Weekend Adventures on the Big Island-Part 1-Volcanoes National Park

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red flowing lava at nightIf you live on Hawaii Island or are just visiting, there are magical and inspiring places to visit that you just have to make a plan to go and see. The island, being the size of Connecticut, has places to explore that can take most of the day to get there and can include an exhausting drive if you are not prepared. So, to lend a hand in sharing some amazing places to discover, we share with you the reality of making a plan to eat, drink and sleep, as well as adventure! This is the first of five posts in this series.

Volcanoes National Park and Seeing the Lava Flow

This is an all day adventure! It takes about 2 ½ hours to get to Volcanoes National Park from Kona along highway 11.

Before you go:

If you plan on viewing the lava, make sure you bring plenty of water, closed toe shoes, a jacket, a flashlight and something to sit on, as the lava is sharp.

Getting Started:

caldera in Volcano National Park

The caldera look out with steam vents on the cliffs

Plan on getting on the road by 10 am as you may wish to plan for lunch at the Punalu’u Bake Shop in the “blink and you’ll miss it” town of Naaleh’u. Try the malasadas. Trust us. Lilikoi is a tangy addition to this Portuguese donut-like treat.

Many people take this opportunity to also stop and see the black sand beach at Punulu’u Beach and try and catch a sea turtle sighting. The turtles, (honu) love to lie on the hot black sand beach right near the parking area. Also, use the bathroom. It is a long solitary road to the park.

Volcanoes National Park-The Adventure Begins

Volcano Forest

The primordial forest of Volcano, HI

When you arrive at Volcanoes National Park, take a stroll through the visitor’s center first. Then walk across the street to the Volcano House to see an incredible and sweeping view of the caldera and to experience one of the oldest lodges on the island. This is a great place for dinner and drinks and if you enjoy dinner in the main restaurant, they turn off the lights after sunset so you can experience the glow from the Halema’uma’u volcano crater. To see the lava lake which is currently bubbling and gurgling with lava, drive up the road to the Jagger Museum and take a look through their complementary telescope.

Walk along the steam vents to feel the hot steam coming up directly from the volcanic activity under the park. Unless you have been to Yellowstone or Calistoga, standing in the hot mist of volcanic steam is quite an experience!

If you plan on driving down to see the lava, you won’t have time to hike across the floor of Kilauea Iki, a nearby volcano caldera that offers a chance to understand the geology of the area more fully and enjoy a walk through a sacred place that brings the power of the volcano more fully to life. This is another trip on another day, that may include a night at Volcano House or one of the beautiful B&B’s in the Volcano Village.

Seeing the Lava Flow

As of this writing, the lava is flowing into the ocean and can be accessed by driving down Highway 130 on Chain of Craters Road, which is NOT in Volcanoes National Park. You need to drive out of the park and head towards Kalapana and Pahoa, which is an hour drive . You can stop in the quaint town of Pahoa for dinner and supplies and then head south. Some of the more popular restaurants include, Kaleo’s Bar and Grill, serving American fare and Pahoa Fresh Fish and Ning’s Thai Cuisine.

The current flow, named episode 61g flow, is still active and entering the ocean at Kamokuna. Webcam images show that surface lava flow activity persists on the upper portion of the flow field, on the pali, and in scattered areas of the coastal plain. It is currently best to hike in from the County of Hawai‘i lava viewing area on the Kalapana side to access the ocean entry. The Kalapana access is open daily from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. If you do hike in from the park side, be aware that the gases get stronger the closer you get to the ocean entry. Rangers have roped off the park side of the ocean entry and placed signs warning of the toxic fumes

Before you go, check to see if there are alerts and road closures that may exist due to the changing nature of the flow and weather conditions.

lava flow entry into ocean Hawaii Island

Lava Entry 2017 photo courtesy GoHawaii.com

To REALLY see the magnitude and beauty of the lava, you will need to hike out (or rent a bike from the vendors on the road to the viewing area) about 4.2-miles from the Kalapana boundary to the ocean entry viewing point, one way, along the gravel emergency access road to see the lava and stay there until after sunset. This puts you back in your car around 9 pm, which means you should make a reservation to stay on the East side of the island to avoid a very long drive back to Kona. There are two big hotels in Hilo, the Hilo Hawaiian and the Naniloa to consider. You can also try your luck at the handful of bed and breakfast opportunities near the lava flow, but if you are not quite ready for that kind of adventure, plan on a hotel.

It’s a full day of adventure enjoying the black sand beach, a primordial tropical forest, beaches and watching Pele’s fiery display as land is created right in front of you.

LUVA Real Estate Realtors are local lifestyle experts and can share with you even more tips and ideas for a fun adventure to Volcano and Kalapana.