Introduction: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Poster is a magical, spiritual, wondrous, strange and beautiful place. The Park comprises a land of great contrasts and contradictions ranging from dry as dust desert to teeming tropical jungle; from frigid sub-arctic wasteland to steaming black sand beaches and rivers of flowing lava. Easily the most captivating part of any trip to The Big Island, most people don’t think to schedule enough time to explore this amazing place and wind-up hurrying through wishing they’d saved more time to see all the wonders of the Goddess Pele’s home. Established in 1916, the Park is almost half a million acres in area, about the size of O’ahu, but lots more interesting.
The star attractions in the Park are a pair of active volcanoes; Mauna Loa is the largest mountain on earth and Kilauea is most active volcano on earth. However, there are numerous other wonders from lava tubes to crawl down, black sand beaches with sea turtles to watch, mysterious petroglyph fields to explore, tropical jungles to hike through, endangered bird species to find, happy-face spiders to amuse and an otherworldly volcanic landscape so fresh it’s still steaming. In places it’s so fresh it’s still flowing.
At Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Poster you can tour by car, explore by bike, hike the most amazing and finest trails on the island over cinder cones, calderas and deserts on 140 miles of spectacularly diverse trails, wander the smoking lava fields, stand in the rain in a kipuka fern forest or climb to icy heights of volcanic summits. You can even sit back, relax and just enjoy the view or you can also peruse the best collection of art for sale in the entire state at the world-renowned Volcano Art Center.
The Park Entrance is above 4000 feet altitude and frequently chilly and wet; bring warm clothes and a rain jacket. Remember this if you’re tired of roasting on the beach, a day in the cool mist of the mountain fern forests may be just the thing to put the zing back in your Hawai’i vacation!
If you’ve never been here before, you’ve certainly never seen anything like this…and you may never get another chance. Be sure to allow plenty of time to see this fabulous, beautiful, mysterious place.
Parking is clearly marked in various areas of interest; do not park along the side of the road, on trails or other unmarked places. Public toilet facilities exist at the Visitor’s Center, Jaggar Museum. At the two drive-in campgrounds and at the end of Chain of Craters Road. Water is generally available to driving tourists at only these locations as well. In the backcountry, water is available in catchment basins at some of the shelters and huts. But you should check with Backcountry Rangers on availability first. There are no lakes or streams in the National Park whatsoever.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Poster is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. During daylight hours, an access fee is charged. The Visitor Center has a 24-hour information line at 808.985.7017 and there is a 24-hour eruption hotline at 808.985.6000. Within the Park tune to A.M. radio 530 for continuous information broadcast.
How To See The Park: Two main roads serve as scenic drives through the Park, showcasing the wide variety of climates, vegetation, landforms and other wonders; Crater Rim Drive and Chain of Craters Road.
Crater Rim Drive circumnavigates Kilauea Crater (as well as Halema’uma’u Crater, home of the Goddess Pele) in 11 intriguing miles. Although the drive can be made in less than 40 minutes, one is urged to schedule at least three hours to adequately cover the wonders and marvels along its path. Individual sites along Crater Rim Drive are described in detail elsewhere. But this incredible road, which serves as a great introduction to the Park. Runs through and connects the Volcano House, the newly remodeled Kilauea Visitor’s Center. The Volcano Art Center, numerous sulfur and steam fumaroles, Kilauea Military Camp. The informative and well-done Jaggar Museum and Hawaii Volcano Observatory. Numerous caldera overlook points including overlooks of Halema’uma’u, Devastation Trail. Kilauea Iki Crater which has perhaps the finest hiking trail in the Park trail and the justly famous Thurston Lava Tube.
The other scenic drive, Chain of Craters Road, takes off from Crater Rim Drive near the Devastation Trail and swoops down the volcano over 4000 feet to the ocean. In about twenty miles it dead-ends where lava flowed over the road in 2004. The road roughly parallels the active East Rift Zone (hence all those craters) and winds steeply down the Holei Pali through alternating basalt desert and thick ohi’a, fern and orchid forests, giving staggering vistas of the coastline below. Along this road, in addition to numerous craters and pits, is the turn-off to Hilina Pali road; a five mile drive to one of the most spectacular views in the State of Hawaii. Mauna Ulu, which last erupted in 1976, is along this road and the hike up this cone is one of the most amazing, and awe inspiring, anywhere.
There is a covered picnic shelter at Kealakomo Overlook and, after descending the Pali in long swooping curves. The road passes the parking area for Pu’u Loa Petroglyph field, the greatest concentration of petroglyphs in Polynesia. The road then passes the trailhead to Halape and Keauhou villages. Ravaged by tsunami 20 years ago, the Holei Sea Arch to dead end in the months-old lava. Even when several miles away. The lava flows look invitingly close and one is tempt to dash out and look at this wonder of nature. But the march is over rough terrain, dry and hot and likely much farther than it looks. Before venturing out to the lava flows, absolutely review the information in the section on hiking to the lava…it may save your life; it will certainly ensure your hike is much more enjoyable.