Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park

///Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park

Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park

Experience the beauty and power of an active volcano on The Big Island of Hawaii.  Here are some Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park tips!

Volcanoes National Park Tips and Tricks

Hi friends!

What a snowstorm!  I got 14+ inches of snow at my house and was snowed in all weekend.  Luckily, the power stayed on, so it meant a nice weekend at home.  You can see some of my snow pictures on Instagram!  Since my weekend was a little slow, I’m taking the blog back to Hawaii today.  I hope you don’t mind 🙂

Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park

One of the coolest things the Hubs and I did on our last Hawaii trip, is go to the Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park.  The park is on The Big Island and the highlight is seeing the active Kilauea volcano.  Today I’m going to share our day trip and some Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park tips just in case you get to go.

The Hubs and I normally like to go adventuring on our own, but we decided to go on a group tour to see the volcano.  We were staying at the Hilton Waikoloa Village on the Kohala coast, so we were 2-3 hours away from the park.  We also really wanted to see the volcano at night, but didn’t want to drive back to the other side of the island after dark on unfamiliar roads.  After navigating several adventures on Maui on our own, the thought of riding with someone who knew where they were going sounded pretty appealing!

The Tour

Our tour starts mid-morning and leaves from the hotel.  Since the drive is so long, there are a couple of scheduled stops along the way.

First up is a Kona coffee farm!

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The setting at Mauka Meadows coffee is nothing short of breathtaking.  We have a picnic lunch with this view.

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We finish the tour with a tasting and get a couple of boxes to take home.  The pure Kona coffee is so good it doesn’t even need cream.

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Another hour plus down the road we stop at Punalu’u Bake Shop!  They serve delightful sweet breads and gives us a chance to get our bearings back after a windy ride.

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Last stop before reaching the Volcanoes National Park is a black sand beach.  It is a pretty, but slightly crowded beach.

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You could tell  most of the tourists stop here on their way to the main event.

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My favorite part is seeing resting sea turtles.  As many times as I see sea turtles in the wild, it will never get old.

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Finally after hours of buildup we arrive to the Volcanoes National Park!  We start by driving Crater Rim Drive and doing a short section of the Crater Rim Trail.

The first time I see that steam rising out of the ground I am speechless!

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Our tour guide keeps remarking about how lucky we are with the weather.  It is sunny and mild, but apparently it is normally rainy and cool.  We get to see some sweeping volcano views that are often clouded in.

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We did a short hike and the tour guide is moving quickly!  I would like to stop and take a ton more pictures, but this group is NOT waiting.  I guess that’s the struggle with these group tours.

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The vegetation around the trail is surprisingly lush considering it’s in hard volcanic soil.  A lot of the ground was covered in fern.  This is part of the fern that is apparently delicious to eat!

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Next stop is the Thurston lava tube.  A lava tube is where an underground tube is formed by flowing lava.  The outside of the tube hardens, but the lava keeps moving in the tube.  It eventually stops flowing and leaves behind tubes.  They are everywhere on The Big Island, but obviously most are not safe or not known about.  The Thurston lava tube is both and is the perfect chance to see how volcanoes work.

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I played around with images in the dark tube.  This is what it looks like with a flash.

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And this is a more realistic darker version without the flash and the exposure boosted up.

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Next stop is the Volcano House.  A historic hotel, orginally built in 1846 allowing for guests to stay in rooms with a crater view.

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I’d love to stay here the next time I visit for just a few days.

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The balcony views are so close to the crater and like nothing else I’ve ever seen.  We eat an early dinner at the hotel before moving on.  The highlight of this tour is viewing the volcano at night and we want to be in place at sunset.

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We make one last stop before sunset to see the steam vents.  This is where steam comes out of the earth from massive lava holes.  The steam feels so warm compared to the air, which has rapidly turned chilly during dinner.

Kilauea at Night

Finally, we arrive at the main event at dusk.  The ultimate viewing area is at the Jaggar museum.  I bundle up with my coat, find a seat on a rock wall and start snapping away.  I am not going to miss the opportunity to take pictures of this!

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I use my long range lens to get a good view inside the crater.  In the pictures, it almost looks like fresh lava is spurting out.

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It is actually just the steam catching the glow of the lava well below the surface.  As scary as this looks, it is safe.

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This image ends up being my favorite of the day!  It’s not very often you witness something like this.

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After feeling rushed for much of the day, I get plenty of time to take as many pictures of the volcano at night as I wished.  We also tour the Jagger museum, which has fascinating information about volcanoes and the park.

The ride back to the hotel is dark, spooky and very long.  Many of the roads don’t have lights or signs and it is a shade of pitch black you don’t see on the mainland.  It makes me grateful we had chose a tour, even though I didn’t get to do exactly what I wanted all day.

