Chain of Craters
18- mile drive
Welcome to a road trip unlike any other. From steam vents, to active lava, and even some petroglyphs along the way - the Chain of Craters drive at Volcanos National Park is not one to be missed.
Kilauea Visitor Center
The Kilauea visitor center is the perfect place to start your adventure. Check out the Born of Fire Sea video to inform you on how the islands were created + other valuable information on the volcanos that make up Volcano National Park. Here you can talk to rangers, get free maps, and ask about the current conditions! They also hold group walks and talks guided by a ranger, so if you really want to go in depth be sure to check them out!
The jagger museum should definitely be one of your first stops for the day! The museum has a wide variety of info and artifacts related to Volcanology if you are intrested, but the real reason to stop is because here is the perfect lookout for Halema’uma’u Crater! This is an ACTIVE volcano which is where you can see the famous lava lake! Make sure you check conditions before heading out becuase one this day the lava fell 85 FEET down! So we saw some glimpses of it splashing up and red smoke - just goes to show anything can happen with mother nature!
You will see steam vents starting as soon as you enter the park – not only should this totally excite you, but it also gets you prepared for the day! After stopping at the Visitors Center you can be directed to go to some marked steam vents and overlooks. Some vents have gates around them to protect people from falling in or getting injured from the steam. The steam vents are very hot and can sometime stink! So please follow the precautions and stay back from them. These steam vents are caused from hot spots of the volcano.
THURSTON LAVA TUBE
This is a hike not to miss! The park offers many awesome trails in various lengths and this is one of the most manageable! Ranking in at 1/3 mile you will be taken through a rainforest (yup a rainforest on a volcano it doesn't get cooler than that) to an old lava tube! There used to be REAL magma running through here, thats why it is shaped how it is! You will learn about indigenous Hawaiian plants and Thurston himself!
OLD LAVA OUTLOOK
There are TONS of pull offs along the drive. Some have awesome lookouts, others have fields of old lava, and all of them have some information posted teaching you about the lava that once flowed through the area. Lua Manu is one of the of the best pull offs due to the history of the lava. Take a look around and you just might see some hidden rainbows! :)
This is another lookout not to miss! There is a wooden boardwalk to lookout another old lava spill - and this one might have been my favorite. The pure beauty of the dried lava for miles it truly a sight to see. NEVER EVER take a lava rock from Hawaii as this is extremely sacred and you can get cursed by Pele until you return it!
This hike was high on my priority on my list! Not long ago, Native Hawaiians used this spot as a sacred and religious grounds. There is over 23,000 petroglyphs here, most of them pukas which is where a new borns umbilical cord was placed as a sacrificial offering.
The hike it's self is about 1.5 miles round trip so it is absolutely manageable you just need to plan some time for it. The path is not always that clear so pay attention to the rock piles marking the path to the board walk where you will find all the petroglyphs.
This is one of the most beautiful stops along the 18 mile drive. This sea arch was formed by mother nature her self and will truly take your breath away. Overlooking the endless sea in one direction, this beautiful arch in the other is truly amazing.
In 2014 the volcano erupted taking out hundreds of homes in its path. You will see peoples homes and small rebuilding on the new land. It is truly humbling to see as these people live with virtually nothing and try to live off the land. This was taking from the east entrance to the lava flow, but you can see old signs and some homes coming from the west inside the park.
ACTIVE LAVA OVERLOOK
Seeing active lava is absolutely the cherry on top to this drive. Seeing new land be formed in front of your eyes is so so surreal. We biked to the active lava from the west side becuase coming from inside the park you have to be prepared for a 10 MILE HIKE. It is very long, and very hot. So I absolutely recommend biking there!
Volcano National Park is truly amazing and not to be taken for granted. You will see the most beautiful, sacred, and eye opening sights and will walk away with a new appreciation for the Hawaiian Islands. <3
Looking for another EPIC adventure on the Big Island check out Ambers amazing Helicopter adventure with Blue Hawaiian here on big island!
Let me know if you are gonna do this epic drive in the comments!