Hawaii Volcano National Park
You can't go to the Big Island and not see the volcano or lava...it's a must! Alex and I made the drive over from Kona to Hilo, and then up to the Hawaii Volcano National Park.
It was a 2 and a half hour drive, and epically beautiful. We had the rental car, a Buick Enclave (amazing car, so smooth and comfortable to drive!), and no plans for lunch or dinner, it was perfect!
Kona is on the dry side of the island, so watching the landscape change from brown to green was fun. Not to mention all the stunning lava fields flanking the highway. The sky was huge and seemed to go on forever. I drove to Hilo so Alex could fully take in and enjoy the view.
We stopped for lunch at K's Drive In. I love finding little places like this! I got one of the specials of the day, the tofu & ahi patty, Alex got a classic Loco Moco, it is rice, with a hamburger patty, fried egg and all topped offed and covered in gravy. He loved it! Both of our dishes were so good, and we had a great table in the shade. Here is a brief recap of #alexeats....
After getting fueled up, it was off to the volcano!
The Hawaii Volcano National Park is huge. There are so many different things to see, hikes to take and just amazing scenery to take in. The $20 per car entry fee is good for a week. So if nature and the outdoors are your thing, you could easily do a week there. You can camp or there is a hotel called the "Volcano House".
Since we were only there for half a day, we took the advice from the giant map/activities board and planned to do the Thurston Lava Tubes, the Steam Vents, and the Jagger Museum which is above a crater with active lava. Along with a bunch of other stops to admire everything of course.
The Lava tubes are impressive. You walk down into the very green, very alive gully. So many trees, vines, ferns, and birds. You almost feel like you've gone back in time. Except for the group of tourists stopping every 5 seconds to take a group selfie with a selfie stick...
The tube was discovered in 1913 and lets you walk about 1/2 mile through what used to be filled with lava. The first half of the tube is lighted, and very easy to navigate. The walkway is wide and flat through the tube, and while there are puddles and pot holes, it's still a really easy hike. The second half of the tube was closed when we were visiting, but it's not lighted at all. So if you were to make it in there, bring a flashlight, and sure footing!
Once we made it back into the sunlight, we stopped to look at the map of the park and another visitor overheard us talking about our next plan. We were wondering if we could add in another hike or drive down the Chain of Craters Road. She said we had to make the drive down to the water via the Chain of Craters, so we added that to our list. Thank you friendly tourist!
Before we made the drive to the sea, we did a quick hike out to a look out over a crater on the Crater Rim Trail. It's a super easy hike along a STUNNING example of mother nature's power. Every so often there is a turn out that looks out over the crater that you can stop at. Just sit and take it in.
We hopped in the car after that little hike and started the drive down to the sea. Every 1/4 mile or so there was another crater, another example of lava fields. Down and down we went, following the lava to the ocean.
When you get to the flats above the water, all around is lava. SO MUCH LAVA! We found a great section of hill where you can see how a wall of lava came over it. The 2 main types of lava are pahoehoe (pa-hoy-hoy), very smooth and glassy, and Aa (ah-ah), rough and crumbly, which you could see co-existing side by side.
The road keeps going through the lava fields to the checkpoint at the end. There you have to leave your car and hike 5 miles out to where the lava is flowing into the sea. We decided that 1 hike was enough, and we didn't have enough water to make it there and back safely. So we just stopped and checked out the sea arch instead. It was a really warm day, we should have planned better to make that trek, but we're already planning our next trip :)
Our last stop of the day was the Jagger Museum. It sits about a mile from the center crater and is full of interesting lava and volcano facts. Not to mention a spectacular view of lava and the landscape in general. The sun was going to be setting in an hour or so, we had had a long day of exploring. With our binoculars Alex was able to see his first glimpse of lava as it popped and dancing out of the crater. I wish I had a recording of his expression and reaction. There's nothing like it.
Next time, Alex and I want to spend at least a few days in the park. Camp and hike and spend a lot more time. Since the park entry fee is good for a week...why not? If you are at all interested in the outdoors, volcanoes, and history, I highly suggest making time for the Hawaii Volcano National Park.
Oh, and p.s. I blame my fascination of volcanoes on my 5th grade teacher. Who made us spell...wait for it..."pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis" every week until the entire class could spell it correctly. It is a disease that you contract when breathing in volcanic ash, which often contains very fine silicate or quartz dust.