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Alternative-Hawaii



BIG ISLAND

HAWAII VOLCANOES
NATIONAL PARK
DRIVE GUIDE

Visitor Center, Steaming Bluff
Sulphur Banks, Craters, Museum, Rift Zone
Lava Flows, Devastated Forest, Lava Tube

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Created by: Alternative-Hawaii.com
  • Drive starts from the Exit of Liliuokalani Park in Hilo.
  • Approx. 75 miles from Start to End of Drive.
  • Approx. 2-3/4 hrs. hour driving time from Start to End of drive excluding time spent at "stops".
  • All distances are to the nearest tenth of a mile.
  • Do not leave valuables in vehicle or unattended.
  • Call: (808) 985-6000 for recorded daily eruption updates.
  • The Park is open 24 hours per day, all year.
  • The 7-day park entry fee is $10 per vehicle; $5 per bicyclist or pedestrian; free for Golden Age/Eagle Passport holders.
  • Stay on maintained trails to protect plant and animal life. Leave no scars on the land. Collecting any material from the park is prohibited.
  • The Kilauea Visitor Center, Jaggar Museum, Volcano House hotel, and Volcano Art Center are wheelchair accessible. Accessible pathways include Waldron Ledge (Earthquake Trail), Devastation Trail, Pauahi Crater, Muliwai a Pele, and Kealakomo Overlook. Wheelchairs are available for use at the Kilauea Visitor Center, Jaggar Museum, and at the ranger station at the end of Chain of Craters Road.
  • Please don't feed the Nene - feeding attracts the Hawaiian goose to parking areas and road sides where they are run over. Help protect Hawaii's state bird, a Federally protected endangered species.
  • For your safety, please observe Cautionary Notes on drive "stops" below. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park encompasses two of the world's most active volcanoes: Kilauea and Mauna Loa. This is a very dynamic natural area with many dangers. Educate yourself as to the hazards. Common sense is not enough. Stay Alert - Stay Alive!
  • Set Odometer to Zero between "stops" below.

(Click on PHOTOGRAPH to view Stop on Tour.)
See Also: A Lava Flow Pictorial


STOP 1: KILAUEA VISITOR CENTER PHOTOGRAPH
START: LILIUOKALANI PARK EXIT  
DIST/TIME: Approx. 29.5 Miles / 47 Mins.  
WATCH FOR: Mile Marker 28  
 ROUTE:
  • Exit Liliuokalani Gardens & turn left onto Banyan Drive
  • Go 0.9 mile to end of Banyan Drive at intersection of Kamehameha Ave. & Kanoelehua Ave. (traffic light)
  • Continue 28.3 miles on Kanoelehua Ave. (Hwy 11) to Crater Rim Drive
  • Turn Left at Crater Rim Drive & go very short way (0.1 mile) to Park Entrance
  • Continue 0.2 mile to Kilauea Visitor Center
Films shown throughout the day provide an introduction to the park and volcanology. Ask at the information desk about ranger-guided walks, hikes and other programs plus the latest information on trails, ranger-led activities, road conditions, and safety precautions. Because of the dynamic nature of the two active volcanoes in the park, conditions can change rapidly.

Note: Open daily 7:45 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. "Born of Fire, Born of the Sea" is the featured 25 minute film that is shown in the Kilauea Visitor Center on the hour throughout the day, starting at 9:00 a.m. with the last film shown at 4:00 p.m. Restrooms. Located nearby is the Volcano Art Center, a gallery for local artists and craftsmen.




STOP 2: STEAMING BLUFF& SULPHUR BANK PHOTOGRAPH
LEAVE: KILAUEA VISITOR CENTER  
DIST/TIME: Approx. 0.5 Mile / 2 Mins.  
WATCH FOR: Steam Vents - Left Side  
 ROUTE:
  • Turn Right from the Visitor Center parking lot & go 0.5 mile to Steam Vent parking area (left side)
The Steaming Bluff is a treeless plain between the inner and outer cliffs of Kilauea Caldera. The ground just a few feet down is so hot that tree roots cannot survive but shallow-rooted grasses & plants grow here. Take the short walk to the caldera's edge to see the steam along the bluff. Across the road is the Sulfur Bank Trail where volcanic gases seep from the ground, depositing sulphur crystals and other minerals on rocks along this paved trail and boardwalk.

Note: The Sulphur Bank Trail is a short walk (0.5 mile one way) along a paved path and boardwalk that is wheelchair accessible.

Caution: Visitors with heart or lung problems, pregnant women, infants & young children should avoid the volcanic fumes along the Sulphur Bank trail.




STOP 3: KILAUEA OVERLOOK PHOTOGRAPH
LEAVE: STEAMING BLUFF& SULPHUR BANK  
DIST/TIME: Approx. 1.5 Miles / 4 Mins.  
WATCH FOR: Sign - Kilauea  
 ROUTE:
  • Leave Steam Vents parking lot & continue approx. 1.3 mile on Crater Rim Drive to Kilauea Overlook (left side)
  • Turn Left & go to parking lot
Overlook of the Kilauea caldera. The Kilauea caldera is about 2 miles across. It was formed around A.D. 1500, when the summit of the volcano collapsed. Today it is about 400 feet to the floor of the caldera below the overlook. The view here is similar to that found at the Jaggar Museum, but is usually much less crowded.