Tips for Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park

  • Bring layers.  We experienced everything from 80+ degree beach weather to 40 degree damp rain throughout our day.  Wear good shoes.
  • Go at night.  Seeing the volcano at night from the Jagger museum was my favorite park.
  • Consider spending a night at the Volcano House.  It would have been nice to do some longer, more adventurous hikes while we were there.  It is hard to do a long hike and drive across the island in a day.
  • Bring a zoom lens for your camera and a tripod.
  • Consider going on a group tour, but know you will be rushed.
  • Get gas before you get to the park!

What an adventure!  This was the longest day of our vacation and we felt like we spent most of it in the van, but it was worth every minute.  It’s not every day you see Mother Nature creating new land!  Such a fascinating place and I’d love to go back one day and explore more.

Want to catch up on Hawaii and other vacations?  Check out my Travel Page!

Thanks for coming along for the adventure by today!  Come back tomorrow for a fresh oven baked salmon recipe with a delightful healthy sauce on top.

I’m linking up with Marvelous Monday and Travel Tuesday.

Your turn!

What would you do first?

How much snow did you get?  Are you still snowed in?

By | 2017-08-15T14:04:04-04:00 January 25th, 2016|Other US Travel, Travel|54 Comments


  1. […] Hawaii Volcanoes National Park […]

  2. Juhi March 13, 2018 at 5:46 pm - Reply

    Amazing photos…. breathtakingly beautiful!
    Can you tell me how your stay at the Hilton Waikola village was? I am planning on staying there with my family for my upcoming trip. Which tour did u book to tour the Volcano national park? How was your experience? TIA!

  3. Nadia Martin April 30, 2016 at 4:46 am - Reply

    Breathtaking pictures i love them. I love volcanoes !

  4. Sara @ Simply Sara Travel February 19, 2016 at 8:42 am - Reply

    Beautiful photos – especially the ones at night!! It’s been years since I visited the Volcanoes National Park, so I enjoyed “revisiting” via this post. I remember being in awe of seeing lava and being in a place where you can see the earth changing before your eyes. Great tips too! #TravelTuesday

    • JulieWunder February 20, 2016 at 10:18 am - Reply

      It’s amazing to see earth actually being formed! Thanks for stopping by today.

  5. Christy Swagerty (whatupswags) February 16, 2016 at 4:19 pm - Reply

    EPIC photos, especially the ones with the volcano fiery lava! Temperatures fluctuate so much on volcanoes, I remember that when my team went up one on Maui. Glad to have found you via #TravelTuesday, and thanks for linking up!

    • JulieWunder February 16, 2016 at 6:35 pm - Reply

      Thank you so much! So nice to “meet” you today!

  6. Neely January 27, 2016 at 2:58 pm - Reply

    what a cool experience! I love the photos

  7. Amanda January 27, 2016 at 2:49 pm - Reply

    We can all definitely do some great things, learn about places and also have fun when we travel!

  8. Sara @ SARA SEES January 27, 2016 at 10:23 am - Reply

    Well I can definitely say that I’ve never seen a volcano in person before but this looks incredible! Would love to witness that one day!

    • JulieWunder February 6, 2016 at 9:18 am - Reply

      Thanks Sara! It was great– I hope you get to go one day.

  9. Ruth - Tanama Tales January 26, 2016 at 8:49 pm - Reply

    This is so awesome! I want to visit the Volcanoes Park too. It is good to know how tours operate in here. I was thinking about renting a car and camp in the park (since that is my kind of thing). I guess it depends of how much you have available too. A tour will work well to maximize time.

    • JulieWunder February 6, 2016 at 9:17 am - Reply

      If you are a camper, I would recommend spending more than one day there. SOOOOO much to do. I would have loved to do more actual hiking.

  10. CourtneyLynne January 26, 2016 at 3:27 pm - Reply

    Omg I have actually been fortunate enough to go myself!! This park is definitely a site to see!

  11. Dan Steadman January 26, 2016 at 10:17 am - Reply

    wow…looks warm!! We had 8 inches and aren’t snowed in and were able to get out Saturday afternoon

  12. Jess @hellotofit January 26, 2016 at 10:12 am - Reply

    I’d love to go back to Hawaii to do some more exploring! Great photos, Julie 🙂

  13. Andrea on Vacation January 26, 2016 at 8:56 am - Reply

    Going at night is way more cool than during the day. What fun photos! I love the sea turtles on the black sand beach too. Sounds like a fun day. Group tours sometimes are not my favorite but I definitely wouldn’t have wanted to drive at night.

    • JulieWunder February 6, 2016 at 9:15 am - Reply

      Yeah– I was slightly annoyed at feeling rushed for much of the day, but was very grateful we were not navigating the road home on our home. SOOOOOO dark and very few signs.

