Vacationrentalpeople.com guide. Hawaii sits on one of the most volcanic regions in the world and nowhere is this more in evidence than on Big Island, where there are three active volcanoes, Mauna Loa, Hualalai, and Kilauea, which people still flock to in order to witness the cradle of creation and an otherworldly landscape. Whilst for many people booking up a Big Island vacation rental home is all about the beaches and the water, the number one attraction for curious spectators still remains the inimitable volcanoes which cannot be found anywhere else. The best thing about these is that Hawaii’s volcanoes produce slow-moving, oozing lava which provides safe viewing most of the time.
Hualalai is on the west side of the island and is the least dangerous of the three, having last erupted in 180, but it is likely to erupt again in the next 100 years or so. Mauna Loa has erupted 15 times since 1900, with the last time being in 1984, it’s generally considered the biggest subaerial volcano in the world, and is due an eruption soon. The city of Hilo actually sits on the old lava flows for the C19th and observations of the atmosphere are undertaken at the Mauna Loa Observatory which is located near the mountain’s summit, an area of the mount which actually sits within the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and near your Big Island vacation rental home.
The last of the three active volcanoes, Kilauea, is completely ensconced in the park, and it is considered one of the world’s most frequently active volcanoes, having had 62 eruptions in the last 250 years or so, the last of which is still going as lava continues to slowly spill out of the summit and flow down into the sea. In fact it has been estimated that every five days, enough lava comes out to spread a thin veneer over all of Washington DC!
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, 29 miles from Hilo Town, is the place to head to from your Big Island vacation rental home if you want to witness this amazing geographical feature and if you want to learn more about how our world was created and to hike to the rim and see one of the greatest wonders on earth. The park was created in 1916, encompasses more than 300,000 acres of land, and is criss-crossed with 50 miles of tarmac roads which you can drive around in a day, but it offers much more than that if you take the time to explore it properly. There is also the opportunity to see it all by helicopter if you can afford it at around $200-$300 a person.
It has over 150 miles of hiking trails through diverse landscapes, going past or through rainforests, lava fields, volcanic craters and scorched forests, and there’s also a museum, walk-through lava tubes, and various petroglyphs to examine. The visitor center plays an hourly film to introduce you to the park, and the museum has all the geologic displays, information, and studies of the volcanoes if you want detailed analysis.
If you merely wish to drive around from your Big Island vacation rental home you can take the Crater Rim Drive, which will take you past all the major attractions of the park, starting with the Lilauea Overlook, a vent that was active about 400 years ago and sent lava all the way to the ocean, before then moving onto the Halemaumau Crater, where gases which you can immediately smell and taste are still being released and which immediately strike it home that that this is indeed an active volcano (the high levels of sulphur dioxide make this a place to avoid for young children, pregnant women and the elderly). You can also check out Kilauea Caldera, a two mile wide, 500 feet deep hole which used to be a bubbling pit of lava.
You can then take in the Devastation Trail, an easy half mile stroll where you can see the curious phenomena of Pele’s Hair and Pele’s Tears (Pele is the Volcano Goddess), which are particles of molten material which were spun by the wind to form long strands or cooled and hardened in the shape of tear drops, and the famous tree molds, the remains of the old forest which sat in the way of the lava flow, trees which were engulfed in molten lava which then cooled down and solidified leaving the trees as hollow cylinders.
You then finish up this tour with the Thurston Lava Tube, an otherworldly massive walk-in 500 year old cave sculpted by a river of lava which slowly built solid walls and a ceiling, full of fantastic shapes and colors seeping through the walls, ending with a tropical rainforest at the end. There are indeed other lava tubes you can visit within the park, but this one is the biggest and the one with the most even floor, making it accessible for everyone.
One of the most impressive things to see in the park occurs at the end of the Chain of Craters Road, where the road ends abruptly due to the lava flow which traverses it and produces quite a spectacle, flowing on its way down to the sea, which it meets on the east coast of the island, at the town of Kalapana. This town is not actually part of the park but it’s well worth the trip down there as you get a chance to see the red hot lava flow right into the sea, and subsequently cool down to produce more land for the future. An inimitable spectacle.
It’s important to remember to take all the provisions you will need with you from yuor Big Island vacation rental home when you visit the park since there are no facilities on site, and the best time to visit is, unfortunately, unpredictable, since the most ideal time is when the volcano is shooting fountains of lava hundreds of feet into the air, and this doesn’t run to a schedule. My advice is if you’re on the island at your Big Island vacation rental home and hear reports of big eruptions, pack your bags and head towards it as quickly as possible, making sure that, if possible, you view it at least for a little while at night when the colors it produces are spectacular.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is one of those places which should be on everybody’s ‘to do list before you die’, and if you visit, it will be an experience like no other and one that you will never ever forget.