Note: Picnic shelter, restroom.




STOP 4: THOMAS A. JAGGAR MUSEUM PHOTOGRAPH
LEAVE: KILAUEA OVERLOOK  
DIST/TIME: Approx. 0.5 Miles / 2 Mins.  
WATCH FOR: Sign - Thomas A. Jaggar Museum  
 ROUTE:
  • Turn Left from parking lot & continue another 0.5 mile beyond Kilauea Overlook to Jaggar Museum (left side)
Museum exhibits feature the volcano goddess Pele and numerous other displays that explain the history and behavior of Hawaiian volcanoes. Great overlook into Kilauea Caldera and Halemaumau Crater.

Note: Open daily 8:30-5, gift shop, tel. 985-6049, water, phone, accessible restrooms. The Museum has large windows which afford a sheltered view when the weather is inclement.




STOP 5: SOUTHWEST RIFT ZONE PHOTOGRAPH
LEAVE: THOMAS A. JAGGAR MUSEUM  
DIST/TIME: Approx. 1.7 Mile / 2 Mins.  
WATCH FOR: Sign - Southwest Rift (Right Side)  
 ROUTE:
  • Leave Museum parking lot, turn left onto Crater Rim Drive & continue approx. 1.7 mile to the Southwest Rift Zone
Rift zones are regions of weakness along a volcano's flanks, here visible as deep fissures, fractures and gullies. The southwest rift zone starts at Kilauea's summit and continues to the seacoast and beyond.

Caution: Volcanic Fumes - visitors with heart or lung problems, pregnant women, infants & young children should avoid this stop.




STOP 6: HALEMAUMAU CRATER OVERLOOK PHOTOGRAPH
LEAVE: SOUTHWEST RIFT ZONE  
DIST/TIME: Approx. 0.9 Mile / 2 Mins.  
WATCH FOR: Sign - Halemaumau (Right Side)  
 ROUTE:
  • Leave the Southwest Rift Zone and continue 0.9 mile to the Halemaumau Crater Overlook parking area
The crater is about 3,000 feet across and nearly 300 feet deep. Halemaumau is home to Pele, Goddess of Hawaiian Volcanoes. Please respect this sacred site. The Halemaumau Crater spews forth about 300 tons of sulfur dioxide daily. The sulfur dioxide is oxidized in the air and, when moisture is present, returns to the earth as sulfuric acid. This area receives 30 to 40 inches of rain per year, an amount that would support a diverse ecosystem were it not for the effects of the acid rain.

Note: The Halemaumau Overlook is a 10 minute walk (1/4 mile) from the parking lot.

Caution: Volcanic Fumes - visitors with heart or lung problems, pregnant women, infants & young children should avoid this stop. Do not take any rocks, as Pele considers them her children.




STOP 7: KEANAKAKOI CRATER OVERLOOK PHOTOGRAPH
LEAVE: HALEMAUMAU CRATER OVERLOOK  
DIST/TIME: Approx. 1 Mile / 3 Mins.  
WATCH FOR: Sign - Keanakakoi Crater Overlook  
 ROUTE:
  • Leave the Halemaumau parking area & continue 1 mile to Keanakakoi Crater (right side). The Overlook is across the road
Keanakakoi means "cave of the adzes". This pit crater is the source for the superior stone used in tool-making by pre-historic Hawaiians. On the way to the crater you will find evidence of a brief eruption that occurred in September 1982 covering several hundred feet of roadway. From the overlook you can view the fissures with their still smoking fumaroles from the 1974 eruption.

Note: On a clear day Keanakakoi Crater Overlook is an excellent vantage point for viewing Mauna Loa's 13,677 foot summit and Mauna Kea's 13,796 foot summit adorned with some of the world's largest astronomical observatories.




STOP 8: LAVA FLOW AT END OF
CHAIN OF CRATERS ROAD
PHOTOGRAPH
LEAVE: KEANAKAKOI CRATER OVERLOOK  
DIST/TIME: Approx. 18.8 Miles / 40 Mins.  
WATCH FOR: Sign - Chain of Craters Road  
 ROUTE:
  • Leave Keanakakoi Crater Overlook & continue 0.8 mile to Chain of Craters Road (right side)
  • Turn Right onto Chain of Craters Rd.& go approx. 18 miles to the end of the road

If you have time, explore the East Rift and coastal area of the Park via Chain of Craters Road. This road descends 3,700 feet in 20 miles and ends where a 2003 lava flow crossed the road. Depending on volcanic activity, there may be opportunities for viewing active lava flows from the end of the road.

Note: No food, water, or fuel is available. Restrooms. Lava flows in two distinct types: aa - extremely rough and spiny and pahoehoe - smooth, ropy. Sometimes you can hike to better views of flowing lava from the end of the road. This hike is not for everyone - see Cautionary notes below. The Puuloa Petroglyphs can be reached from Chain of Craters Road via a 0.7-mile walk over a bedrock trail from the pullout parking area at Milepost 16.5.

