Please note that much of the park is closed indefinitely as of May 11, 2018, due to the volcanic eruptions. According to the National Park Service:
"Only the Kahuku Unit is open during normal hours, Friday through Sunday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Kahuku is a one-hour drive south of the park’s main entrance on Highway 11. Approximately two-thirds of the park remains closed due to ongoing seismic activity, summit deflation, and a possible steam explosion at the summit of Kīlauea Volcano. The park will reopen closed areas when it is safe to do so."
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is one of the biggest and most captivating of all the Big Island attractions. It is Hawaii’s only designated World Heritage Site due to its exceptional geological and geographical qualities. Seventy million years of migration, volcanism and transformation is exhibited. These processes essentially pushed bare land from the ocean and enshrouded it with many rare ecosystems and a unique human culture. The two biggest draws inside Hawaii Volcanoes National Park are two of the planet’s most active volcanoes. Tourists gain insight into how the islands came to be and revel in incredible volcanic terrain.
One of the most fascinating facts about the Hawaiian islands is they are created by a volcanic mountain range comprising five volcanoes in total. Though the Hawaii volcanoes can be a worrisome aspect to those on Hawaii holidays who have never been near a volcano, they are an integral part in the lives of Hawaiians. Volcanoes in Hawaii are categorized as active, dormant and extinct. Active volcanoes in Hawaii have erupted in the last few hundred years. Active volcanoes in Hawaii include Kilauea on the Big Island and Haleakala in the southeast of Maui. Dormant volcanoes have erupted in the last few thousand years but not in the last few hundred and an extinct volcano, like Kohala on Big Island, has not erupted in thousands of years.
There is a myriad of things to do when visiting the Hawaii volcanoes inside the park. Visitors can either head up with a Hawaiian car rental and explore for the day or take several days to discover the many riveting aspects of the park. Those who only have a maximum of three hours for Hawaii tours of the park should explore the Kilauea crater summit through Crater Rim Drive. The drive spans an eleven mile circuit that loops around the peek, passes through arid desert landscape and tropical rain forest. The loop passes over the caldera bottom, a sunken area resulting from the collapse or eruption of a volcano. Short walks and scenic stops are possible along the route.
With a few more hours visitors should explore the coastal area of the park, accessed by the Chain of Craters Road, and visit the East Rift. Spanning twenty miles, the Chain of Craters Road descends 3,700 feet and stops where the lava once flowed across the road in 2003. Visiting the park and witnessing these volcanoes in Hawaii is a surreal experience. Where the bright red, burning hot lava reveals itself seems like another world entirely. The terrain around the Hawaii volcanoes is a dark, charcoal color reminiscent of the moon’s surface. A tour is one of the best ways to get a better understanding of Hawaiian history and the birth of the islands. Another phenomenal way to see Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is via a helicopter tour. Seeing the impressive area in its entirety is an image that burns into your mind. The only way to see any lava flowing in the park, for the most part, is by air.
Exploring the volcanoes in Hawaii for a few days affords the ultimate experience. Abundant Hawaii hiking trails gratify the curiosity of visitors. Both long wilderness hikes and day hikes grant adventures unlike any other for tourists who want to explore beyond the beaten path. Viewing lava from the active volcanoes in Hawaii depends on the alternating activity of the volcanoes and is very rare. Visitors traversing the path should note there isn’t any fuel, water or food available on the Chain of Craters Road so pack carefully. First come, first served camping is available free of charge at the Kulanaokuaiki and Namakanipaio campgrounds. Visitors must show proof of their admission ticket. Camping is a great experience as both of the areas offer nearby back country trails within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
The Volcano House is the only lodging inside the park, built back in 1846, and offers 42 rooms all with spectacular views. The hotel is a short walk from Crater Rim Road and 30 miles from Hilo. Other ways to explore the Hawaii volcanoes are via bicycles, ranger programs and several events held annually in the park. Through any mode of exploration, visitors witness raw, natural beauty through rainforests and deserts, rift zones and craters, sensitive lava features and fascinating archaeological sites.