Volcanoes National Park is the state's premier natural
attraction, containing tow of the most active volcanoes
in the world, Kilauea and Mauna Loa. The park extends
for 377 miles from the 13,777-foot summit of Mauna Loa
down to the Pacific, where Kilaluea, the youngest of the
volcanic mountains, has since 1983 been pushing into the
ocean from a vent, creating new land.
Compared to more active volcanoes around the Pacific
Rim and in other areas, Hawaii's volcanoes are fairly
benign, so you can pass eruptions and lava flows in relative
safety. No matter where you look, you'll see volcano views
from a range of perspectives.
Much of the park is preserved as wilderness, but it does
provide 150 miles of trails, two visitor centers, and
two scenic drives with a wealth of volcano views An 11-mile
drive, called Crater Rim, passes by many rising steam
vents. The Chain of Craters Road, a 46-mile round trip
journey, goes by historic pit craters and heads down toward
the ocean. Along the way you can see lava flowing like
molasses. Three days has been suggested as a good time
frame for exploring the park if you're not taking extensive
hikes that eat up more time.
Among the top hikes is the trail to Halemaumau Crater,
emitting steam and sulfur. It's a moderate 3 1/2-mile
hike and goes down 500 feet to the floor of Halemaumau
You can also get a view and walk into a lava flow on
a 10-minute walk from Crater Rim Drive.
The Volcano House Hotel and Restaurant and the Kilauea
Visitors Center and Park Headquarters are where you'll
learn a great deal about the park and where you can get
permits for overnight camping. They're all just inside
the park's gate.
There's no way to predict exactly what you'll see at
the park. With luck, you'll view streaming rivers of red
lava and you might see fountains of lava shooting hundreds
of feet into the air. Or, the volcanoes could be completely
still and silent. Bulletins sometimes keep you up-to-date
on the volcano's activities.