[Big Island Day 6] Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is a major destination on Big Island. We spent the entire visited most of the destinations in the park, including Jaggar Museum, Steam Vents, Sulfur Banks, Thurston Lava Tube, and Chains of Crater Road. Of course, the most memorable moment is to see the glowing lava after dark!

Jaggar Museum

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Crater at daytime
Halemaumau crater at daytime from Jaggar Museum

After a brief stop at the visitor center, we decided to tour the park in the clockwise direction, and thus Jaggar Museum was our first stop. From the exhibits, I learned that the island of Hawaii is made of 5 volcanoes, including Mauna Kea we visited on Day 3. At this moment, only Mauna Loa and Kīlauea volcanoes are active, and the park is located at the latter one. We could see the Halemaumau crater at the overlook outside of the museum, and this was where we would see the lava glow later this evening.

Steam Vents

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Steam Vents
Steam Vents

Our second stop was Steam Vents. It has a dedicated parking lot, and the vents are just a few steps away. We saw these well-like structures with steam constantly coming out. We would have seen the more magnificent Steaming Bluff if we walked down the trail for a few more minutes. It was too bad that we didn’t know it at that time.

Sulphur Banks

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Sulphur Banks
Sulphur Banks

Sulphur Banks is located on a trail between the visitor center and Steam Vents. We parked our car at the visitor center and walked down the trail from there. With steam and the yellow sulphur crystals on the ground, I finally felt that I was in an environment with active volcanoes.

Thurston Lava Tube

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Thurston Lava Tube
Thurston Lava Tube

Our next stop was Thurston Lava Tube. We were unlucky because the tube was closed halfway through for maintenance. They were repairing the lighting system, and thus the tube was completely dark. We weren’t able to see a lot through our cell phone light.

Chains of Crater Road

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Chains of Crater Road
Scenes along Chains of Crater Road

Chains of Crater Road was the most scenic drive we’d experienced in our trip. It brought us from the mountain to the seaside. We saw beautiful scenes with the terrain made by the volcanic activities and the sea. There were many stops along the way, and we had lunch that we brought at one of them. It was a great picnic location!

Holei Sea Arch

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Holei Sea Arch
Holei Sea Arch

Holei Sea Arch is at the end of Chains of Crater Road. It was quite impressive and made me wonder about its formation. From here we could also walk 5.5 miles (one way) to see the lava going into the ocean. We didn’t do it because we were not prepared for this hike. We probably should walk a little bit further to the point where lava took back the road.

Kilauea Iki Crater

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Kilauea Iki Crater
Kilauea Iki Crater

After returning from Holei Sea Arch, we still had a few hours before sunset. I intended to walk to the very bottom Kilauea Iki crater and then return. In the end, we turned back earlier because it was getting dark because of the clouds.

Lava glow after dark

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Lava Glow
Lava Glow at Halemaumau Crater

The most important event of the day was to view the glowing lava. We returned to Jagger museum at about 5:30 pm, and there were already loads of people. We stayed for an hour or so waiting for the sky to go dark and the lava glow to go clear. It is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I am very happy that I made it!!

Conclusion

Visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park was one of the three highlights of this trip. One day is enough for casual visitors like us, and it is easy to spend more time here. No Big Island trips can finish without visiting this place!

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Info

Visitor Center Address: 1 Crater Rim Drive, Volcano, HI 96785, USA
Fee: $25 USD per car all of its passengers, valid for 7 days
Info: Website

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