Volcano is in the district of Puna, the newest part of the Hawaiian Islands, and the Adventure is Everywhere!
Hilo is the gateway to Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, an easy 30 mile drive from Hilo on Highway 11, at the 4,000' elevation. It can get chilly, so take jeans and a sweat shirt, too. Be sure to take your walking shoes and camera, as it is absolutely incredible! Throughout the Volcano area, there aretwo major rules to follow:
1. If the sign says 'Don't do it'... DON'T DO IT! People have died or been severely injured for ignoring warnings up here.
2. Stay on the trail!
1st stop in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park--Visitors Center. Watch a short movie about our volcanoes and the current eruption. Small natural history museum and gift shop. Posted are lists of ranger- or volunteer-led hikes. Be sure to ask the rangers on duty what the current viewing of the lava is. If you are pregnant, or have any heart or respiratory diseases, ask a ranger where it is [un]safe for you to go. This is important!
Volcano Art Center--at the far end of the Visitor Center parking lot, it was once the Volcano House Hotel. Volcano has a large artist community, and this is possibly the best gallery on Hawai'i Island.
Volcano House Hotel Go in the front door, through the lobby and out the back door to a viewing area on the edge of Kilauea Crater. Fantastic view. (Hotel is currently closed for renovation.)
11-mile Crater Rim Drive
Sulphur Banks -- Steam Vents
Jagger Museum--Wonderful little museum. Dr. Thomas Jaggerwas a Shipman family friend, and the first vulcanologist 'stationed' up there. The seismographs are authentic, recording tremors from around the island as you watch. How high can you register on the seismograph by the wall to your right?
Halema'uma'u Crater--A smaller crater within Kilauea Crater, this is currently erupting gas and steam, but no visible lava. After dark you may see a red glow.
Kilauea Iki--A smaller crater near Thurston Lava Tube. I saw Kilauea Iki erupt in 1959, watching from the crater's edge that night, and for several nights afterward. It was so high and so bright, you could read by its light at 3 AM. Our fronts cooked and our backs froze. Fountains topped 1900'.
Hiking the Kilauea Iki trail takes about 2 hours, crossing the crater floor, then up around the top of the crater through the forest. You need water, hats, tennis or hiking shoes, and sunscreen. Watch your kids! Some places have no fence or railing, and the drop is several hundred feet.
Thurston Lava Tube-- Once upon a time on Shipman property, the old property marker is still there. This is a beautiful walk through the rainforest, then about 100 yards through an old lava tube, (lit and paved when Hawaii became a state in 1959), then back up to sunshine and forest. Takes about 20 minutes, one of the most beautiful parts of the Park
Chain of Craters Road
This 2-lane, 20-mile-long road takes you from 4000' elevation down to sea level. Allow about 40 minutes each way. As you drive downhill, notice the varying shades of black, gray, and reddish brown of past lava flows. It will be quite warm and windy down by the ocean.Take water, hats.
The Bird Park South of the park entrance, on Mauna Loa Road. Ancient lava flowed around a forest, leaving it intact. There is a 1-mile dirt trail looping through this grove of trees and endangered native Hawaiian birds. Bring binoculars. Free.
FOOD ...Restaurants in Volcano close early -- by 8-9:00 PM. Consider having dinner at noon up there. Most restaurants also close from 2-5 PM.
Picnic areas include:
Between the Visitors Center and the Art Center.
Adjacent to the Bird Park.
Volcano Golf Course--First road on the right, south of the Park entrance on Highway 11, the clubhouse is a comfy place for breakfast or lunch. Good food, service, prices, fireplace and an excellent view. The kitchen closes at 2 PM sharp. No dinners. (You may see nene, the endangered Hawaiian goose, on the golf course, which my grandfather, Roy C. Blackshear, started in W.H. Shipman's cow pasture.)
Kiawe Kitchen -- very good wood-fired pizzas, entrees. Excellent lamb. Lunch & dinner. Old Volcano Road & Haunani Road, in the village.