spend a minimum of 3 hours exploring the park, but for a better experience enjoy a full day in the park. A full day in the park gives you time to spend a 1/2 day hiking and exploring the crater and then drive down Chain of Craters Rd.
Lodging Near Hawaii Volcano National Park
You can get to Volcano National Park from almost anywhere on the island in under 2 hours. This means that if you plan on visiting Hawaii Volcano National Park for the day you can truly stay almost anywhere on the island. If you are looking to stay right near Hawaii Volcano National Park, a few options include:
Volcano House operated by Hawai’i Volcanoes Lodge Company
Explore many small B and B or house rentals