Located on Big Island, the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park was established on the 1st of August 1916, and is home to both the Kilauea and Mauna Loa volcanoes, both of which are active. For those who have been hoping to have the opportunity to see Hawaii’s volcanoes up-close while visiting the island, spending a day at this national park is definitely a must-do.
The Kilauea Volcano
While the Mauna Loa volcano may be the largest volcano on the planet, it is the Kilauea volcano that is the most famous in Hawaii, because even though it is the youngest of the five volcanoes on Big Island, it is also the most active, and has been erupting continuously since 1983. A visit to the Kilauea Visitor Center will teach you more about this, with a 25 minute film to introduce you to the park, as well as updates on the latest eruptions. You can also schedule guided tours and ranger talks from here, which are useful if you would like to learn more about the volcano and the park itself.
The Jagger Museum
For those who would like to learn more about volcanoes and how they work, a visit to the Jagger Museum, which is situated within the park, is a must. This museum is devoted to volcanology, and has a number of exhibits that are dedicated to the volcanoes on the island, showing you how they developed and how they have managed to influence and change the landscape around them. The museum also has an overlook just outside it, and, from here, you will be able to enjoy an extremely advantageous viewpoint over the Halema’uma’u Crater, which is another one that has been frequently active.
Thurston Lava Tube
There are not many places in the world where you can actually walk through lava, but the Thurston Lava Tube is one of these. This tube was created hundreds of years ago, when lava flowed through the area, but was only discovered in 1913 by a local newspaper publisher. The tube measures 600 feet long, with its height ranging from 10 to 30 feet, and appears in quite a surreal way out of a lush green forest.
Leave No Trace
One of the principals that is encouraged at all national parks is to leave no trace, meaning that you should leave the area in the same way that you found it. This is especially important at the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, as this area has already been quite affected by tourists, such as with the lava stalactites that used to hang in the Thurston Lava Tube, but which were then taken away by tourists as souvenirs. While it may be tempting to remove a small amount of lava, or anything else you may find, to take home with you, this is not only detrimental to the environment, but is also illegal under federal law.
The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is definitely a must-visit for those who are visiting Big Island for the first time, as it will provide you with a unique glimpse into the island’s one-of-a-kind ecology. From the incredible Kilauea Volcano to the surreal Thurston Lava Tube, there is so much to see and do around the park, so be sure to leave yourself with a full day in which you can thoroughly explore it.