21 In Hawaii/ Hiking + The Outdoors/ Travel

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

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.

We stopped at one of the first pullouts that was a small trail through the rainforest that looked out over some steam vents and you could see the white plumes of smoke coming from the caldera in the distance. It was tough to hold my excitement and continue on this road, knowing it would be time to get there eventually.

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That white smoke that’s going up and blending with the clouds is the steam coming up is Kīlauea!


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The steam vents looked pretty cool and we saw several people going down to hike around them. We were on a tight schedule and had a sea arch to see!


This is a male kalij pheasant, an invasive species introduced to the island in the 60’s. He puffed up when we got a bit too close for his liking.


The trail through the rainforest. I could not get enough of the rainforest.


The morning new collected and was dripping off the leaves. It was so pretty and peaceful-looking. 

This trail crossed the street and to another trail – the trail that led to the Thurston Lava Tube (Nāhuku). At only 1/3 of a mile, even if you’re not a hiker, this can’t be missed. This lava tube was formed in prehistoric times and was discovered in 1913 by Lorrin Thurston. I had never seen anything like this! Even though it seems a bit like a cave, you know that it is totally different because it was formed from flowing magma.


The top of the trail looks out over this lush area of bright green plant life.



This wild-looking thing is the entrance to the lava tube. Doesn’t this look insanely wild and exotic? The inside of the lava tube is lit, which is really cool because you can really see the detail. There are lines on the walls of the lava tube that show how high the lava actually flowed. It seriously just blows my mind that this tube was created by hot lava.


Excuse the blur, a man was about to step in front of me and I flinched, but you get the point – it’s pretty cool to look out of too. Check out that moss dripping from the top.


Looking into the lava tube from the opposite end! Seriously cool!


Exit to the lava tube.


We found a female kalij pheasant to go with the male. She wasn’t nearly as still or threatened as the male though!

After these first two stops we continued on to the Chain of Craters Road. That was a really incredible drive and afterward we were hoping to see some lava flow, but at that time, the ranger at the visitor center said it was quite the hike to see not a lot of flow, but he told us that we should come back the next morning around 4 a.m. to look down into the caldera.

Matt and I woke up at three in the morning and hit the road back to Kīlauea and the overlook at the Jagger Museum. It was pitch black, but we used our cell phone flashlight to get us to the overlook. A few people were already there taking in the view. My heart absolutely raced as I saw the steam rising up, but it was different than the view I had yesterday – the steam was rising up in with an orange/red hue. Everyone spoke in whispers, like the volcano would suddenly go dark if she heard our voice. Matt and I held hands, grinning from ear-to-ear looking back and forth from Kīlauea to each other.


A few minutes later the small group left and we were alone there for about 5 minutes. Matt took this amazing photo, but I wish it could capture the sound and energy as well. There was no sound except the crackles and groans coming from the volcano. It was incredible and I am so glad that we didn’t miss this view. It was beyond waking up early for. We decided not to watch the sunrise here (especially since we had a little over an hour before it rose), but decided to drive to the nearby black sand beach to watch it rise. Part of me is glad that we walked away from this view because it’s my last and most lasting view from Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park.

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  • Reply
    August 17, 2016 at 11:31 am

    I have been to Hawaii a few times and never made it any of the parks. I would love to see volcanoes and can only imagine how magnificent it is too see in person. The photos of the trail are gorgeous and definitely look like it was worth getting up early for!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      August 23, 2016 at 9:56 pm

      Thank you so much! Which islands have you been to? We were talking about which we would visit on our next trip and even though we want to see others, we’re so in love with the two we visited too! Ha!

  • Reply
    August 17, 2016 at 1:30 pm

    I absolutely loved my visit to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. I still remember the awestruck feeling I had watching the glowing lava at the crater view from the Visitor’s center. Did you have a chance to do any of the hikes? It was one of my favorite activities at the park.

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      August 23, 2016 at 9:51 pm

      We didn’t do any real hikes, no. I wish we had, it just didn’t happen for some reason. The next time we go, that’ll be our #1 activity I think! Did you have a favorite hike?

  • Reply
    August 17, 2016 at 2:42 pm

    I have been only to Volcanoes national park (same name!) in Rwanda so far. Hawaian Volacnoes park looks gorgeous and very similar to the volcano in Congo.

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      August 23, 2016 at 9:48 pm

      I’ve never been (or heard of) the park in Rwanda [cue googling]. It was really beautiful and I’m not going to have to add these spots to my list for Africa! I just am so fascinated by this planet!

  • Reply
    August 17, 2016 at 4:58 pm

    That Volcano picture erupting looks epic! Will need to visit Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park soon! Looks super fun!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      August 23, 2016 at 9:47 pm

      Thank you- it’s really just steam billowing up, colored by the lava below, but it was still super incredible! I don’t think you’ll be disappointed!

  • Reply
    Gina Bear
    August 17, 2016 at 7:30 pm

    Your photos really take me there! I’ve never been to Hawaii and I would definitely like to go one day! 😀 I went to Mount Batur in Bali and that was so lovely!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      August 23, 2016 at 9:46 pm

      I don’t think you’d be disappointed! I almost did the Mount Batur hike and ended up not going. Does it have a similar look or is it more dormant?

  • Reply
    Shayan Naveed (@ShayanBkk)
    August 18, 2016 at 1:58 am

    This place looks uber cool! Especiallt that tunnel. Definitely an adventure I’d like to go on. In fact its giving me adventure lust while I sit at my office.

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      August 23, 2016 at 9:45 pm

      I loved the lava tubes! I had never heard of such a thing before visiting this national park! I’m glad I could give you a little wanderlust while you’re at work! Buy the ticket… You won’t regret it! 😉

  • Reply
    Toronto Seoulcialite
    August 18, 2016 at 3:44 am

    I can’t imagine being that close to an active volcano. Vesuvius is my only experience with volcanoes! This looks like an amazing adventure, and definitely something great to be shared by 2!

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      August 23, 2016 at 9:44 pm

      It was really incredible and humbling! I’m really sad that we missed some serious lava flow into the ocean by about a month! But it was an incredible experience all around, of course! I didn’t go to Vesuvius either time I went to Italy, can you go to the top of it?

  • Reply
    August 18, 2016 at 4:19 am

    I never thought I was interested in Hawaii at all until I went to O’ahu last year and drove all over the island. Now I think it’s wonderful and am really looking forward to getting to know the other islands. I am particularly fascinated by volcanoes and have visited many volcanic locations in other parts of the world and look forward to getting here also. Beautiful photos.

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      August 23, 2016 at 9:40 pm

      I wasn’t interested before my visit either! Isn’t that funny? I’m not a beach person, but I was amazed at just how much natural beauty there is to see there! We are dying to get to O’ahu and Maui, and of course go back to the Big Island and Kaua’i! I just fell in love with it! Thank you so much for checking out my post! What volcanoes have you visited and did it look similar to this? I went to a volcano in the Philippines and it wasn’t anything like this, but very beautiful in its own way, of course.

  • Reply
    August 18, 2016 at 9:59 am

    I’ve never been to Hawaii probably won’t in the near future but your story and photos is keeping it in the radar. The erupting volcano looks amazing. Great photos and it looked like you guys had a great time in the Park 🙂

    • Reply
      Paige Wunder
      August 23, 2016 at 9:37 pm

      I have to admit that I was never a person that was dying to get to Hawai’i, but after one visit I think it will always be in my radar. Thanks for taking time to read my post! We really enjoyed our time in the park and hope to go back and see some serious lava flow in the future!

  • Reply
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