One of our favorite places to take our friends and our family when they come to Hawai’i to visit us is the Volcano National Park! It is open year around, 24 hours a day, including holidays! The staffed Kīlauea Visitor Center is open every day 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m and the Jaggar Museum is also open every day with hours from 10:00 in the morning to 8:00 p.m for evening volcanic light shows.
The Volcano National Park is located closer to Hilo than Kona. From downtown Hilo it is a 30 mile drive south on Highway 11 that takes about 45 minutes as you drive through small communities Like Mountain View and Kurtistown. The scenery is through beautiful jungle terrain mostly. You will really enjoy the short drive from Hilo.
From Kailua Kona it is about 96 miles to the entrance and takes about two and a half hours through multiple climate zones and diverse terrain and scenery along Highway 11! You will travel through small towns and villages, through dense jungles and moonscape lava fields. There are many spots along the way to check out too! Click Here to see the attractions along the way!
Once you get to the gate there is a fee for entrance of $25 per car with passengers. It is good for a week. If you hike in the fee is $12 per person. 15 years and under is free. Once inside the park there are no parking fees.
First stop as you enter the park is the Kīlauea Visitor Center. This is great place to get out and stretch! There is a ton of information about the park in this location and it will help you understand what you are about to experience! Many times when we have been to the visitor center there has been Forest Rangers speaking about different aspects of the park and offering guided tours. We listen in but have yet to take a tour. We will for sure eventually! The schedule for these guided tours are posted daily at the visitor center. These are free programs and they may be short presentations in the visitor center auditorium, or a map presentation at the relief map located outside the visitor center on the lanai. Walks may be wheelchair accessible, beginning at the Visitor Center and ending with a spectacular view of Kīlauea’s caldera or longer hikes to see lava trees, Hawaiian petroglyphs, lava tubes, or traverse craters.
The next stop will be the steam vent located along both sides of the roadway. You definitely pull over to check these out! they are safely barricaded off and you can lean over the railing and feel the warm steam steadily coming out of bottomless holes. Very cool! Be prepared for a strong scent of sulfur in these areas.
After you have explored the steam vents get back in your car because the next stop is the Jaggar Museum and overlook to the Kilauea Cauldron. This another must visit location on this trip! The museum has a lot of valuable information and a gift shop. The view from this spot is one in a million! This is why you came here. You get a feeling of just how small you really are in the whole scheme of things! You will probably want to spend about an hour here checking everything out at the museum and gazing into the crater of Kilauea.
This is the end of the road for public access due to the quality of air from the volcano. From here you will go back past the steam vents and take a right towards the Thurston Lava Tubes. This will be a short hike that is amazing through house sized ferns down to a lava tube that is lighted that you can hike all the way through!
At this point you have many option for hiking trails or you can drive the Chain of Craters road that is 19 miles long. You can stop all along the way to check out craters of many different sizes! I don’t want to spoil it for you too much so I’ll let you experience it for yourself! I hope you liked our post about Volcano National Park on the Big Island of Hawaii! Don’t forget to follow our Facebook Page to stay updated on our trips around the Big Island!
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