Crater Rim Drive, Uninc Hawaii County, Volcano, HI – Get Directions
Must visit experience of a lifetime!
We love touring national parks, but Hawaii Volcanoes National Park has to be one of the most unique in the country.
My girls were a bit (okay, a lot!) frightened about visiting the park, so if you know your kids will be skiddish, you might want to leave them in the dark a bit until you get there- it is much less intimidating in person than it is in your mind.
Most of the must-visits are covered in the Jr. Ranger booklet you get from the Visitor Center, so be sure to stop there first.
Family Adventure and Nature at it's Best
I'm absolutely in love with Big Island, Hawaii and cannot wait to return.
Certainly one of the highlights was Volcanoes National Park.
We drove up to Volcano from Hilo, and definitely feel the weather shifting. No more beach attire here, make sure you've packed for all sorts of weather- you are 14,000 feet high and in a rainforest! It was cold and on-and-off rainy.
Hit the visitor's center upon arrival and grab the free junior ranger books for kids' to really engage and complete scavenger hunt-type activities.
We visited the park when the lava was flowing at the caldera right off of the Jagger Museum. In the daytime, parking and viewing the billowing smoke and glowing, sometimes even explosive, lava was a breeze right from the center and the parking lot. At night, not so much.
After dark, be prepared to wait in ranger-guided stand-still traffic, and sent to some off the beaten-path parking where you will need hiking shoes, coats, a flashlight or two for lighting the extremely dark trails, and possibly umbrellas, raincoats, or both.
Don't let that deter you, there's nothing like nighttime viewing of an active volcano. Time it with a full moon, and you'll feel like you're on another planet!
We missed the lava tubes for a guided hike with Native Guide Hawaii, which was awesome!
A "must do" while visiting the Island of Hawaii
I think most people who come to the Big Island for the first time know they want to visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park but I don't know how many realize just how big and diverse this park is. To really get a chance to experience the highlights of this park, plan to spend a full day here.
I recommend first hitting up the visitor center which has a wealth of information. If you happen upon any ranger talks or ranger lead hikes (and have school-aged children), take the time to listen. The ranger I listened to spoke about what life was like growing up in the shadow of an active volcano and was truly the highlight of my day. After the visitor center, head up the road towards the Jaggar Museum and active (at the time this was published) Halema'uma'u Crater, stopping at the steam vents and sulfur works (which are on a path across the street from the steam vents) along the way. Next, make your way down the Chain of Craters Road, taking time to walk through the Thurston Lava Tube, stop to explore a crater and/or lava flow, and be blown away by the vast ocean views as you get closer to the sea. Stop at the petroglyphs before making your way to road's end wheeze land abruptly gives way to sea.
Tips: While in the park, be prepared for sudden changes In weather. When I arrived at the park it was windy, rainy, and cold but by the time I got down to the water it was very hot (and even more windy!). Bring your own food and water as there are no concessions inside the park. Pack sunscreen, good shoes, and a spirit for adventure!