  14. Ickle Pickle January 26, 2016 at 8:12 am - Reply

    Wow – your photos are amazing! I can’t believe how much snow you have had – we never get any. Kaz 🙂

  15. Farrah January 26, 2016 at 12:31 am - Reply

    <3 Thanks for sharing all these photos! It looked like so much fun! Great tips too! I really hope I can go in a couple months!! *-*

  16. Saidah Washington January 25, 2016 at 11:25 pm - Reply

    Such an unforgettable vacation. The views are just breathtaking.

  17. Amber NElson January 25, 2016 at 9:41 pm - Reply

    I would love to go to Hawaii one day. What beautiful photos!

  18. Dogvills January 25, 2016 at 9:00 pm - Reply

    What a wonderful experience. The views are amazing! I would love to explore the volcanoes.

  19. Nicole @ Fitful Focus January 25, 2016 at 8:49 pm - Reply

    What an amazing experience! I would have been all about that coffee farm, and those tubes are the coolest!

    • JulieWunder February 6, 2016 at 9:13 am - Reply

      They are pretty cool! We ended up bringing some coffee home 🙂

  20. Liz Mays January 25, 2016 at 6:53 pm - Reply

    Oh my gosh, what an experience that would be. I love every bit of it and want to do it all. How beautiful the volcano is at night.

  21. Runaway Bridal Planner January 25, 2016 at 6:11 pm - Reply

    Your pictures are stunning!
    When I saw your close up version of the lava at the top, I was like how did she take that shot? I was thinking you must have been in a helicopter or something.
    But blown away you could take that with a good lens that is a beautiful shot!
    I am super jealous, I have got to get to the mainland sometime. My sister is taking off there next month, and I have been trying to talk her into hiring me as a nanny to play with the kids for a week, so she can go off and do a few things alone with the hubby. Unfortunately, my talking is not working. Of course her kids are old enough to not really need a nanny and they are very active so she can take them along on everything (which isn’t helping my cause, LOL)
    I really need to plana trip there soon. Especially to the Volcano National Park!!!! Thanks for sharing!!!

    • JulieWunder February 6, 2016 at 9:12 am - Reply

      You totally need to go! It was such an amazing adventure. I hope you get to go back soon!

  22. [email protected] the Long Way Home January 25, 2016 at 12:59 pm - Reply

    I have wanted to go to Hawaii ever since seeing The Descendants! And now your pictures. They are truly amazing!

    • JulieWunder February 6, 2016 at 9:10 am - Reply

      I love that movie simply to get glimpse of Hawaii. It is such a magical place.

  23. Blane Sherer January 25, 2016 at 12:11 pm - Reply

    Yeah , I enjoyed my snowed in weekend with
    14 inches of snow as well. I kept up with my family
    through the weekend and we were all safe and sound.
    I’m so glad that your night time shots of the volcano
    turned out so well. It can be disappointing when you
    look so forward to seeing something and or / shooting
    something if it doesn’t live up to your high expectations.
    Glad yours did ( smile ) Awesome !!

    • JulieWunder February 6, 2016 at 9:09 am - Reply

      Yes!! You never know until you get the images home 🙂

  24. Heather @Fit n Cookies January 25, 2016 at 12:11 pm - Reply

    Oh my word! This is the coolest thing. I’m SO glad you got to experience it, and share it with us. I’ve never been close to a volcano, but it just seems so neat!

    • JulieWunder February 6, 2016 at 9:09 am - Reply

      It was so cool! I’m glad you enjoyed “coming along” for the journey 🙂

  25. Emily January 25, 2016 at 11:00 am - Reply

    INCREDIBLE! God’s creation declares so much of His glory! I’m so amazed at how diverse His world is.

  26. [email protected] January 25, 2016 at 9:46 am - Reply

    Those pictures of the volcano at night are breathtaking! Seeing that would definitely be on my list!!
    We actually didn’t get much snow this weekend. It was a little disappointing!

  27. I could use a little Hawaii warmth right now!

  28. Heather Johnson January 25, 2016 at 8:35 am - Reply

    I would love to go to Hawaii someday! I really want to see all the volcanoes!

  29. Annmarie January 25, 2016 at 8:20 am - Reply

    This is one thing we didn’t do when we went to Hawaii and I wish we did- looks amazing!

  30. Dannii @ Hungry Healthy Happy January 25, 2016 at 8:03 am - Reply

    I am glad that you were save in the storm – I bet it made you wish that you were back in Hawaii though haha
    These photos are amazing and really making me want to go back.

  31. Susie @ SuzLyfe January 25, 2016 at 7:58 am - Reply

    The Big Island really is the most incredible place. I’ve been to Oahu and Kauai, but I would love to go back and explore Big Island!

  32. [email protected] January 25, 2016 at 7:41 am - Reply

    Beautiful pics! Those volcanoes are so cool. I’m sure the pics don’t even do it justice. I am such a big coffee drinker. I would really enjoy that kona tour. That’s how you know it’s great coffee, when no cream is needed.

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