13 In Hawaii/ Hiking + The Outdoors/ Travel

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park – Chain of Craters Road

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.

Arch- Chain of Craters Road

Like this small arch that just sits alongside the road. Be careful or you just might miss it.

Overlook - Chain of Craters Road

That line in the center of this photo is where the road continues until it gets right up on the coast. 

Chain of Craters Road

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.

Chain of Craters Road

Chain of Craters Road

I love the curved, layered patterns that the lava made as it cooled.

Chain of Craters Road

Chain of Craters Road

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.

Chain of Craters Road

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.

Chain of Craters Road

Chain of Craters Road - Nene

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.

Chain of Craters Road - Nene

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.

Chain of Craters Road - Holei Sea Arch Chain of Craters Road - Holei Sea Arch

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!)

Chain of Craters Road - Emergency Access Road

Chain of Craters Road - Emergency Access Road

Chain of Craters Road - Emergency Access Road

Look at those colors! Isn’t that cool?

Chain of Craters Road - Emergency Access Road

Aside from the colors, the lava had a shimmer to it! So cool!

Chain of Craters Road - Emergency Access Road

Chain of Craters Road - Emergency Access Road

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.

Chain of Craters Road - Emergency Access Road

I loved this section that looked like it just rose up above the other section and broke away

Chain of Craters Road - Pauahi Crater

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.

Chain of Craters Road Chain of Craters Road

Matt and me at Mau Loa O Mauna Ulu looking at some old lava flow!

Chain of Craters Road Chain of Craters Road

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.

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13 Comments

  • Reply
    Eric
    August 15, 2016 at 7:07 pm

    Looks amazing! I’m actually going to Hawaii in a couple of weeks and would love to see the Chain of Craters Road in person! Thanks for sharing now it’s time for me to start planning my trip there 🙂

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      August 15, 2016 at 7:27 pm

      I hope you enjoy your time there; I know I would go back in a heartbeat. What islands are you visiting?

  • Reply
    Chantell
    August 15, 2016 at 8:05 pm

    Congrats on making 50 US states! That is quite impressive – I got up to 40 but won’t be back in the USA for a while now. I loved the flora and fauna here. So great that you got to see the rare geese. They are little beauties 🙂

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      August 16, 2016 at 9:13 am

      Thank you! 40 is quite impressive too! I know several well-seasoned travelers who have skipped over the states. Thank you, I love the flora and fauna, as well – it is part of what makes Hawai’i just so beautiful!

  • Reply
    tourdelust
    August 15, 2016 at 10:42 pm

    I’ve only been to Hawaii as a kid and can’t wait to return! Congrats on making 50 states!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      August 16, 2016 at 9:16 am

      Thank you very much! I have a couple of states that I visited as a teenager that I’m ding to get back to, so I totally understand that feeling. Thanks for reading!

  • Reply
    Meg Jerrard
    August 16, 2016 at 2:19 am

    Thanks for the tip on driving the Chain of Craters Road – we’ve only been to Maui so far, so would love to hit up the Big Island soon 🙂

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      August 16, 2016 at 9:17 am

      I haven’t been to Maui yet! Those inner-island flights are so expensive! I think the Big Island will not disappoint!

  • Reply
    Natasha G
    August 16, 2016 at 5:49 pm

    This is so awesome! The photos are gorgeous. I’d love to visit Hawaii someday I’m just not sure cause of flights and cost once I get there!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      August 16, 2016 at 6:21 pm

      Thank you so much! I put it off for last because of the cost, and it wasn’t cheap to get there, that’s for sure, but we just saved really hard and worked extra hours for six months beforehand to get it paid off. We lucked into getting our room in Kaua’i for free as a wedding gift. Honestly, though, the price of food and gas wasn’t outrageous. I was really nervous about what we were going to spend once we got there and for 14 days we spent less than $1,000 for two people ($216 of which was spent on a Luau) on entertainment, gas and all our food. I know you can go so many places for much cheaper, but if it’s really high on your list I highly recommend making it work. Also, if you want to just go to one island that cuts down cost tremendously – those flights are crazy!

  • Reply
    Hawaii Volcanoes National Park - For the Love of Wanderlust
    August 17, 2016 at 6:53 am

    […] Two of the highlights in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park are Crater Rim Drive + Chain of Craters Road (which branches off of Crater Rim Drive). We stopped by the visitor center, hoping that it would be open just before 6 a.m. even though we knew there was no way. Even if it isn’t open (which it wasn’t) it’s a good idea to stop because the outside of the center can still have loads of info. We looked at some of their outdoor displays and maps along with the map they gave us at the entrance gate. We got on the Crater Rim Drive near the visitor center and began our journey that would eventually lead to the Chain of Craters Road. […]

  • Reply
    Wanderlust Wednesday- 10 National Parks I Want to Visit - For the Love of Wanderlust
    October 14, 2016 at 10:41 pm

    […] « ACCOMPLISHED: Read About My Visit to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park HERE and HERE » […]

  • Reply
    http://fortheloveofwanderlust.com/10-favorite-u-s-destinations
    July 3, 2017 at 4:16 pm

    […] Seeing an active volcano has been so high on my list for so long. Upon visiting Hawai’i last year, I got to make that dream come true. We were there right before the lava started really flowing, and I’m bummed that we missed that, but we did get to watch the caldera steam and glow before sunrise. It was really special. I hope to come back to see the lava flow into the ocean soon! […]

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