While Puna along the Big Island’s eastern side doesn’t make “Top Ten” lists as often as its western counterpart in Kona, there’s plenty of reason to venture to the rugged, largely undeveloped side of the island during your stay. Teeming with geological activity (and glimpses of the results thereafter), Puna has become known as a refuge from the hustle-bustle found in larger, more populated areas in Hawaii. Those who make their way to Puna enjoy plenty of off-the-path art and music, natural wonders, and a closer look at what life in Hawaii was like before the intense tourist activity that came almost a century ago. During your visit, make the most of your experience and be sure not to miss these incredible attractions:
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
A must-visit for any trip to the Big Island, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is one of the few places on the planet where you can get up close and personal with an active lava flow. While that certainly brings in the majority of visitors to the park, there are some incredible exhibits and tours offered to guests that further explain the shaping of Hawaii and of the earth itself. You’ll have plenty of opportunity to explore the park, as it’s open 24 hours and allows overnight camping.
Lava Tree State Park
A great chance to see the impact of lava flows on nature, Lava Tree State Park offers both a look at incredible lava formations and dense tropical vegetation – many of which can only be found on the Big Island. Located along Highway 132, this park features tree stumps that have been engulfed by lava flows, creating lava pillars in the process.
Threatened by encroaching lava flows in the 1980s, this once populous island town was completely destroyed in 1990 and is now covered by hardened lava. While it’s technically a ghost town, there are a few holdouts that operate shops and restaurants in the area, making this a must-see stop on your Big Island adventure.
A small town along Highway 130, Pahoa absorbed much of Kalapana’s residents and businesses when the town was destroyed in 1990. Aside from the proximity to Kalapana and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Pahoa is a throwback to Victorian-inspired island towns built in the early-mid 20th century. Wooden boardwalks, art galleries, and small shops highlight the main street, but restaurants, bars, and coffee shops will keep you entertained in between sightseeing.
Right on the doorstep of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is Volcano Village, a major stopover for visitors to the lava flows. Rustic, secluded, and quiet, Volcano Village has become a bit of a respite for artistic types in the last few decades, keeping their craft close to the vest while enjoying the serenity required to fully explore their work. That said, there are plenty of painters, musicians, and sculptors who call Volcano Village home, and the community’s Volcano Art Center serves as the central hub of that movement.