Beautiful Natural Features of Volcano, Hawaii
Of all the attractions and regions to explore on the Big Island, the area known as Volcano lives up to its name as a hotspot for visitors. While the natural focal point is Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, there are plenty of smaller, off-the-beaten path destinations for tourists to enjoy during their stay. Here are just a few of the many incredible cultural and geographical landmarks you should consider visiting in Volcano to make the most of your Big Island adventure:
Pu’u O’o, the Active Lava Flow at Kilauea
The world’s most active volcano, Kilauea has been erupting near-constantly since 1983. Remiss of the explosive power of volcanoes so often depicted in movies and TV news, Kilauea oozes lava, periodically shifting flows and threatening (or completely destroying, in the case of Kalapana) entire towns and communities. But otherwise, the active flows here serve more as a tourist attraction, offering best-ever views of flowing lava for those willing to make the trek.
Napau Crater Trail
Earning its name, this extensive trail covers seven miles of volcanic crater and is appropriately desolate, hot, and expansive. Taking a trip to Napau requires a bit of driving and a hiking permit, but the experience of exploring a vast area of land in transition after a massive geological event is undeniably impressive. Zig-zagging through a huge lava field, the path features small groupings of vegetation and hearty plant life that springs out of lava flows after several decades of cooling. It’s also a great location to view the active lava flows from afar and those who venture out on the trail at night are rewarded with glowing red scenery along the horizon.
Kipuka Puaulu Bird Park
Kipuka is a Hawaiian term for an area of land once covered by lava but is now engulfed on all sides by newer flows. When left isolated and unaffected by lava for long periods of time, a period of intense and sudden ecological activity occurs, which is what we see in Kipuka Puaulu Bird Park. Home to an ancient ohia and fern forest, an incredible display of high-elevation bird species have nested in the trees and are on frequent display to visitors to the park.
Kilauea Iki Overlook
In 1959, Kilauea Iki erupted, spreading intense streams of orange lava across the region and at one a time reached heights of as much as 1,900 feet. The resulting geography of the crater, which was once filled with more than 400 feet of lava, is an impressive scene for hikers. The Kilauea Iki Trail extends from the crater’s rim across the center of the crater itself and is a can’t-miss for geology nerds.
Chain of Craters Road
Stretching across 18 miles and reaching elevations of more than 4,000 feet above sea level, a trek across the Chain of Craters Road is a uniquely Hawaiian travel experience. A system of trails extend off the road itself, but those more comfortable upon four wheels can witness a series of craters in a variety of shapes and sizes, the results of lava flows, and maybe even active lava itself.
Crater Rim Drive
Spanning 11 miles around the edge of the Kilauea Caldera, Crater Rim Drive offers visitors several unique sightseeing and hiking opportunities. Due to active lava flows, some of the roadways along the drive are closed and inaccessible, but guests are encouraged to visit the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park ranger station for more details upon their arrival to the region.
Thurston Lava Tube
A major tourist attraction that offers a glimpse of the effects of underground lava flows, the Thurston Lava Tube is an incredible opportunity to witness the destructive power of nature. With ceilings reaching far above comfortable walking distance, this smoothened underground tube is well-lit and easily walkable, but the end of the tube presents a challenge to visitors: do I proceed or turn back? The twisting, narrow pathway rewards adventurers with a dense tropical rainforest, so if you’re in good health and up to the challenge, we’d recommend the former.
Lava Trees State Park
Created when fast-moving lava encompasses living trees, tree molds (or lava pillars) are formed in the shape of a tree, but are encased with lava rock. Depending on the health of the tree, these formations can be anywhere between a few feet to nearly a dozen feet high. Lava Trees State Park is a beautiful and brief trek around these natural formations and the vegetation that comes only as a result of intense volcanic activity – albeit some time after the flows have cooled.