Kilauea iki crater hike big island hawaii

Favorite Pictures and Activities | Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

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Pictures of our favorite parts of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park that didn’t make it into our main park guide. We have many pictures and even more information that we kept out of there because we have to keep our content concise and to the point. Our expanded list of favorites includes:

Thurston Lava Tube (Nāhuku)

Nāhuku, better known as Thurston Lava Tube, is a large lava tube that had a river of red lava flowing through only a few hundred years ago. To get there you’ll need ~20 minutes (round trip) from the parking lot for an easy, 1/3 mile walk. You can see the entrance to the tube below.

Nāhuku - Thurston Lava Tube hawaii volcanoes national park big island hawaii
This lava tube was discovered in 1913 by Lorrin Thurston, a local newspaper publisher. At that time the roof of the tube was covered with lava stalactites, but those soon disappeared to souvenir collectors.

Kilauea’iki Crater (best short hike!)

The Kilauea’iki crater is home to our favorite short hike on the Big Island: the Kilauea’iki trail. This trail located in the middle of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park will lead you through a lush ohia forest down into the Kilauea’iki crater, straight over the fractured crater floor and past hot and steaming vents. The crater floor was formed in 1959, and you can see signs of that eruption everywhere.

Kilauea iki crater hike big island hawaii
Hikers cross the floor of the Kilauea’iki crater in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Find more information about this hike at our favorite short hike compilation.

Steam Vents and the Steaming Bluff

A short 0.8 mile drive will take you from the Kīlauea Visitor Center to the steam vents. Here, ground water seeps down to the hot volcanic rocks and returns to the surface as steam with a distinct, sulfury, smell.

To get to the place where the following picture was taken, you have to take a short walk to the caldera’s edge. This place is called the “steaming bluff” (in geology, a bluff is a high, steep bank, as by a river or the sea, or beside a ravine or plain). You also have a grand view over the Halema’uma’u crater.

Steam Vents and Steaming Bluff hawaii volcanoes national park
A short 0.8 mile drive will take you from the Kīlauea Visitor Center to the steam vents. Here, ground water seeps down to the hot volcanic rocks and returns to the surface as steam with a distinct sulfury smell.

Pu’u o’o from the Nāpau campground

The Pu’u O’o has been erupting since January 3rd 1983. This still on-going eruption has produced a broad field of new lava flows that have buried over 45 square miles of the volcano’s south flank, and added more than 230 hectares of new land to the island!

The closest you can get to this crater is by hiking the Nāpau Trail in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. This 14(!) mile round trip (7+ hours) trail provides opportunities for hikers to experience a diversity of environments in Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park and leads through varied terrain ranging from recent lava flows to dense tree fern rain forests.

The following picture was taken from the endpoint of the Nāpau trail hike. Have a look at the bigislandhikes description of this hike if you are interested in making it there yourself.

puuoo volcano hvnp big island
The active Pu’u O’o vent as seen from the Napau crater in the Hawaii Volcano National Park

‘Ama’u Ferns between Mauna Ulu and the Makaopuhi crater

As the Nāpau trail takes you beyond Mauna Ulu, these ‘Ama’u (ah-ma oo) ferns colonize the recent lava flow. Unlike their close siblings, the Hāpuʻu Fern, the ‘Ama’u ferns are well equipped to survive this harsh landscape. In the background you can see the the Makaopuhi crater, the red-green shrubs in the foreground are ‘Ōhelo (oh-hello). These berries are a favorite food of the endangered endemic Nēnē geese, and is also used by the locals to make a delicious jam!

big island amau fern
‘Ama’u (ah-ma oo) ferns colonize the lava flow at the Nāpau trail in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

‘Ōheloʻai and ‘Ōhelo berries

ohelo berries berry big island hawaii
Ohelo berries are a favorite both to the endangered nene geese and to humans, who make a delicious jam out of them
ohelo plant big island hawaii
A young Ohelo ai branch. The leaves are evergreen and spirally arranged, and red when freshly emerging