Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Activities & Programs

Although Hawaiian tropical weather is fairly consistent year-round, there is some variation. Winters tend to be slightly wetter, summers slightly warmer, and precipitation and temperature vary according to location and time of year. Precipitation is always greater on the windward sides of Kīlauea and Mauna Loa. In the park, annual rainfall varies from 20 to 100 inches (50—250 cm). Temperature, which varies by elevation, may exceed 90°F (32°C) at sea level. At the summit of Kīlauea, the temperature generally ranges from 60—70°F (15—21°C) during the day and often drops 5—10ºF (—15—12ºC) at night. The top of Mauna Loa, sometimes covered by snow in winter, is usually freezing cold, even in summer. It is wise to bring warm clothing if you plan outdoor activities on or near the top of either volcano.

Park Programs

Before going to see the volcano, take time to become acquainted with the exhibits at Kīlauea Visitor Center, open from 7:45 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. A 25-minute introductory film about the park is shown at the center on the hour from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. It will help you understand the features you will see in the park. Check with rangers at Kīlauea Visitor Center front desk for additional programs conducted on the half-hour. You can also obtain firsthand information on any special activities planned or consult a schedule of activities posted on bulletin boards near the information desk or at Volcano House.

Touring

If you have a few hours to spend, a drive down Chain of Craters Road will broaden your understanding of the park's principal attractions. The 40-mile (64 km) round-trip drive takes about three hours from Kīlauea Visitor Center. Food and gas are not available along the route. Gas stations and general stores are located in Volcano Village, one mile from the park entrance station on Highway 11 toward Hilo. Details about this drive (and others) are available at the Kīlauea Visitor Center.

An eruption on the East Rift Zone, which began on January 3, 1983, is still active. Scientists tell us that some eruptions in prehistoric times lasted more than 40 years. There has been no indication of when this one may end, so you may have the opportunity to see it.

Along Chain of Craters Road, you will cross broad flows that came from Mauna Ulu (or "Growing Mountain") from 1969 to 1974 and see short sections of the old road not covered by these flows. You can hike to the Pu'u Loa Petroglyph Area. Marvel at the rugged seacoast with its occasional sea arch, see the island's newest black sand beaches scattered along the coast and stop where lava flows from the current eruption have blocked the road. Nearly nine miles of the road east of this point have been covered since 1986. 

If you are spending several days in the park, other short drives can take you to some spectacular, less-visited sections. Hilina Pali Overlook is reached by driving over a narrow, paved road that branches off from Chain of Craters Road. Use Hilina Pali trailhead or Keauhou Trail (beginning at the Mau Loa O Mauna Ulu parking area on Chain of Craters Road) for access to Halapē, which is a backcountry site reachable only by a rigorous hike. A campground, Kulanaokuaiki, is located near the Mauna Iki trailhead. Please call (808) 985-6000 for updated information. 

Hilina Pali Overlook, perched on top of the fault scarp of the same name, is also a starting point for hikes to the sea and provides excellent views of the coast 2,200 feet (671 m) below. On clear days, the southernmost point of the United States, Ka Lae (South Point), is visible.

Another scenic drive is Mauna Loa Road, reached from Highway 11 just beyond the Volcano Golf Course, about two miles from the park entrance. Attractions along this route include the Tree Molds, Kīpukapuaulu and a pleasant koa forest. The road becomes narrow and winding above Kīpukapuaulu, ending at the 6,662 foot (2,031 m) level with a spectacular view. From here begins the 18.3-mile hike to the summit cabin on the south rim of Mauna Loa's caldera at an elevation of 13,250 feet (4,039 m).

Guided Tours

Land-based tour operators can show you the park both by car and on foot. Consult the telephone book's Yellow Pages under "Tours" for more information about operators; or visit the Hawai'i Island Visitors Bureau online at www.bigisland.org, and the Hawai'i Ecotourism Association online at www.hawaiiecotourism.org.

Special Events

The park sponsors many activities throughout the year. Check the park's website at www.nps.gov/havo. Scheduled events might include plays, hula concerts with Hawaiian music or other cultural presentations. For more information, contact the Kīlauea Visitor Center, Volcano House or the Volcano Art Center. 

Nightlife

Throughout the year, the park operates its After Dark in the Park series of interpretive programs. Check the park website for a current schedule. The evening programs are educational in nature and may range from a talk about whale-watching to a lecture on geology. The Volcano Art Center also occasionally sponsors dance and visual arts performances in the evening. Uncle George's, an intimate lounge, is another tradition that Volcano House has maintained and visitors have enjoyed for decades. Relax and enjoy some of our signature cocktail drinks while partaking in the panoramic views of Kīlauea and Mauna Loa Mountain. Open daily from 4:30 p.m.—9:00 p.m. Otherwise, nightly entertainment is on the quiet side.