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Welcome to Dream Vacations, a lifestyle column on travelling to amazing destinations with practical advice and my revelations about locales from years of personal experience. A visit to Hawaii would not be complete without visiting one of the many volcanoes that are found in every major island with the Big Island constructed of five volcanoes. Two of these are considered active; Mauna Loa and Kilauea. Find out in this article how to explore the National Volcano Park in Hawaii.

As the park spans multiple biospheres, be sure you are prepared for your visit. The park includes lush tropical rainforests and beaches to high altitude cooler areas and even a dessert. Dress in layers and be sure to bring clothes for warm and cool weather, dependent on the area of the park you are visiting. The park is over 300,000 acres so you will want to plan your day’s visit as well.

Planning Basics         

The Volcanoes National Park is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Hawaii, with over 2 million visitors annually, so be sure to plan well enough in advance for your trip to the park. The park includes the summits of both active volcanoes so be prepared for a day of hiking and trail-walking. First, you should arrive as early as possible, as the parking lots typically fill up by 10:00 am. The park itself is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, including Christmas Day. However, the three visitor centers are only open certain hours, as found here.


Lastly, the sheer size of the park and the number of activities make it impossible to see the entire park. Instead, choose your highlights and plan to return on a future trip. It is a reasonable $25 per vehicle and/or $12 per person entry into the park.


Park Highlights

Did you know Mauna Loa is the largest mountain on earth? While Everest measures over 29,000 feet tall, the base of Mauna Loa extends 18,000 under the ocean to a total height of over 32,000 feet. Although Mauna Kea is taller than Mauna Loa, Mauna Loa’s sheer volume dwarfs all other mountains on earth volume.  


Here are a few of the highlights of the park to consider:

  1. Crater Rim Drive/Walk Tour – starting at the Kilauea Visitor Center. *The drive portion of this tour is currently closed, but you can still walk a portion of the road and see where the lava flows of 2018 ruined this road.
  2. Chain of Craters Road Tour – visiting a number of craters along a driving route.
  3. Day Hiking – after time in the car, get out for a stretch with any of these day hikes.
  4. Volcano House – an 1846 original hotel and lodge and the last of its kind in the park is still in operation.
  5. Volcano Art Center – schedule a class or workshop with local artists.


Little Known Hidden Gems 

Ok, many of these are not ‘little known,’ but many visitors focus on the main highlights above for obvious reasons, yet these suggestions will leave a lasting impression.


  • Pu‘u Loa Petroglyphs – look upon over 23,000 drawings by ancient Hawaiians completed between 1200 to 1450.
  • Attend the daily Ranger Program. Typically, each day the park’s Rangers host a special program for visitors including, talks about the park and its history or special guided hikes. Be sure to check the calendar and arrive early.
  • Participate in a Special Program hosted by park staff. From history discussions to local art demonstrations to special back country guided hikes these programs are offer a unique view into different aspects of the park. Some are regularly scheduled, while others require tickets or are infrequent. Learn about them before your arrive, here.


If you plan a day at the Volcanoes National Park, be sure to map out your adventure. I’d suggest 1-2 major activities with one scheduled for the morning and one for the afternoon. The park is a rugged place and unless you are in great shape can exhaust your travel party reasonably quickly.


Remember you can always head back to the Big Island in Hawaii by merely booking with us year after year for a magnificent stay in any of our available properties.



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