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Exploring Hawaii's Volcano National Park

By Charles Hopkins Published 06/14/2007 | Travel

Hawaii's Volcano National Park is a true marvel that is a must see when traveling to the Big Island of Hawaii. Located in the park is Ka Lae, which is the southernmost area of the United States. Anyone fascinated with volcanoes will definitely enjoy the impressive sites that this 377 square mile park has to offer.

Volcano House Hotel and Restaurant

Situated in the park, near the Kilauea Caldera and across from the Visitor Center is a well-known lodge that was established around 1846 called Volcano House. Encircled by tropical forest vegetation, it is the oldest hotel that has continuously operated in Hawaii. It boasts a 125 year-old fireplace built from lava rock. Accommodations include guest rooms decorated with furniture made from scarce Koa wood. Or if you prefer, you can rent a camper cabin from the campground. While the rooms may be basic, it is the views that are worth the money.

Kilauea Visitor Center

It is a good idea to first stop in at the information desk in the Visitor Center for suggestions and information on what to see and do in the park. You can learn about guided-tour walks and hikes with the park rangers. During the day, the center regularly shows films regarding the park and its volcanoes.

Helicopter Tours

A breathtaking view of the volcanoes and the surrounding area can be seen by way of a helicopter tour over Hawaii Volcano National Park. A helicopter tour can permit you to see areas that would otherwise be unobtainable by land. From the helicopter, you will see many different examples of volcanic history from older to recent formations.

Kilauea Caldera

The Kilauea Caldera is located at Kilauea Volcano's summit measuring about two miles in width by three miles in length and 400 feet in depth. Inside the caldera is a pit crater named Halemaumau. Built-up lava by the vent is called Spatter Ramparts and you will be able to see those that formed beside the crater. Kilauea is considered one of the world's most active volcanoes. If you are lucky enough to visit the park when Kilauea is erupting, you may view rivers, spouts or magnificent fountain sprays of spewing molten lava.

Crater Rim Drive

There is an 11-mile road that you can drive around the Kilauea Caldera named Crater Rim Drive. You will steer through a variety of ecosystems from field, tropical rainforest to desert encountering craters and steam vents the whole time. All along the road, there are many stops for taking in scenic viewpoints or short hikes. Visitors are permitted to get out and view certain steam vents at specially marked sites allowing them to experience a steam vent by getting up-close and personal with one.

Chain of Craters Road

Certainly one of the recommended sights to explore is the Chain of Craters Road, which is about 50 - 60 miles roundtrip. It is a once in a lifetime experience and some of the best viewing occurs there. You can travel to see fantastic lava cliffs and where the road has been concealed by lava. You are able to view red-hot lava flowing into the sea hissing as the molten rock meets the cooler water. Most injuries happen in this area when tourists ignore the warning signs posted there, so be sure to heed the warning instructions on them.

Hawaiian Volcano Observatory

This observatory was created in 1912. Due to the concentrated monitoring by the seismic recorders and the studying done here by the staff, Kilauea is considered one of the most understood volcanoes.

Volcano Art Center and Gallery

The Volcano Art Center occupies the building that was formerly the Volcano House constructed circa 1877. It displays many pieces of handiwork from local artists. Also hosting special events and demonstrations.

No matter whether you have a few hours or a few days to spend, a trip to Hawaii's Volcano National Park is definitely worth the time. The whole family will surely be amazed at the impressive wonders and attractions the park provides. There is something of interest for everyone who visits Hawaii's Volcano National Park.