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Hawaii Volcanoes National Park – Tips and Images

The December 2013 newsletter focused on various national parks, showing different ways to enjoy the parks with your children. I was very inspired by the contributors and their experiences at national parks from east to west.

Throughout 2014 I am going to feature one national park each month here on the blog. Our family has traveled to many of the western parks and enjoyed exploring their wonders. I desire to share those adventures with you and perhaps spark a desire in your family to travel to one soon.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park – 2005

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
The most recent national park that I have visited is Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island of Hawaii. We have been there several times now and each time spent time doing something different. If you are planning a visit, don’t miss their Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Trip Planner.

View of Kilauea from Jaegger Museum 2005

On our most recent visit, we also spent time at the Visitor’s Center viewing the displays and reminding ourselves of the opportunities there are for exploring. Of course, the main attraction is the Jaegger Museum and Kilauea volcano itself. These are such awesome places to start your visit if you want to learn more about the volcanic activity in the area. We used this museum as a way to support our study of volcanoes and geology. What better way to learn could there be?

Kilauea 2013 – Lots of VOG (volcanic gases)

If you are planning a visit to the Big Island, it is a drive from either the Hilo side or the Kona side. The amazing thing to realize is that most of the time you are on island you are actually not very far from the large volcanoes that reside there, some still active. See a map here: Hawaii Island.

Trail to Thurston Lava Tube – 2004

After visiting the museum, you can drive to Thurston Lava Tube and actually walk through a dark, damp tube that was formed by flowing lava. This is an easy walk and everyone should experience it. This walk is in a part of the park that is like a rainforest with large ferns and vines and beautiful bird sounds. The first time we came here I was surprised at the contrasts of this national park with its volcanic moonscape and then the lush rainforest. Truly there is something for everyone.

There are several viewing spots along Crater Rim Drive. Stop at a few of the spots and see the way the lava flowed, forming bumps and layers. Take in the caldera of Kilauea and stop at the steam vents.

If you have more time and are interested in taking in more of the park, take a hike! There are trails you can use to visit more of this awesome landscape. There is one trail where there are ancient petroglyphs.

Hiking out past the end of the road on the lava. Reflectors mark the trail. 2005

Our family hiked out on the lava several years ago and we were able to see actual lava flowing. It was an amazing experience and I hear that at times you can hike out on this section of the park after dark and see the lava actually flowing into the ocean. We have never done that and it seems a little risky to me but many people have done it and survived.:)

Moving lava – see the red hot spots?

Warning: The day we were there the museum and several of the trails were closed because of toxic fumes from the volcano. The winds were not blowing  and the accumulated fumes were on a level that was dangerous for prolonged exposure. See this page for more details: Area Closures.

We took a bike tour of the park with a touring company. It was a fantastic day and the guide was super knowledgeable about volcanoes as well as the plants that we saw along the way. I highly recommend this tour for families: Bike Volcano.

At the steam vents 2013

At the end of the Chain of Craters Road, there is a picnic area, restrooms, and little shop for snacks. You can walk out where the lava has covered the road in past eruptions.

Flying in a helicopter is the best way to see the active volcano

My husband and two of my sons took a helicopter tour that flew up over the volcano. They said it was an awesome experience to see down into the caldera with active lava flow. They saw lava skylights where the lava flows through tubes and the top opens up so you can see the glowing red lava. They flew with Safari Tours and were very impressed with the safety and knowledge of the guide.They flew out of the Hilo airport. Check out the video on the Safari Tours website.

There is a Junior Ranger program for kids at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

There are two campgrounds in the national park. There is also the historic Volcano House. We have never stayed there but have been inside and it looks like a great place to stay.

We have experienced all kinds of weather at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Twice it rained on us and the last time it was perfectly clear and beautifully sunny. Even when it rains it is not cold so shorts and sweatshirt are the most you would ever need.

This past November during our trip to this awesome national park we realized that we need to spend some more time there on the next Big Island visit. We would like to explore the area on foot and perhaps stay at the Volcano House Hotel. There is also an art center at the park that we have not visited yet…so many things to do!

Here are some additional websites to explore:
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Info – webcams, eruption information
Volcano Art Center 

There are two other national historical parks we visited on the Big Island.

Pu ‘uhonua O Honaunau – The Place of Refuge is a reconstructed ancient Hawaiian city. It is an awesome example of history and culture. The view from the park is amazing.

Pu ‘ukohala Heiau – This is a great place to get out and stretch your legs. Walking on the path of ancient Hawaiian kings and learning more about the history of the Hawaiian Islands. This is also an incredibly beautiful part of the Big Island. Take a trip here and then explore the area’s little charming towns.

If you find yourself on the island of Oahu, you can visit Pearl Harbor or the World War II Valor In The Pacific National Monument. We took our boys when they were studying modern history and this place immerses you in the history of this landmark location. We really enjoyed the tour, the museum, and learning so much in one small place.

We have felt so blessed to be able to travel to these amazing Hawaiian National Parks and Historical Sites. They have helped build in our hearts a special place for Hawaii and the national park system.

If you have any questions, please feel to ask me and I will hopefully be able to help you out.


2 thoughts on “Hawaii Volcanoes National Park – Tips and Images

  1. Amazing national park trip! I would love to see these. Hopefully I can remember to see these parks instead of just drinking umbrella drinks on the beach next trip. 😉

  2. Great pictures! We went in 1995 (wow, almost 20 years ago) and were there for three weeks fitting in 4 islands (Oahu – for a conference so didn’t see much, Maui, Kauai, and Hawaii). Hawaii was our favorite. We spent most of our limited time at the National Park and didn’t even make it around the whole island – we stayed on the Hilo side. Kauai was also very nice. We enjoyed the other two, but found them a little more touristy than we’d prefer.

    I’m afraid that living on the east coast means we are unlikely to go again. Too many other places to go that we haven’t been to yet!

    I’m looking forward to your posts on other National Parks.


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