How to Experience Hawaii's Volcanoes inside and outside the National Park.

The eruption is over and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park reopened in September 2018. There is plenty of volcano stuff to see, both inside and outside the national park. Visitors can experience and visit Hawaii’s volcanoes!

In my opinion, the entire Big Island of Hawaii could be added to Volcanoes National Park. The volcano is not operated by Disney, rather by Mother Nature; she has her own schedule and it can change at any time. After 30+ years of spectacular "hot" flows and eruptions, early August 2018 brought us to a period of calm, and there is currently no hot/active visible anywhere on the island.

No Visible Lava Flow.JPG
  • FIRST GLIMPSE OF LAVA: Many first-time visitors to the island are surprised when their plane lands at Kona International Airport, which is built atop an old lava flow. The lava experience starts when you look out the window while landing.

  • Can you hike to "hot" lava? As of this update (July 8, 2019), there are no "hot" or "red" lava flows, nor an active eruption to witness. There is also nowhere to hike or bike to see hot lava. Non-residents are not allowed into the Leilani Estates area where the recent "fissure 8" eruption pumped out record-setting volumes of lava for three months. So you will need to change your expectations and appreciate the exquisite lava that is already visible on the surface of the island.

  • LAVA FLOWS: There are acres and acres of cooled lava flows where visitors can explore, hike, and experience the many textures and types of lava from a’a to pahoehoe to rope lava. Some of the coolest are between the airport and the Waikoloa resort area. The fomations are spectacular! Just keep your eyes open along the road, and pull over (carefully!) when you see something you want to explore. The photo below shows End of the World, near our house, where waves crash against the awesome formations. 

End of the World Lava Waves.JPG
  • BLACK SAND BEACHES: The Big Island is famous for black sand, created from the lava. It's wonderful to visit Kehena (shown below), Punalu'u with it's sea turtles, Ho'okena--a local's favorite playground, or Waipio with its legendary wide swath of sand. (Shown 2nd below is Punalu'u: image courtesy Robert Lindsdell, Flickr/Creative Commons. 

Punalu'u Black Sand Beach Turtles Honu.j
  • OLD KONA AIRPORT LAVA FORMATIONS: The Old Airport State Recreation Area has a pretty beach, and at the north end are some very cool lava formations, including excellent examples of “rope lava,” which looks like twisted rope.

Rope Lava Kona Old Airport.JPG
  • VOLCANO HIKE: Almost in the middle of the island is Pu’u Wa’a Wa’a, a large “pu’u,” or volcanic hill (there are lots and lots of smaller pu’u, too). Pu’u Wa’a Wa’a is a very enjoyable, 7-mile (11km) round-trip hike to the pu’u summit, from where you can often see Maui in the distance, plus 4/5 of the Big Island’s mountain peaks.

Puu Waa Waa.JPG
  • WORLD’S TALLEST MOUNTAIN: It is possible to visit the summit of Mauna Kea–the largest volcanic mountain in Hawaii (and technically the world’s tallest mountain). In winter, there's often snow up there! A volcano created this place!

Mauna Kea Sunset.JPG
  • DAZZLING SADDLE ROAD: The Saddle Road drive is open, taking visitors from sea level to 7,000 feet between the Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa (technically the world’s largest mountain, by landmass); the views are spectacular and there is much cooled lava to be seen. There are numerous hikes into the lava fields, mostly on the eastern side of the saddle summit. A couple of options include:

Saddle Road Lava Flowers.JPG