Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii Volcanoes National Parkhas been erupting more or less continuously since 1983, and geologists theorize the activity could last many more years. The latest eruption began on March 11, 2008, creating a new crater that has been issuing ash-laden fumes within the Halemaumau Crater. People continue to throng to Hawaii Volcanoes to witness fiery streams of lava making their way to the Pacific. Over the years, the latest series of eruptions, the island's most voluminous in recorded history, has added hundreds of acres to the surface area of the island of Hawaii. Not too far off shore, Loihi Seamount is also erupting at a rate that should allow it to emerge as Hawaii's youngest island in a mere 100,000 years. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park protects both Kilauea and Mauna Loa volcanoes. The trail that leads to the summit of Mauna Loa, the most massive mountain on earth and taller than Everest, if measured from its base on the ocean floor, passes through intriguing volcanic formations and island wilderness. The trail takes three or four days of rugged mountain hiking to complete. Kilauea, by contrast, is easily accessible by car and provides a number of amenities. In addition to the fantastic and bizarre lava formations, craters, pits, and lava tubes, Kilauea's flanks shelter lush rain forests and stark volcanic deserts. Despite the relative safety from which visitors can view the current eruption, this geologic process is far from benign. In 1990, lava flows destroyed the entire town of Kalapana. The year before, they engulfed and burned Hawaii Volcanoes National Park's visitor center and surrounded, but did not harm, 700-year-old Wahaula heiau, a native temple adjacent to the park structure. What to see and do: Start your volcanic adventure at the visitor center on the rim of Kilauea Caldera, where you can view a film chronicling recent eruptions, island geology, and Hawaiian culture. Exhibits expand your knowledge of the forces at work in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and their ongoing importance to native Hawaiians. The rangers here can give you updates on the current eruption, issue backcountry permits, and provide invaluable trail information. They regularly hold informative programs about local geology, history, and island culture. Once you are acquainted with the basics of Hawaii Volcanoes, start out along the Crater Rim Drive for spectacular views of the caldera and access to a wide number and variety of sites. Historic and scientific buildings in the park include the Hawaii Volcano Observatory, which is not open to the public, but which is situated near an overlook of Halemaumau Crater, legendary home of the goddess Pele. Nearby is the Thomas A. Jaggar Museum with its state-of-the-art multimedia exhibits on Hawaii's volcanology. It is open daily from 8:30 AM to 8 PM and is the best place in the park to obtain up-to-the-minute information on the current eruption. Volcano House (808-967-7321), a privately run hotel and restaurant, rests on the site of the first "hotel" in Hawaii, a grass hut that housed visitors to Kilauea from 1846 to 1866 for $1 a night. A wooden Victorian structure replaced a second grass shack in 1877, and was moved across the road when the current hotel, which dates from the 1940s, was erected. The 1877 building is now home to the Volcano Art Center (808-967-7565), which exhibits and sells the work of some of the island's best artists. If you want to get closer to the action than an overlook, you can hike right through Kilauea Iki crater, or witness the regrowth of island flora along Devastation Trail. Halemaumau Trail, a seven-mile round-trip, will take you into the heart of Kilauea Caldera. A short hike from Crater Rim Drive leads through the 400-yard-long Thurston Lava Tube, swathed in ferns at either end. For hardier hikers, the three-to-four-day trek to Mauna Loa's summit requires strenuous mountain hiking skills and should not be undertaken by beginners.
- Hawaii, United States of America 96718
- 19.42951200, -155.25750700
- Visit Website
- (808) 985-6000