If you are one of the many people who are drawn to Hawaii because of its natural beauty, the volcanoes are one attraction that you will not want to miss. The volcanoes within the Big Island have been irrupting for quite some time. As recently as April 2010, lava was seen rushing to the ocean in one of the tubes from the volcano, so caution is a must when visiting.
The volcanoes national park is open all day, every day, and all year. The visitor center, named Kilauea, is opened from 7:45 to 5:00 daily. There is also the Jaggar Museum with a bookstore located in it. The museum itself is opened from 8:30 to 8:00 daily, while the bookstore is available from 8:30 to 7:00 every day. Getting to the park is pretty easy from anywhere on the island. It is anywhere from a 45 minute to 3 hour driving, depending upon what city you are staying in. If you are staying on a different island, you will have to get an airplane ticket for Hawaii and travel from the airport to the volcano. There are entrance fees to the park, but there are also days in which the fee is waived. The typical fee is $10 for each vehicle or $5 for each person. The vehicle pass will allow al the occupants of the vehicle into the park for the $10 fee. People on foot or biking will have to pay the $5 per person. There are other types of passes which can be located on the park’s website.
Whatever type of hiker you are, you will find a trail that will fit your fitness level here. There are convenient trails that last only a few minutes and are a short walk. There are trails that require expert knowledge of hiking, equipment and winter weather clothing. There are even trails that are paved for families with strollers or people in wheelchairs. While many of the easier trails are maintained and easily distinguishable, the expert trails are not and are only recognizable by the cairns marking their entrances.
There are many activities for all members of a group to do at the park. If your time if short and you can only afford a few hours at the park, traveling it in your car would be the best way to go. You can see the Kilauea volcano summit and drive along Crater Rim Drive, which is an 11 mile circled road that encompasses the park. You will see desert, authentic rain forests that contain native plants and animals to the Hawaiian Islands, and the caldera floor and summit. There will also be the chance to get out of the car and see the sights in the scenic overviews or walks that are located along the road.
If you can spend all day at the park, the East Rift and the coast is something that you should see. You will drive down the Chain of Craters road for 20 miles and see the awesome force of lava. Part of this road was covered with lava when it flowed from the volcano in 2003.
For the completely adventurous types that have all the time in the world, you can camp inside the park and hike its many trails. There is no camping fee and no reservation needed to camp. You may camp in a trailer or in a tent, depending upon which camping site you choose. You may only stay 7 days every month at the park and only 30 days throughout the year. Because of the recent fire hazards, there are restrictions on how you can use fire, but you may cook your food. More information can be found on the park’s website.
The weather in the park can change rapidly on any given day, so plan for that and dress in layers of clothing. It is better to take off layers than have to buy them from the gift store.