The greatest show on earth!

Volcano EruptingA volcano on Hawaii's largest island is spilling lava into the ocean, creating a rare and spectacular fusion of steam and waves. When the lava reaches the ocean, it cools, darkens and hardens into a lava delta amid an outpouring of steam creating new land. However, the lava delta is unstable and can collapse without warning. The Kilauea volcano has been erupting continuously from its Pu'u O'o vent since 1983, but at times the scenery becomes a lot more exciting and lava can be seen flowing directly into the water. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which encompasses Kilauea, welcomed well over a million visitors last year as a live volcano is something to be seen. About 1,900 volcanoes on Earth are considered active, meaning they show some level of activity and are likely to explode again. Many other volcanoes are dormant, showing no current signs of exploding but likely to become active at some point in the future. Others are considered extinct.

Volcanoes are monuments to Earth's origin, evidence that we are living on a very hot planet and primordial forces are still at work. During a volcanic eruption, we are reminded that our planet is an ever-changing environment whose basic processes are beyond human control. As much as we have altered the face of the Earth to suit our needs, we can only stand in awe before the power of an eruption. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is located 30 miles southwest on Highway 11 (a 45 minute drive) from Hilo; from Kailua-Kona: 96 miles southeast on Highway 11 (2 to 2 1/2 hour drive), or 125 miles through Waimea and Hilo via highways 19 and 11 (2 1/2 to 3 hours).

island chainThe Hawaiian Islands consist of a much longer "archipelago" or chain of islands. The archipelago consists of the eight major islands along with other atolls, small islets and seamounts that stretches a distance of 1500 miles across the Pacific Ocean, from the island of Hawaii at the southeastern end to Green Island in the Kure Atoll at the northwestern end of the chain. Volcanoes tend to exist along the edges between tectonic plates, massive rock slabs that make up Earth's surface. About 90 percent of all volcanoes exist within the Ring of Fire along the edges of the Pacific Ocean.

Volcano National Park

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is open 24 hours a day year-round, including ALL holidays. The Kīlauea Visitor Center is located on Crater Rim Drive off of Highway 11 between the 28 and 29 mile marker south of Hilo. Kīlauea Visitor Center is open daily from 7:45 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Jaggar Museum is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Ranger-led programs enrich your knowledge of park resources and Hawaiian culture. The schedule of ranger programs is posted on the Ranger Activities bulletin board in the Kilauea Visitor Center each morning at 9:00 a.m. These free programs 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 Kilauea's caldera or longer hikes to see lava trees, Hawaiian petroglyphs, lava tubes, or traverse craters.

Volcano Area

No RoadThe Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the most visited natural site in the state, is an enchanted wonderland. You are treated to an opportunity to see the result of 70 million years of fiery volcanoes, thousands of miles of ocean migration and the ever changing landscape of over 300,000 acres of land. The most active volcano is the Kilauea, the world's most active volcano. Kilauea has frequent summit and flank lava flow eruptions that are occurring along two elongated rift zones to the south-west and to the east, which extend to the sea on both sides of the volcano. Ongoing eruptions has covered over 16,000 acres of lowland and rainforest and research has indicated that about 98 percent of the volcano's surface is covered with lava flows less than 10,000 years old. At last count the volcano has destroyed over 200 houses and businesses, and complete small towns and subdivisions have been consumed. The ongoing flow of lava has added more then 560 acres of territory to the Big Island, and it continues to grow! The volume of erupted lava adds up to more than two billion cubic yards. That's enough new rock to pave a two lane highway 1.2 million miles long!!


Kīlauea and its Halemaʻumaʻu caldera were traditionally considered the sacred home of the volcano goddess Pele, and Hawaiians visited the crater to offer gifts to the goddess. The Hawaii islands are fairly young, from less than 1 million years at the youngest to nearly 6 million at the oldest; new formations continue to be formed today. 1983 eruptionThe islands are located on the top of the Pacific plate, the largest tectonic plate on earth. Due to sea floor spreading, the plate continues to expand which has directly influenced the growth of the Hawaii islands. The volcano became a tourist attraction in the 1840s, and local businessmen such as Benjamin Pitman and George Lycurgus ran a series of hotels at the rim. Volcano House is the only hotel or restaurant located within the borders of the National Park. In 2010 it was closed for renovation.  The two main active volcanoes in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park are Mauna Loa and Kilauea. Mauna Loa has an elevation of 13,680 feet and a 70-mile long, 30-mile wide shield-shaped dome. It is the world's largest active volcano, encompassing 10,000 cubic miles. Similarly, Kilauea also has a shield shaped dome, which is 50-mile long and 14-mile wide. Both volcanoes release more fluid and less gaseous eruptions. Due to these eruptions, a desert-like volcanic landscape has resulted amidst the National Park. The best and closest place to observe a volcanic eruption within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park at present is from Jaggar Museum overlook, and other vantage points at the summit of Kīlauea that provide views of Halema'uma'u Crater.


Courtesy of NPS.orgSurface flowing lava is at times accessible from the end of Chain of Craters Road. When it is, and if you plan to hike out to it, you should be prepared for an extremely arduous, advanced and challenging hike that should only be attempted by the most physically fit people. It is roughly 10 miles round trip from the end of Chain of Craters Road, with an estimated time to complete of at least 5.5 hours. Hiking across lava fields requires continuous awareness and concentration. The lava is uneven, jagged and very sharp. All skin should be covered. Carefully read critical information on the National Park Services web site before you attempt to hike on the lava fields.

HAZARD ALERT: Lava entering the ocean builds lava deltas. The lava delta and adjacent areas both inland and out to sea are some of the most hazardous areas on the flow field. Frequent delta/bench collapses give little warning, can produce hot rock falls inland and in the adjacent ocean, and can produce large local waves. The steam plume produced by lava entering the ocean contains fine lava fragments and an assortment of acid droplets that can be harmful to your health. The rapidly changing conditions near the ocean entry have been responsible for many injuries and a few deaths.