Kilauea'iki crater

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park guide

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The Kīlauea volcano is the most active volcano in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. It is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and is visited by millions of tourists each year. This makes it the most visited attraction in Hawaii and the most visited volcano in the world.

If you are looking for more than a day trip to see the volcanoes, set up camp in Volcano Village.  This small village lies in the middle of lush rainforest only 5 minutes from the park entrance and has some great value vacation rentals!

The Kīlauea volcano (a short introduction)

The big island consists in total of five separate volcanoes: the Kohala, Mauna Kea, Hualālai, Mauna Loa and Kilauea volcano. Mauna Kea measures 13,796 feet and is the tallest mountain in the state and the tallest sea mountain in the world. Mauna Loa is the largest volcano on Earth in terms of volume and area covered.

Despite these impressive figures, Kīlauea is the most famous of the Hawaiian volcanoes, and rightly so!  It is the youngest and most active of the five volcanoes and has been erupting continuously since 1983.

You can read more about these volcanoes in our blog.

Things to do in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

It is possible to spend multiple days in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park without getting bored. The park offers 100+ miles of hiking trails that take you through old lava tubes and lush rainforest, and over old and new, still fuming, lava flows. Besides that, the park organizes daily ranger-led hikes and weekly activities such as “After Dark in the Park“. Overnight camping is possible in the park on two separate campgrounds.

The park is also very accessible by car. The crater rim drive (now partially closed because of the Halema’um’au activity) takes you around the Kilauea Crater. The chain of craters road winds down past many scenic points and volcanic craters all the way down to the ocean, where the road finally disappears under a fresh sheet of lava.

Conditions for lava viewing (e.g., lava flowing into the ocean, accessibility of the lava flow) are ever changing. For up-to-date information see our lava viewing guide for Hawaii and the resources mentioned there.

Special activities for kids in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Children up to 12 years old can become junior rangers and receive a junior ranger badge. To become a junior ranger the kids have to complete a couple of activities while in the park. This is a free, fun and educational activity and we highly recommend it for all kids. There are programs for kids aged 7-12, and 6 and below.

More information, including junior ranger handbooks which you can print out at home, at the ‘be a junior ranger‘ website.

Sulphur Banks (Ha'akulamanu)
The sulfur banks are a short hike away from the steam vent parking area and are accessible along a paved path and boardwalk

Must-See Attractions in the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park:

Park attractions include our following favorites, but here is far more in the park to keep you entertained. your first stop in the park should always be the visitor center for an up-to-date report on the park events, closed-of areas and ranger-led hikes.

The following video shows of four of our favorite stops in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park:

  1. The Halema’uma’u crater overlook at the Jaggar museum
  2. The Thurston lava tube
  3. The Kilauea ‘iki crater
  4. Part of the chain of craters road.

As a bonus the video also has some mesmerizing footage of lava of the 61g flow entering the ocean. After the video we continue with a list of more information on our park favorites.

  1. The Kilauea Visitor Center:

    is open daily from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Ranger talks and guided tours can be scheduled here, and there plays a 25-minute film to introduce you to the park. Pick up a map, learn about the park’s hikes, and get the latest eruption updates here. Opening hours are subject to change, find the current hours at the national park website.

  2. The Thomas A. Jaggar Museum + Halema’uma’u crater overlook:

    is opened daily from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm. Thomas A. Jaggar pioneered the study of volcanology at Kilauea. You can find geologic displays, maps, and videos about the study of volcanoes inside. Outside you will find the best overlook over the steaming Halema’uma’u crater. [opening hours are subject to change, find the current hours at the national park website]

  3. The Kilauea’iki crater:

    is our favorite short hike on the Big Island (more about this hike). It takes you down into the Kilauea’iki crater to cross the crater floor which was formed only 50 years ago.

  4. Thurston Lava Tube:

    The Thurston lava tube is an easily accessible and very interesting lava tube close to the Kilauea’iki parking lot.  A 20 minute 1/3 mile walk through a tree fern forest and a illuminated cave-like lava tube takes you from the main road through the Thurston Lava Tube and back to the parking lot. (pictures of Thurston lava tube).

  5. The Chain of Craters road:

    takes you past some of the recent craters of the park and eventually ends down at the ocean where a lava flow has literally overtaken the road (description of the crater rim drive tour on the national park website). The chain of craters road is one of our favorite scenic drives of the Big Island. The ranger station on the Chain of Craters Road is open daily from 10 am to 9 pm.

  6. Day hikes in the park:

    There are more than 10 day hikes possible inside the park. You can find a description for each of them at the park website

  7. The Volcano Art Center Gallery:

    is located directly next to the Kilauea Visitor Center and is open from 9:00 a.m to 5:00 p.m. daily. More info on the Volcano Art Center here.

  8. Finally, some more pictures:

    See more pictures of our favorite places and activities in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

end-of-roadEnd of Chain of Craters road
The scenic chain of craters road in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park ends after 23 miles at lava flows that covered the road in several eruptions between 1986 and 1996

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Getting to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and opening hours

The Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is open 24 hours a day, every day of the year. The Kilauea Visitor Center is located on Crater Rim Drive off of Highway 11 between the 28 and 29 mile marker south of Hilo. The visitor center is opened daily between 9:00 am and 5:00 pm. The Jaggar Museum is open daily between 10:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. (back to top)

Steam vents
Steam vents at the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Entrance fees for the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

General admission is  $25.00 per private non-commercial vehicle or $12.00 for pedestrians or bicyclists. Keep the receipt, because it will allow you seven days entrance to the National Park (2017).

If you are staying for a longer time in Hawaii you may also be interested in the annual “Hawai`i Tri-Park Pass” ($30.00). This pass allows access for one full year from date of first use at the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park and the  Pu’uhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park on the Big Island, and to the Haleakala National Park on Maui.

The pass admits the pass owner and/or spouse along with accompanying persons in a single, private, non-commercial vehicle. When your entry is by other means (bicycle, foot, Hele-On bus, etc.) it covers the purchaser and accompanying immediate family (spouse, children, and parents). The pass is not refundable or transferable. (back to top)

Map of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Below you can find the 2013 map of the (most popular) summit area of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. You can find more up-to-date maps at the map section of the national park website.

Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park Summit Area Map
Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park summit area map