Caution: If you choose to hike out beyond the end of the road, for your safety please:

  • prepare for a long hot hike over rugged terrain. The area is remote, has no shade or water source, and is seldom patrolled.
  • check with rangers at the Kilauea Visitor Center or at the ranger station at the end of Chain of Craters road for a report on current conditions and for the best approach route (the trail is not lit at night).
  • allow twice the time you think the walk might take. Because of the lumpy/uneven surfaces of the pahoehoe lava flows, if it is 3 miles to the flows, consider it the equivalent of walking 5 - 6 miles on a smoother surface. (Don't forget that the return trip always seems twice as long!)
  • take water (2-3 quarts, or liters, per person), sturdy closed-toe boots or shoes, long pants, sunscreen, sun hat, first aid kit, gloves, flashlight with batteries.
  • do not hike during the heat of the day (10 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.)
  • keep at least 30 feet from sea cliffs - they are prone to collapse
  • do not enter closed areas (roped off or signed).
  • do not venture onto newly formed black sand beaches - they can collapse.
  • don't hike over the lava tube system located behind the areas where lava enters the ocean as their ceilings may collapse without warning.
  • stay at least 1/4 mile away from the fume cloud/plume created when lava enters the ocean. These fumes drift on the whim of the wind and contain hydrochloric acid and volcanic glass. If you have asthma or any other pre-existing breathing or heart problem, they can be life-threatening.
  • Visit the Park's website for additional information.




STOP 9: DEVASTATION TRAIL PHOTOGRAPH
LEAVE: LAVA FLOW AT END OF CHAIN OF CRATERS ROAD  
DIST/TIME: Approx. 18 Miles / 30 Mins.  
WATCH FOR: Sign - Devastation Trail  
 ROUTE:
  • Return approx 18 miles on Chain of Craters Road to Crater Rim Drive
  • Cross Crater Rim Drive into the parking lot for Devastation Trail
Stroll on a 1/2 mile paved path through an ohia forest devastated by Kilauea Iki's 1959 eruption. See plants returning to this stark landscape. One of the most photographed areas in the Park.

Note: This 1 mile / 45 min. roundtrip paved trail is wheelchair and stroller accessible.




STOP 10: PUU PUAI OVERLOOK PHOTOGRAPH
LEAVE: DEVASTATION TRAIL  
DIST/TIME: Approx. 0.5 Mile / 2 Mins.  
WATCH FOR: Sign - Puu Puai Overlook (Right Side)  
 ROUTE:
  • Leave the Devastation Trail parking area, turn left onto Crater Rim Drive & continue 0.3 mile to the turn off to the Puu Puai Overlook
  • Turn Left at the sign & go another 0.2 mile to parking lot
On most days, the strong trade winds make it easy to see how the cone was built during the high lava fountaining in 1959. Parts of the old road are buried under Puu Puai. (Road rebuilding and rerouting is a fact of life here at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.) The Puu Puai Overlook provides a fine look into Kilauea Iki Crater. The gray line you see on the Crater floor is the Kilauea Iki Trail.

Note: In the past, as they were close to Kilauea Iki's fountaining, the lava pumice cinders were hot enough to weld themselves together into a spatter cone, Puu Puai. (Puu Puai means gushing hill.) Please don't feed the nene (Hawaiian goose).




STOP 11: THURSTON LAVA TUBE PHOTOGRAPH
LEAVE: PUU PUAI OVERLOOK  
DIST/TIME: Approx. 1.5 Mile / 3 Mins.  
WATCH FOR: Sign - Thurston Lava Tube (Right Side)  
 ROUTE:
  • Leave Puu Puai Overlook Parking lot & return 0.2 mile to Crater Rim Road
  • Turn Right and continue 1.3 mile to Thurston Lava Tube (right side)
A 20 minute (1/3 mile) walk though a lush fern forest and lighted prehistoric cave-like lava tube. Discovered in 1913 by Lorrin Thurston, a local newspaper publisher. At that time the roof of the tube was covered with lava stalactites, but those soon disappeared to souvenir collectors.

Caution: Watch your head in the tube - there are some spots with a low ceiling!




STOP 12: KILAUEA IKI OVERLOOK PHOTOGRAPH
LEAVE: THURSTON LAVA TUBE  
DIST/TIME: Approx. 0.2 Mile / 1 Min.  
WATCH FOR: Sign - Kilauea Iki Overlook (Right Side)  
 ROUTE:
  • Continue 0.2 miles round Crater Rim Drive to Kilauea Iki Overlook
The crater is a mile long, 3,000 feet across, and the floor is 400 feet below the overlook. Kilauea Iki looks fairly tranquil these days but, in 1959 it was a seething lava lake, with lava fountains up to 1,900 feet. The Kilauea Iki loop trail starts at the Overlook.

Note: The 4 mile (2 hr. roundtrip) trail descends 400 ft. through native rain forest into the crater. Hike across a frozen lava lake still steaming from the 1959 eruption. The drive back to Kilauea Visitor Center is only 5 mins. away.


END OF DRIVE - RETURN TO HILO - APPROX. 29.5 MILES / 45 MINS.



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