Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park was the main reason that I wanted to go to The Big Island. I love different landscapes, formations and let’s face it, who doesn’t want to stare into the mouth of an active volcano? Even though we were very excited to find that the island was filled with all sorts of amazing things to do, I was so very excited to finally get to the reason that I came: volcanoes and lava!
Matt and I were a bit jet-lagged, but luckily, that worked to our advantage because we got an early start to almost all of our days! We arrived to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park bright and early just before 6 a.m. – which was amazing because we totally beat the crowds to head down Chain of Craters Road (I highly recommend this because on the way back up the road there were no places to park for some of the pullouts).
The Chain of Craters Road branches off of the Crater Rim Drive which goes around Kīlauea – an active (in fact, the most active) volcano on the Big Island. The drive starts of in a section that has more of a rainforest look to it with some hikes looking down into steam vents along with lava tubes! [Read more about these on Wednesday.]
Matt and I made our way down to the end of the road where it was actually cut off by lava flow in 2003, making stops along the way to take a closer look at some of the crazy formations that the cooled lava has made.
Like this small arch that just sits alongside the road. Be careful or you just might miss it.
That line in the center of this photo is where the road continues until it gets right up on the coast.
More of the road. It really amazes me that plants can grow in the cracks of the lava. It isn’t really much soil or anything, but where there’s a will there’s a way.
I love the curved, layered patterns that the lava made as it cooled.
We finally got down to the coast and we were sure to stop as often as we could to see where the land ends and a massive expanse of water begins. I know when you’re at the beach anywhere else in the world that it’s where land ends and the ocean begins, but there was something about looking out onto the ocean here that made me feel like I was standing at the end of the earth. The cliffs are steep drop-offs. The waves crash against it and sprayed white mists against the shoreline. I felt tiny and isolated, but inspired all at the same time. It really sank in that I had finally made it all the way to Hawai’i and to my 50th state.
Along these coasts you can expect extremely strong winds and there are loads of caution signs that cliffs can suddenly crumble and there can be unpredictable, extremely high waves. Obviously, be cautious and aware.
I got to see nenes! They’re the official state bird of Hawai’i and the world’s rarest goose – they’re actually critically endangered so be sure to take the right cautions around them. They’re endemic to Hawai’i and look very similar to the Canadian goose, to which they’re related.
One of the highlights of the Chain of Craters Road is the beautiful Hōlei Sea Arch. It is believed that this arch was formed within the last hundred years. I’m a huge fan of rock formations (especially arches + natural bridges) so this was without a doubt the highlight of the chain of craters road for me.
Beyond this area there are bars going across the road and a ‘road closed’ sign. This used to be part of the road, but it was covered by lava flow. Matt and I decided to venture down to see that famous ‘Road Closed’ sign almost covered by lava. We trekked down this road for a little over a mile and could not find it. (That’s because they cut it out and it’s now in the Jagger Museum at the overlook into Kīlauea.) So, don’t go down the road looking for this sign because it isn’t there.
However, I am glad that we went down this road because this is where we saw some of the coolest lava, in my opinion. There were all kinds of colors in the hardened lava and there were some pretty and interesting views from this road too. (If I read correctly, the current lava flow as of 8/15/16 has crossed this road and is flowing into the ocean. It crossed in late July and if it had been safely viewable I would’ve LOVED to see that – ask rangers at the visitor center for more info about current flow!)
Look at those colors! Isn’t that cool?
Aside from the colors, the lava had a shimmer to it! So cool!
The patterns in the flow are so mesmerizing to me. Looking at the spirals, waves and little peaks could be an all-day activity for me.
I loved this section that looked like it just rose up above the other section and broke away
Pauahi Crater was one of my favorites because, to me, it looked a lot more like a crater. Some of the other craters were still cool, but they were more like cracks in the earth that the lava had come up through.
Matt and me at Mau Loa O Mauna Ulu looking at some old lava flow!
Looking out over the road + the pacific // a handful of colorful lava – don’t worry, I put them back.
I don’t think our visit to Hawai’i Volcanoes would’ve been completely without driving the Chain of Craters Road. The next time we’re at Hawai’i Volcanoes NP, I want to stop at ever single pullout and hike to the petroglyphs. Matt and I had a really bad habit of taking off at the crack of dawn, literally, without eating or taking things to eat, leaving us super low-energy after 5 hours of exploring, understandably, and in very quick need of food. I would definitely plan ahead better next time instead of letting excitement to explore and jet lag get the better of me. Check back Wednesday to read the last post about our other explorations in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park.