Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, on the Big Island of Hawaii, allows visitors an up-close and personal look at the wonder and devastation associated with volcanoes. Mauna Loa and Kilauea are the two volcanoes featured in the park. There are landscapes and exhibits to visit which illustrate the power and destruction of these and other volcanoes (don’t miss the film at the Visitor Center prior to venturing out into the park).
A trip along Crater Rim Drive reveals many different aspects of Kilauea’s history. Definitely take the fairly short walk to and through the Thurston Lava Tube for an interesting and eerie perspective.
Also drive down Chain of Craters Road to see, first hand, some of the devastation wrought by Kilauea in the past. Notice also the steam rising from Mauna Ulu and Puu Oo which indicate the continuation of Kilauea’s current eruption.
This park offers an opportunity to see fresh lava flowing to the edge of the island and into the ocean. For people interested in geological phenomena, this is a chance of a lifetime, since most volcanic eruptions are unexpected and too violent to approach. To get this unparalleled view, take the Chain of Craters Road to its end (there is a small Ranger Station at the blockade, so cars must be parked somewhere along the road in that vicinity). Then walk several miles over very uneven terrain with no path (except for the very beginning of the stroll) until there is an area where new continental crust is being formed by the hardening of lava. Break open the surface of the rock, to see fresh lava oozing toward the ocean. Veering toward the coastline, visitors may see the steam and gases at the interface where hot magma meets cold ocean water. It is an unforgettable experience, well worth the exertion. (Don’t be too discouraged by Park Rangers who seem to be constantly reminding people of the dangers of getting too close). However, do be extremely careful since the walk traverses areas where the volcanic crust may be only hours old!