We’ve ranked all the best things to do in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park based on our extensive experience filming and photographing the park.
Things to Do in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is home to some of the most unique things to do and see in all the national park system.
Situated on the big island of Hawaii in the remote south pacific, this is a land shaped by massive fiery volcanoes with rugged volcanic coastline, underground cavernous lava tubes, and lush tropical vegetation.
We’ve ranked and detailed all of the best things to do in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park.
About Our Travels to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park
We visited Hawai’i Volcanoes for the first time back in 2016 before all of the volcanic craziness of 2018 and were totally mesmerized by what we saw.
Massive volcano craters, lush tropical vegetation, sweeping ocean panoramas, incredible lava caverns, and so much more.
We spent several weeks in the park visiting all of the main attractions and filming them to bring you the best things to do and see in the park. This fiery volcanic wonderland has so much to offer which we will be sharing with you here.
If you’re visiting the park be sure to check out our full Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park Guide!
Things to Know Before You Go
Entrance Fees: $30 per vehicle OR if you plan to visit more National Parks within the next 12 months we suggest you go ahead and purchase the America the Beautiful Pass (which can be purchased at any national park) and gets you into all National Parks, Forests, Monuments, and more including 2,000 sites for free after a one time $79 fee.
Cell Service is spotty in the park
Getting to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is easy once you land on the big island of Hawaii. Visitors should rent a car from the airport and drive to the park. The drive takes about 2 hours from the Kona Airport (which is usually the cheapest flight option) or 40mins from the Hilo Airport.
There are several restaurants in/around Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. For a list of our favorites check out our “Where to Eat in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park” page.
The Best Time to Visit Hawai’i Volcanoes is November through March when most of the United States is cold for a warm, tropical getaway. Due to it’s proximity to the equator, Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is warm year-round. One thing to note is that November-March is known as the rainy season but don’t let that deter you from visiting as rain typically goes as fast as it comes in Hawaii.
Best Things to Do in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park
1. Kilauea Crater
Kilauea Crater is possibly the most famous and well known feature of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. What was once home to an epic, world-renown lava lake has emptied, filled with scalding hot water, emptied, re-filled with lava again, and has now “paused” as of this post.
It is easy to get a vantage of the crater from the area around the Kilauea Visitor Center. Because of this, everyone visiting the park should stop by to check out this otherworldly site.
2. Thurston Lava Tube
This lava tube was carved out by a 2000F lava flow creating the subterranean cavern that exists today. This hike through Thurston Lava Tube takes visitors through a lush tropical forest into the illuminated cavern below.
Distance: 1 mile roundtrip
Time: 1 hour
The total hike is about 1.5miles roundtrip from the Kilauea Iki Overlook and takes hikers around an hour to complete.
3. Kilauea Iki Crater
The Kilauea Iki Crater is a great spot for hikers to explore a crater at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park via the Kilauea Iki & Crater Rim Trails. What was once a boiling lava lake is now a hardened surface for hikers to enjoy an afternoon in the park.
Distance: 3 miles roundtrip
Time: 2-3 hours
Hikers can opt for the loop route that combines the Kilauea Iki with the Crater Rim Trail (which we recommend) or just do an out and back with the Kilauea Iki Trail.
4. Chain of Craters Road
The Chain of Craters Road is a 19 mile scenic drive in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park with spectacular overlooks and otherworldly vistas. Many rank this among the most scenic drives in all of Hawaii.
Since it’s initial construction segments of the Chain of Craters Road has been repeatedly buried by lava flows. The road starts at Crater Rim Drive and winds it way down past the Holei Sea Arch on the coast.
Note: There is no food, drink, or fuel available on the Chain of Craters Road and the only toilets available are of the pit variety.
5. Mauna Loa Lookout
Mauna Loa Lookout is a beautiful viewpoint located at the end of an unpaved 11 mile road that overlooks the Kilauea Crater below and serves as the trailhead for hikers looking to summit the largest subaerial volcano in the world.
The drive up to the viewpoint is something in and of itself. Lush tropical foliage complete with the songs of vibrant tropical birds surround you as you ascend the volcano. Lucky visitors may even spot the endemic ‘i‘iwi in all its stunning red feathers.
At the top, visitors will find a newly-paved parking lot, pit toilet, picnic tables, and ADA accessibility. There is also a shelter constructed by the CCC in 1937 still fully intact.
6. Pu’u Loa Petroglyphs
The Pu`u Loa Petroglyphs archeological site is a vast collection of over 23,000 petroglyphs located in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. Given the amount of petroglyphs here, this site gives visitors an incredible opportunity to observe up close (without touching) an unbelievable array of petroglyphs dating back hundreds of years.
Distance: .7 miles roundtrip
Time: 1 hour
A .7mile path partially consisting of boardwalk takes visitors from the parking area to the site of the petroglyphs.
7. Hilina Pali Overlook
Hilina Pali Overlook is a scenic vista overlooking the pacific ocean located in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park at the end of Hilina Pali Rd. In fact, the road itself is nine miles long and was originally built and completed by the CCC in 1942.
Hilina Pali Road is nine miles long and features sprawling lava flows on either side. There are no services available off of this road.
8. Holei Sea Arch
The arch can be viewed from an overlook located about 1,000ft past the gate at the end of the Chain of Craters Road.
9. Walk Across Old Lava Flows, Carefully
One of the coolest experiences in the park is getting up close and personal with the old (relatively), dried up, lava flows. Seeing these areas in person is really something.
All of the different shapes of the lava and imagining when these places were molten hot is a lot of fun. It’s also really cool to see all of the vegetation returning to the area like massive ferns and more.
Be careful when walking across these fields and be sure to look for signage. These old lava flows are represent difficult walking terrain and a fall here would be nasty. We’re talking volcanic fiberglass sort of nasty.
10. See the Steam Vents
There are a whole bunch of steam vents around the Kilauea Crater and elsewhere in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. They are really cool to see in person knowing that they are coming from deep (relatively) underground magma chambers.
DO NOT get too close to these as the temperatures are insane and they can give you severe burns.
11. Tour the Kipuka Puaulu Bird Park
One of the coolest and least crowded things to do in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is tour the Kipuka Puaulu Bird Park. This bird park is referred to as a sort of island because it is an area of stunning vegetation surrounded by lava flows.
The most heavily sought after bird sighting here is that of the endemic I‘iwi or Hawaiian Honeycreeper. Consider yourself lucky if you spot this rare bird in the park.
Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park Map of Best Things To Do
Photos of Things to Do in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Top 10 Things to do in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park
- Kilauea Crater
- Thurston Lava Tube
- Kilauea Iki Crater
- Chain of Craters Road
- Mauna Loa Lookout
- Pu’u Loa Petroglyphs
- Hilani Pali Overlook
- Holei Sea Arch
- Old Lava Flows
- Steam Vents
- Kipuka Puaulu Bird Park
Planning a trip to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park? Learn how to do it right with our comprehensive Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park Guide that covers what to see, campgrounds, lodging, dining, seasons & weather, and so much more.
>>Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park Guide<<
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