Since 1969, restaurant, hotel, travel & other witty reviews by a handpicked, worldwide team of discerning professionals—and your views, too.

Hawaii's Volcanoes


Exploring the Volcanoes of Hawaii

The Lure of Lava


Lava from Kilauea Volcano meets the sea on Hawaii's Big Island
Lava from Kilauea Volcano meets the sea on Hawaii's Big Island

On Thanksgiving Eve 2007, Kilauea, one of the world's most active volcanoes, had a massive eruption. This eruption produced numerous new lava flows that significantly expanded its already existing lava fields. The event was so significant, it is known as "TEB" or "Thanksgiving eve breakout" among scientists. Volcanic activity on this scale has not been seen since 1990, when hot lava poured out of Kilauea, burying a highway, the town of Kalapana and its famous black sand beach while adding several thousand acres of new land to the shoreline of the Big Island. This spike has excited volcanologists and visitors alike with an unprecedented opportunity to study the dynamic forces at work. Although you can visit the volcano while based in one of the luxury resorts on the Kona Coast (see the information under Day 2), we recommend that visitors particularly interested in the volcano stay in the Hilo or Volcano area to get up close to this force of nature. Please note that all information about park accessibility, available trails, roads, etc. is subject to change at a moment's notice due to the volatile nature of the volcano at this time. Click here for current conditions

DAY 1

Slow-moving lava at Kilauea in Hawaii
Slow-moving lava at Kilauea

Getting to Lava Land

Fly into Hilo on the Big Island. You can take a non-stop flight from Los Angeles, Sacramento or San Francisco to Hilo on Continental Airlines, or you can take an indirect flight from a number of other mainland cities (with a layover in Honolulu, Oahu). Rent a car at Hilo Airport and drive to one of the bed-and-breakfasts near Volcano. If you prefer a hotel, you can opt for Kilauea Lodge & Restaurant. You need to reserve well ahead, or if the lodge does not have rooms, contact one of the alternatives: Chalet Kilauea with its unique tree house suite, or one of the cozy rooms of the Hale Ohia Cottages.

Wherever you stay, have dinner at Kilauea Lodge & Restaurant, which is one of the better eateries in the area. Noted for its uncomplicated Continental cuisine with a special emphasis on fresh seafood from Big Island waters, it features hearty portions and charming service. Make sure to try their german sausage plate or the seafood mauna kea. Do your best to save room for dessert!

DAY 2

Lava Lava Everywhere

Hiking through the lava fields of Kilauea provides a unique experience for tourists visiting Hawaii
Hiking through the lava fields of Kilauea

While you can drive to the park and tour it on your own (see info in the following paragraph), we suggest taking one of the tours provided by Vavoom Hawaii (www.vavoomhawaii.blogspot.com). This is a particularly attractive option if you are staying in Kona, as all you have to do is drive to Hilo and the tour van will pick you up at the Free Park and Ride lot on Bay Front Drive. Vavoom Hawaii specializes in personalized tours of the park based upon your specific interests (waterfalls, lava tubes, etc.) and your fitness level. Whether you want a strenuous hike at dusk to see the lava flowing into the ocean, a leisurely stroll, or something in between, Vavoom's expert guides will provide the experience you want.

If you prefer to drive, head into Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (www.nps.gov/havo), pay the $10 per car admission fee and keep your receipt, as it is good for the entire week. Your first stop should be the Visitors' Center, which has everything you ever need to know about the park including an educational movie, a fascinating three-dimensional map and a live ranger's orientation. They will also advise you as to any closures of trails or roads — please heed all warnings as this is real nature, up close and potentially dangerous. The more you know, the more you will appreciate the marvels surrounding you. Visitors can participate in a number of ranger activities that vary from day to day, or you can simply grab a map and start exploring.

Don't miss a visit to the Volcano Art Center & Gallery (www.volcanoartcenter.org), a restored 1877 mountain lodge with an impressive collection of Big Island art.

A must-see is the Thomas A. Jaggar Museum, located about halfway between the Visitors' Center and Halemaumau Crater. Here, there is a wealth of information about the astonishing geological happenings lying right under your feet.

Pele's Place

Halemaumau Crater in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Halemaumau Crater in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Next stop: Devastation Trail, a 30-minute stroll on the boardwalk. The area was completely consumed by a 1950s eruption, but the sprouting of new plants and other signs of natural life pushing through the hardened lava are a testament to nature's power of regeneration. You won't want to miss a walk to the very edge of Halemaumau, the "fire pit" crater. Even though it is not as dramatic as in the early 1900s when it was filled with molten lava, it fumes and steams sulphuric odors. Keep an eye out for locals paying tribute with offerings of fruit or native blossoms to Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of fire.

Continue to Day 3

MORE VOLCANO TOUR INFORMATION

Hotels
Restaurants
Attractions
Travel Guide Hawaii
Hawaii 101
Honeymoon in Hawaii
Hawaii Adventures

* Kilauea Volcano lava image courtesy of Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Kirk Lee Aeder; Halemaumau image Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson

 
UCT070114

Located in world-renowned wine regions from Napa to Bordeaux to South Africa, these historic roads offer both great wine and beautiful scenery.
Beyond the crowds on the Adriatic Sea, the clamor of Rome and the charmed Toscana lies an Italy yet undiscovered by many American travelers.