The volcano is located on the Big Island of Hawai’i and is one of 5 major volcanoes. Up until 2008 there was road that surrounded the perimeter of the mouth and visitors to the observatory could drive around it, but in 2008 Volcano became lava active on a greater scale and officials had to increase the viewing distance from the crater. The views during the day are spectacular in terms of understanding the size of the area this crater covers – 3018 ft. However, it is in evening light that you can see the bright glowing lava eruptions contrasting against the darkness of the night sky.
At Kilauea volcano, the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory was set up along the volcano’s rim in 1912 by Thomas Jaggar, the head of geology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His scientific contribution included pioneering seismological and observational methods for active volcanoes. Visiting the observatory and joining a tour is the best way to learn the history and the ongoing activities of the crater.
There are several ways to tour the National Volcanoes Park, where Kilauea volcano is located. For those who have a car and wish to drive up, there are two main spots to stop at: the Kilauea Visitors’ Center and the Jagger Museum. If travelling by car, the Chain of Craters Road is the best to travel along, however there are spots were access has been limited or closed due to current volcanic activity.
Main Attractions and The Chain of Craters Road
Travelling along this road you will want to stop at: Lua Manu Crater, Pauahi Crater, Manuna Ulu, Kealakomo Lookout, Pu’u Loa petroglyphs, and the Holei Sea Arch.
The first crater along the drive. In 1974 the eruption of Kanakako’i caused lava to cross over the road.
This crater is about 2000ft long, 90ft deep, and 300ft wide. There is a boardwalk to view the crater and is great for photographs.
This a great spot to stop for a picnic and lookout onto the ocean and surrounding areas. The lookout is on the Holei Pali cliff which gives a panoramic view of the ocean.
Pu’u Loa Petroglyphs
This area is known to the Hawaiian people as a sacred and religious spot. The name stands for “Long Hill” and on it contains petroglyphs dating back to 1200 – 1450A.D. There are over 23,000 petroglyphs to view- plenty of interesting photo opportunities!
Holei Sea Arch
At the end of the Chain of Craters road, there is a lava formed archway that extends down to the ocean floor. The creation of this arch was through “differential erosion” which means this archway won’t last due to the varying hardness of rock. It is less than 100 years old!
Staying Near the Crater
There are a couple of options to overnight with the park. The first is to stay at the Volcano House, the only hotel spot with fantastic night views of the crater. They also provide a dining lounge with full window seating.
Another option is to stay in cabins or camp! The Volcano House will even rent you a tent and camping equipment directly from the hotel. This service is for the Namakani Paio Camping, but they do have 16 other campsites for you to pitch your own tent at. No showers though!
Did you know…?
Hawaiian legends believe that Pele, the goddess of fire, lives in the Kilauea volcano. It stands that Pele was expelled by her father from Tahiti to the Hawaiian Islands, where she created fiery volcanic eruptions only to have them extinguished by her sister, the goddess of snow. Pele was known for her violent temper and is said she will put a curse on anyone who removes a piece of “her” lava. Her spirit still lives on within the crater!
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