The Big Island is famous for more than just smooth, Kona coffee, it is also famous for its active volcanoes! While there weren’t any volcanoes spilling lava during our stay in Hawaii, we were able to tour Volcanoes National Park and view the craters, and steam vents, up close.
Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park was slightly over two hours by car from our hotel in Kona. It was an easy drive, and the scenery was unreal. Going over to the park, we drive up and over the mountain which allowed us to see lava fields from the car. We were also able to see the vegetation growing back over the lava fields; many of which were centuries old.
It was incredible to see how the lava dried over the years, and the land formations they created. It was beautiful and eerie at the same time. As you head in Hilo from highway 200, you can see the land go from lava and desolate, to lush and tropical. It’s really incredible!
Entering Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is easy. There were hardly any cars in front of us at the gate, and it’s only $25 for one car. The parking lot for the visitor’s center was less than a minute from the gate, so it was easy to enter, park, and then put on our hiking shoes before visiting the Visitor’s Center.
The Visitor’s Center is a must-see at Volcanoes National Park. They have incredible maps, and the rangers will gladly give you history, facts, and any information you need. They are super nice! We spent some time there before starting our first hike.
We decided to go for a flat hike since we had the kids with us. The flat hike wove through the steam vents. Apparently I cannot handle the sulfur, and I quickly needed to turn around and go back towards the Visitor’s Center. At least the kids were OK. I was left with a burning sore throat for the next twelve hours! I recommend trying another trail when you go, just a thought, but I digress. . .
Since that trail didn’t work, we went over to “Crater Trail” and hiked down towards the crater. It was lush and tropical; it was also very steep! This is fine with medium to full size kids, but if your kids are little, I would not recommend this trail. Although it is very steep, it’s such a great workout; and it was really beautiful!
After hiking, we stopped into Volcano House for lunch. This is a restaurant inside the historic inn, Volcano House, across from the Visitor’s Center at Volcanoes National Park. The food was really good, and we had a view of one of the craters! It was stunning and surreal to eat lunch knowing we were practically on top of a volcano crater! Eeeek! -that being said, I highly recommend it! Haha
After lunch, it started raining, so we decided to do the car tour. There is a road which leads you to many significant lava fields, and then ends up at the ocean where you can look back and see the lava trails on the mountain. Plus, the oceanfront offers an incredible arch!
The drive is really well planned out by the park service. There are signs along the road which tell you the name of the lava field, and the year of the eruption. The significant eruptions have turn-offs where you can park your car and view the lava field. You can get some incredible photos and views of the lava fields this way!
The ranger at the beach was also extremely nice. She told us about the lava fields leading to the ocean, some of which were roughly seven hundred years old! There was also a trail near the ocean where you can view ancient Pu’u Loa Petroglyphs drawings. We were too tired to stop and look at them, which I regret now. We should have topped to see them. If you go, stop and see them! They have been there for over six hundred years!
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is a must-see if you visit the Big Island. After all, where else are you going to be able to see lava fields and learn the history behind them? It’s incredible!
Shop my hiking outfit from Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park:
Thanks for stopping by! More Hawaii coverage coming!