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 seen by millions of tourists each year. This makes it the most visited attraction in Hawaii and the most visited volcano in the world.
- A short introduction on the Kīlauea volcano
- Things to do in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
- Directions & opening hours
- Entrance fees
- Park road map
- More pictures + favorite activities (opens new page)
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. The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park encompasses two of these volcanoes: Mauna Loa and Kīlauea.
Despite all of 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. It is the Kilauea volcano whose lava you can see flowing into the ocean and whose glow you can see at night at the Halema’umau crater.
Things to do in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
It is easy to spend multiple days in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park without getting bored. There are many short and long hikes in the park and plenty of interesting spots you can reach with a car.
The park is very accessible by car! The chain of craters road for example takes you down from the park entrance 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. The crater rim drive (currently partially closed because of the Halema’uma’u activity) takes you around the Kilauea Crater.
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.
Besides driving you can also do a lot of hiking in the park. The 100+ miles of hiking trails take you through old lava tubes and lush rainforest, and over old and new, still fuming, lava flows. The park also 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, one of which also has cabins available.
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 if you bring any children. There are programs for kids aged 7-12, and for those of age 6 and below.
More information including junior ranger handbooks which you can print out at home can be found at the ‘be a junior ranger‘ website.
Park attractions include the following four highlights, but please remember that here is far more in the park that deserves your attention. 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:
- The Halema’uma’u crater overlook at the Jaggar museum
- The Thurston lava tube
- The Kilauea ‘iki crater
- 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.
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 hikes in the park, and get the latest eruption updates here. Opening hours are subject to change, find the current hours at the national park website.
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]
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 across the crater floor which was formed only 50 years ago, and up again to the parking lot.
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.
During daytime hours there the lava tube is illuminated, but between 8 p.m. and 10 a.m. there will be no lights on in the cave. The cave will remain open overnight for visitors that want to experience a pitch black lava tube :). Visitors must carry their own light source if planning to explore the lava tube in its dark, natural state before 10 a.m. or after 8 p.m. Park rangers recommend head lamps and flashlights; cell phones are not recommended as the only light source.
See more pictures of Thurston lava tube.
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.
Day hikes in the park:
There are more than 10 day hikes possible inside the park for which you can find a description at the park website. If you are looking for longer and more challenging hikes a good place to start is the Big Island Hikes website (the hikes are listed at the bottom of the page).
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.
See more pictures of our favorite places and activities in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
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.
The gate of the park stays open outside the official opening hours so don’t worry about staying late (to see the glow) or arriving early (to avoid most other visitors).
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 (2018).
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.
Below you can find the 2018 map of the (most popular) summit area of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. You can find larger maps of the complete park area and the island at the maps section of the national park website.