Volcanoes National Park and Volcano Village

5/21/18 update: as most of the world now knows, Kilauea, which has gently flowed for more than 30 years, has now become more active.  Lava has destroyed numerous homes and displaced thousands of residents in the lower rift zone in Puna district, and the summit has had numerous ash eruptions. The park is currently closed due to the dangerous conditions.

Volcanoes National Park and Volcano Village

At 4000 ft elevation, it is COOL, so bring a jacket.  The park visitor center has great exhibits, and if you happen to run into Ranger Jason, he will give you a short nature tour around the visitor center and hotel-chock full of local “flavor.”
Follow crater rim drive to the Kilauea Military Camp.  At Christmas, the cottages are festively decorated. The KMC Theater is host to music and theater events year round.

Stop at the steam vents and (don’t) breathe deeply:  it’s sulfuric acid after all…..

Cross the road and take the 0.4mile walk to the sulfur banks, where ferny sulfur deposits give a golden glow to the rocks.  Geologist friend Brion tells me there’s probably gold in them thar hills:

Currently, you cannot drive the full circle around the caldera because it is….active.  As of this writing, there is a full magma chamber visible from the Jagger Museum viewing area: The glow at night is eerily beautiful.


At the (literally) end of Chain of Craters road……the lava won.  You can hike across the lava (about 2 miles currently) to see where the lava is sometimes flowing into the sea.  It is best seen at night,

(this was taken 12/5/11 at end of Chain of Craters Road)-flow was to the east, approaching Kalapana)

….but that then entails walking back…..about 2 miles. In the pitch darkness. Across unlevel, treacherous lava fields. But hey….don’t let me discourage you! Before you set off on the hike, walk toward the ocean from the ranger station and look over the edge at the sea arch:

Head back up toward the visitor center and stop at Thurston Lava Tube.  A short paved walkway takes you through the fern forest, into a tunnel created when hot lava flowed, then receded and left a hard tube.

This is an incredibly lush jungle area, known as the fern forest. Because there are (lots) of ferns…..
Volcano village is very artsy:  many galleries, bed and breakfasts. We like the Keawe Cafe:  great pizza, though pricey. For a more unique dining experience, try Kilauea Lodge. Antelope, elk, venison and rabbit are common menu entries.

Take a side trip to Volcano Winery where you can sample the Macadamia, Mango and other tropical wine flavors.

On your way to or from Volcano, stop at Akatsuka Orchids: they ship anywhere!  Even if you don’t buy, the smells and sights are heavenly!