Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is an absolute must-see for most people visiting the Big Island. Since the park’s reopening on Sept 22nd, Hawaii Forest & Trail once again offers in-depth tours to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Visiting the park with our team of expert interpretive guides is the best way to gain a greater understanding and meaningful experience in the dramatically changed park. Our National Park Certified Guides will share knowledgeable insight into the complex interaction of cultural history, geology, and ecology that surrounds this amazing location. Stand atop an active volcano. Experience native tropical rain-forests. Explore the lava fields and flows that shape Hawaii Island.
Kilauea Volcano and Halemaʻumaʻu Crater Update
The recent eruption activity of Kilauea Volcano has been historic and has changed the landscape of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park forever. In May 2018, the lava lake that sat in Halemaʻumaʻu crater at the summit of Kilauea for more than 10 years, began to drain. Lava moved to the lower east rift zone of the volcano in the district of Puna. Here, several fissures opened in a local subdivision known as Leilani Estates and began erupting with gas and lava. Fissure 8 quickly became the dominant fissure in the lower east rift zone eruptions, with lava fountains that would eventually reach heights of 260 feet.
As the magma stored beneath Halemaumau Crater continued to drain, the summit of Kilauea Volcano began deflating, causing the walls and floor of Halemaumau crater to collapse. These collapse events shook the summit area of Kilauea in a manner similar to an earthquake. Past visitors will remember viewing this incredible crater from the Jagger Museum overlook. Due to the collapse events at the rim of Halemaumau Crater, park staff and volunteers had to evacuate the exhibits of Jagger Museum and the Hawaii Volcano Observatory. While many of the exhibits have been relocated to the village of Pahoa, sadly, the original Jagger Museum location may be closed indefinitely.
As of September 2018, the Halemaʻumaʻu Crater has expanded by three times its original volume. The crater floor has dropped by 1600 feet and the rim has expanded dramatically.
Thurston Lava Tube
Thurston Lava Tube has been a visitor favorite for years. Now, given the recent damage to the park, Thurston Lava tube will remain closed until further notice. Luckily, Hawaii Forest and Trail has private access to a unique Lava Cave, set safely away from the recent damage of the park.
This easily accessible lava tube is large and lit, with ceilings as high as 35 feet. Weʻll walk with ease through the lava tube on the same path lava traveled hundreds of years ago when the cave was formed. Discover and learn about unique features such as masses of tree roots hanging from the ceiling which feed unique ecosystems, lava-cicles created when molten rock coursed through the cave, as well as a forested skylight.
You can see this incredible lava tube by joining our Volcano Unveiled tour.
When Thurston Lava Tube does re-open, it is an excellent introduction to lava tubes and a deeper understanding of volcanic history. The Hawaiian name for Thurston Lava Tube is nāhuku, which refers to a dripping formation on the interior walls of the lava tube, similar to a stalactites. Thurston Lava Tube is located in some of the most beautiful, pristine Native Hawaiian rainforest in the park.
When open, it is visitor friendly and easily accessible. There is a paved pathway and a few sets of stairs that bring visitors to the entrance. The walk is only 20-30 minutes. Once inside some of the uneven surfaces in the floor have been filled and there is electric lighting for added safety. We hope for our Hawaii Island visitors that it will be open again soon.
Chain of Craters Road
Inside Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Chain of Craters Road follows a series of craters down the east rift zone to the ocean. The craters along the road are formed by an interesting process. The eruption activity moves magma from the center of the volcano to the east through a long series of cracks and fissures that is known as a rift zone. Inside of this rift zone is an underground highway of magma movement. Chain of Craters Road roughly follows that pathway. Imagine the whole volcano as a giant clamshell that opens and closes, which cracks and collapses under this pressure. When the land collapses into the volcano and a crater is formed. The road has exposure to about a dozen craters, where visitors can take photos or hike a little into the terrain. Take a volcano tour with Hawaii Forest & Trail and have the opportunity to see and understand how this process works.
Authentic Ancient Hawaiian Petroglyphs
Out on the pali coastal plain is a historic and special place called pu‘uloa. Pu‘uloa has one of the largest assemblage of petroglyphs in the state. Visitors are welcome to respectfully view petroglyph carvings that range from simple geometric and concentric forms to the more anthropomorphic ones that seemed to depict different activities in life. The hike out to the Hawaii Volcano petroglyphs is about a mile and crosses over some uneven surfaces, pahoehoe (smooth) lava. The short hike is close to sea level and across the plain which is typically warm, sunny and windy. Visitors can help preserve this precious cultural treasure by staying on the walkway platform and not touching or otherwise desecrating the ancient Hawaiian petroglyphs. If you’re interested in visiting the Hawaiian petroglyphs and learning more in-depth information about Hawaiian cultural history, Hawaii Forest & Trails has Hawaii volcano tours with highly qualified interpretive guides.