Go Camping in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
2021 UPDATE: Most of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park has reopened, please check the Park website for closure info.
One of the main attractions in the entire state of Hawaii is Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. With its more than 300,000 acres and incredibly diverse geography, the park offers plenty of opportunity for adventure for those who seek it out.
The main attractions in the park include the Kilauea Crater, the Puna-Ku’a Historic District, the Thurston Lava Tube, and the active flow at Pu’u O’o, but there’s plenty to explore in between. In fact, the park is open 24/7, allowing visitors to stretch their legs and embark on adventures without worry. So if you’re planning to do some exploring around the park and want to sleep under the starry night sky, read on.
If you’re planning to stay within the park itself, know that there are only two campgrounds and you will have to pay the park entry fee of $25/car as well as paying the camping site fee $10 – $15 depending on the site (more if you rent a tent).
Hawaii Volcano House – Campground Operator
The Namakanipaio campground is located within the park at around 4000 ft elevation, in a eucalyptus forest. There are three lodging options; you can rent one of 10 camper cabins, rent a tent and camp site, or bring your own tent and just rent a campsite. Campers in the cabins or rented tents can use the community bathroom with hot showers and toilets, while DIY campers have access to a restroom, but no showers. Both tent camping groups have a 7 day max stay. Barbecue grills are available in designated areas. View the Hawaii Volcano House website for pricing and additional information. Prices range from $15 – $80 depending on your options.
National Park Website
The Kulanaokuaiki Campground can be found about 5 miles down the Hilina Pali Road. It is located at 2700 ft elevation and can have night time temperatures as low as the high 40s, so pack for colder weather. There are only nine designated campsites here and they are rented on a first come basis. They have picnic tables and tent pads, but there is no running water, and pets and fires are not permitted. There is a vault-type toilet. The camping fee is $10 per night and checkout time is 11:00 am with a 7 day max stay.
Pack Well, Pack Warm
The park is stunningly diverse, with altitudes spanning between near-sea level to an astonishing 13,678-foot summit at Mauna Loa. You’ll see expansive lava fields, volcanic formations, active lava flows, staggering cliff sides, apocalyptic craters, lush rainforests, and wide open deserts, so preparing for any and every climate is a wise move. If you plan to stay in the park, note that the elevation at either campground is higher and therefore more susceptible to rainfall and cooler temperatures, so throwing in a raincoat, warm clothes and tarp for your tent would be a smart decision.
Keep Your Hiking Boots Ready, but Don’t Be Afraid to Drive
The park is widely accessible by car, but there’s an extensive network of hiking trails that will keep you out and about throughout your stay. In fact, if you’re planning to visit the flows, your feet will thank you if you drive as far as the access road. Conditions change frequently and the proximity by which visitors can approach the viewing area sometimes shifts, so check with the National Park Service before you head out, but it’s typically an hour or more each direction on foot from the parking area.
Plan to Visit the Lava Flows at Dusk or Dawn
Speaking of the lava flows at Pu’u O’o, there’s a tidbit of information you should be wary of: it’s hot – very hot – at the viewing areas during the daytime. And because the ample sunlight can obscure all or most of the visible lava, leaving only a cloud of steam visible to onlookers, many visitors prefer to travel to the lava flows at the beginning or end of the day to maximize their viewing experience and enjoy at least one cooler-temperature hike or bike ride back to their vehicles. And for photographers? There’s no better time than the magic hour by which to capture the flows and break out that telephoto lens.