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Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Travel Tips

The best ways to experience this Big Island national park.

On a visit to the Big Island a wonderful way to truly experience the power of nature is to visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Located 30 miles southwest of Hilo, the park features one of the most active volcanoes in the world, Kilauea. It’s been coined, “the world’s only drive-in volcano,” because you can usually get up close to Kilauea from the comfort of your vehicle, though I’d recommend also hiking a bit to truly see the terrain. The Big Island’s terrain is constantly changing because of Kilauea, which has been spewing lava since 1983.

Lava meets the sea in this Big Island national park.

Lava meets the sea in this Big Island national park.

Crater Rim Drive is an approximately 11-mile route around Kilauea’s Caldera, taking you past some of the top things to see in the park including steam vents, Thurston Lava Tube and the Kilauea overlook. If you look out over the caldera, it might seem like its settled, but that can change in an instant. Make sure to drive further down to the ocean near the end of Chain of Craters Road to see the Sea Arch and enjoy the pretty rainbows that form when the ocean crashes against the volcanic shore.

Waves crash dramatically against the shore.

Waves crash dramatically against the shore.

The best way to see actual lava flows on the Big Island is from the air. Blue Hawaiian Helicopters, which has been operating since the 1980’s, offers their Circle of Fire plus Waterfalls 50-minute tour departing from Hilo starting at just over $200 USD if you book online and in advance.

Pu'u 'O'o, a Volcanic cone on Kilauea, Hawaii. Photo credit USGS taken on 29 June 1983.

Pu’u ‘O’o, a Volcanic cone on Kilauea, Hawaii. Photo credit USGS taken on 29 June 1983.


Tour Hawaii’s Big Island by TravelswithDarley

Definitely rent a car to explore the Big Island and, if time allows, stay both along the stunning Kohala Coast and Hilo. Fly into either Hilo or Kona to enjoy the all that the Big Island has to offer.

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Travels with Darley is a travel TV series broadcast on PBS stations and on digital networks, including the AOL On Network. Host Darley Newman of "Equitrekking" fame joins locals to showcase the top food, culture and adventure attractions in the USA and around the globe.

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