Adventure in Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park

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Curated By

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  • Hawai'i

  • Active Travel

  • Adventure Travel

  • Nature Escapes

  • National Park

  • Local culture

  • Outdoors

fire emerges from natural crater
Curator’s statement

Having explored many of the national parks, I can say Hawai'i Volcanoes stands out as one-of-a-kind. Nowhere else can you get as close to active volcanoes and lava flows. The raw volcanic landscape here is powerful, unmatched by other parks. This place also deeply connects to Hawai'ian culture. For me, Hawai'i Volcanoes showcases nature's force up close, making it a special park among the nation's finest.

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Where to stay in Hawai'i

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Things to do in Hawai'i

road to volcano
  • Hike the Kilauea Iki Trail - This 4-mile loop starts from the parking area off Crater Rim Drive, just a few miles past the park entrance. Hike across a hardened lava lake filled with fascinating volcanic features. I recommend it for the otherworldly crater views and a moderate hike difficulty suitable for most.

  • See the Lava Lake - The glowing Halemaʻumaʻu Crater lava lake overlook is located just west of the main gate, an easy 0.4 mile hike or quick drive. Don't miss this dramatic sight, especially beautiful when illuminated at night. Arrive before dusk for ideal lighting conditions.

  • Drive Crater Rim Drive - This approximately 2-hour, 11-mile loop drive begins 1 mile past the entrance. Stop at overlooks like Steaming Bluff, Sulphur Banks and the Jaggar Museum for sweeping caldera views. The drive offers easy access for mobility impaired visitors to see the crater.

  • Hike the Puʻu Loa Petroglyphs Trail - Located 6 miles from the park entrance off Highway 11, this easy 1.5 mile roundtrip passes over 500 ancient Hawai'ian lava rock carvings. Stay on the boardwalk at all times to prevent damage. Early morning or evening hours provide ideal lighting.

  • Camp at Namakanipaio Campground - Situated off Highway 11 between the entrance and Volcano Village, reservations are essential for this popular campground. Tent sites sit directly on lava flows. Prepare for variable weather like gusty winds.

  • Take a Lava Cave Tour - Ranger-guided tours meet at the Kaʻū Desert trailhead, a roughly 30 minute drive from the gate. The bumpy unpaved road leads to vast lava cave systems to explore. Dress warmly for the 50 degree cave temperatures.

  • See the Thurston Lava Tube - Just 500 feet from the main entrance, this impressive tree mold lava tube is lit for easy walking. Watch your head on low ceilings. The geological formations provide a sample of lava tubes in the park.

  • Visit Volcano House Hotel - This historic hotel sits right on the caldera rim, just past the main gate. Dining options showcase local cuisine with incredible views of Halemaʻumaʻu Crater.

Day trips

One excellent day trip is to visit the Kapoho Tide Pools about 50 minutes drive from the park. These volcanic rock tide pools are perfect for snorkeling to see an abundance of tropical fish in crystal clear water. Nearby food trucks provide the perfect fuel stop after time in the water. Finish the day soaking in the volcanically heated pools at Ahalanui Beach Park, about an hour's drive from the park entrance. Let the natural mineral-rich hot springs relax muscles sore from hiking and exploring lava landscapes.

The quirky coastal town of Pahoa also makes a fun day trip, about a 30-40 minute drive. Wander the eclectic shops and galleries showcasing local artisans. Grab a bite at a cafe or food truck in this Bohemian-style village. As darkness falls, take a guided lava boat or hiking tour to safely view riveting molten lava flowing to the sea. The glow of the lava at night contrasts with the lush rainforests surrounding Pahoa for an otherworldly experience.

Places to eat & drink in Hawai'i

A bowl of ramen noodles from Ramen Nakamura in Honolulu, Hawaii

Inside the Park

Volcano House Hotel: Historic hotel with dining room featuring floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the caldera. Serves local island cuisine.

Lava Lounge: Located in Volcano House. Cozy lounge with tap beers, cocktails and small bites with a view.

Nearby

Café Ono: Cafe 15 minutes from the park serving breakfast, lunch and Hawai'ian coffee. Known for their tropical fruit macadamia pancakes.

Thai Thai Restaurant: Popular Thai food restaurant with curry, noodle and rice dishes. BYOB. About 20 minutes drive.

Kilauea Lodge: Fine dining restaurant focused on game meats and local ingredients. Extensive wine list. 10 min away.

Rim Restaurant: Casual dining with patio seating, burgers, sandwiches and pasta. Attached to Volcano Golf and Country Club.

Lava Rock Cafe: Right outside park. Large portions of American classics like burgers, chili and sandwiches in a cozy, diner-like setting.

In Volcano Village

Ohelo Cafe: Farm-to-table comfort food like wood-fired pizzas, pastas and burgers. 15 min drive.

Need to Know

Looking for more travel inspiration? Check out my guide, Experience Utah in Summer.

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This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Hawai'i.