There is something really eerie about walking near an active volcano, gazing into old craters of previous eruptions and seeing/feeling the hot air vents coming from the ground below you.
In the Big Island, you can experience that eerie feeling and even multiply it by staying overnight in the Volcano National Park. I highly recommend this if you are planning a multi-day visit or want to hike larger distances. The park is quite remote and since there is only one main road in the island, chances are you will need to drive at least a couple hours each way to get there and back.
We left our hotel super early to stop along the way to sightsee. We decided to stay for the sunset and watch the Kilauea Volcano lava glowing at night.
Here are some basic things to do and bring if planning to visit:
- Visit the Park’s website and plan ahead.
- Check the latest road conditions in the information center or at your hotel desk, sometimes the lava spills over the existing roads so certain areas are shut down.
- Take plenty of water, snacks, sunscreen, flashlights, batteries, camera, sweater or jacket (it gets quite chilly at night) and a sturdy pair of boots or hiking shoes.
- Be prepared for emergencies by carrying a whistle and small first aid kit when hiking over lava fields. Since the rocks are sharp, even a klutzy fall can do some damage.
- Make sure your gas tank is full, there were very few gas stations on the way and you don’t want to run out of gas at night in the middle of nowhere, do you?
Have I managed to scare you yet? I hope not, because the park is really beautiful and being so close to an active volcano is one of those experiences in life that you need to do at least once.
If you are not a hiker and want the short and sweet version of this park, the best time to visit is mid-afternoon. Start with the information center, grab a map and check with the rangers about road/trail conditions, then take a short drive and walk down to the Thurston lava tube.It’s a very short walk in a well cleared trail.
Next, drive down the Crater Rim Drive and stop to appreciate the vastness of the Kilauea Iki crater (love the names!). As you are peering into this humungous hole, try not to think about what would happen if the active volcano in which you are standing on were to erupt.
This visit was on Mr. GoodLife’s bucket list so I was trying hard to not freak. Unfortunately most of the roads were closed due to lava flows and we couldn’t get close enough to actually see the lava, so another trip will be required.
One amazing place to visit is the Steam Vents.
I just had to run over to it (not the ones in the picture, you may fall into the crevices) and stick my hands out to feel it- silly, but I do that in New York as well.
Stay for the amazing sunset at the observation center and watch the lava reflect off the volcano walls at night.