Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Warm Up in Hawai'i

January 23, 2013, 12:58 pm

By Heather Crowley

From luaus to surfing to hanging on the beach, Hawai’i is touted as a tropical paradise built for relaxation. Home to pineapples and grass skirts, the islands are also famous for another icon: Volcanoes. No journey is complete without exploring Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, one of the gems of the National Park System.

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is located on the big island of Hawai’i. The park preserves rare volcanic landscapes and a variety of unique ecological zones that exist in few other places on the planet.

When most visitors think about volcanoes, the association with eruptions inevitably emerges. The park is home to Kīlauea and Mauna Loa, two of the world’s most active volcanoes. New evidence uncovered back in October even suggests that the two are actually linked underground.  

Visitors can hike on trails to get a close up view. The Crater Rim Trail circles Kīlauea’s summit and can be one of the best places to catch a glimpse of activity. Before heading out, be sure to check which sections of the trail are open at the visitor center. Eruptions can cause closures to short portions.

Keep your eyes alert while exploring, as a diverse group of animals can be found. One of the spectacular creatures that lives in the park is the Hawksbill Sea Turtle, which in native Hawaiian is called Honu `ea. Endangered species are abundant in this protected slice of land. The Hawksbill is one, along with the Hawaiian goose (Nene), Hawaiian hawk and Hawaiian hoary bat.

One of the most famous icons of the park, the lava lake at the top of Mount Kilauea, is actually connected to the magma chambers of Kīlauea and Mauna Loa. The lake, which is inside the Halema’uma’u crater, can be viewed from the Jagger Museum Overlook. Volcanic activity can also be viewed on the USGS webcam.

If you’d rather stick to the vacation motif and avoid hiking, the 11-mile Crater Rim Drive ascends the volcano and saves you the sweating. The road travels through rain forest, desert and ascends a volcano. While exploring, don’t forget Kahuku, the south side of the park. From January through March, a variety of programs will be offered to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Kahuku.

Get all of those unsolved mysteries about the park answered with the ‘Lunch with a Ranger’ program. Pick the brain of the experts who live Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park year in and year out. Bring your own picnic style lunch and engage in open discussions with park rangers. Sessions are scheduled for Jan. 12, Jan. 27, Feb. 17, Mar. 17, and Mar. 30 at 11:30 a.m.

Let’s face it, you’ve traveled thousands of miles and want to be wowed. Seek out the most majestic panoramic views of the park on the Palm Trail. Ideal for individuals of all ages, the 2.6-mile easy loop passes by an ancient cinder cone. As part of the celebration, guided hikes will be offered Jan. 19, Feb. 10 and Mar. 16 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Perhaps an anthropological journey is more your style, so hop on the three-hour exploratory tour with a ranger called ‘People and the Land of Kahuku.’ Learn about the history of some of the first Hawai’ians that called his land home. The hike will be offered Jan. 13, Jan. 20, Feb. 9, Feb. 23, Mar. 10 and Mar. 24 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

For more information about the park, check out our page on Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

Photo by NPS