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So often, My Vacation Lady‘s clients will spend a few days in the Big Island of Hawaii on the Kona Kohala side and want to visit the Volcano from there. Is it doable? Certainly but if you really want to experience the park and do some hiking and exploring, a better suggestion would be to stay within the park grounds or in Hilo.
Just as an example— from the Kohala resort area, the park is about a 1 3/4 hour drive (depending on the driving conditions) and going from the northern route (via Saddle Road).
If you are going from the Kailua-Kona resort area, along Highway 11 (the southern route), it’s about a 2 hour drive. Please keep in mind that it is the same drive back, but this time in the dark!
Is it doable on your own? Definitely but for those of you who may not want to make the drive, we suggest leaving the driving to someone else, My Vacation Lady will typically recommend a twilight excursion that may enable you to see some of the molten lava which glows after dark.
But for those who want to spend an entire day in the park, from sun up to sundown, the best option is to stay either in the park (the Volcano House hotel has reopened a couple of years ago) or in Hilo (30 minutes from the park) for 2 nights so that you have time to explore on your own time.
What are some of the top things to see and do in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park?
The park is open 24 hours a day but the visitor’s center is only open between 9am and 5pm so that’s when the majority of the visitors will come.
Parts of Crater Rim Drive may be closed due to the lava flow so drive along the Chain of Craters Road.
- Start off early and hit the Thurston Lava Tube before most of the visitors come. You’ll walk through a tropical rain forest before entering the tube. This cave like lava tube is DARK (although it does have some lights ) so make sure that you bring a flash light or turn on the flashlight app on your phone. Watch your head as you walk through the lava tube, there are some spots with low ceilings.
- At 9am, the Kilauea Visitors Center opens and you’ll want to stop here for the latest info on the trails, ranger led activities, chat with the rangers on some of the best hiking trails for you and to get some maps.
Most visitors will stop at the Jagger Museum after their stop at the Visitor’s Center. The museum has lots of exhibits the volcano and large windows that offer a great sheltered view of the caldera and main crater.
- Stop at the Kilauea Overlook, if the weather is nice, for some great views of Halema’uma’u crater.
- There are some great walking trails and hikes in this area and even if you aren’t up for a long hike, there are 5 shorter ones that you can link together from the visitor’s center.
- Stop for a picnic lunch and then check out the Steam Vents and Steaming Bluff. There’s a short and easy trail leading from the parking area to Steaming Bluff or you can take the paved walkway to the the Sulphur Banks. This area smells like rotten eggs so young children, pregnant women and folks with asthma might want to avoid this path.
- Continuing along the road (about 20 miles from the visitor’s center) and you can stop at the Pu’u Loa Petroglyphs along the 1.5 mile lava walk.
- Just before the end of the road, spend some time at the Holei Sea Arch. This is a short walk from the road to the ocean and you’ll be able to see what’s left of the lava arch which was carved away by the ocean. This is a great spot to watch the sunset if you’re there at the right time.
Regardless of whether you just want to drive in from your beach side resort and spend a few hours or spend a full day exploring, there is a lot to see and do in Volcanoes National Park.
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