One of the things I was excited to see in the National Park was molten lava flow. This is something that you can only experience at a few places in the world at the moment, and Volcanoes National Park is one of them. After some research, I found that active flow has been relatively consistent in two places, with great visibility.
The first option is easy. A couple miles from the park entrance is the Jaggar Museum, which has a viewpoint overlooking the active Kīlauea Caldera. The caldera is about a half mile away, so you can’t get close, but it’s still an incredible view. It’s best to go at night, as during the day it can be difficult to see the lava itself. Even with the distance, you can still see quite a bit activity, especially with binoculars or a zoom lens:
The second site requires a bit more planning. The Puʻu ʻŌʻō crater on the eastern side of the park has been active for some time, and most recently lava flow from a branch called 61g has been spilling into the ocean. But unfortunately, it’s not easily accessible from the park. You can see the fumes from the end of Chain of Craters Road, but the best way to actually see the lava is by hiking from the other side. It’s an 8 mile round trip walk or bike ride, which begins outside the park, but you re-enter mid-way.
To get there, it’s about an hour drive from Volcano, HI to the end of Highway 130 in Kalapana:
There’s plenty of parking, and lots of people selling water and flashlights and renting bikes for $20. It opens at 3pm each day (although some reviews say this isn’t enforced), and the best time to go seems to be a little over an hour before sunset. This way you can see the landscapes and lava while there’s still light, and then watch as it gets more impressive in the dark.
We chose to walk, and it’s relatively easy terrain on a gravel road. At the very end you need to maneuver over some lava stone to get to the area where the lava can be seen flowing into the ocean.
After about an hour and fifteen minutes, we arrived at the lava flow location. Check the next post for the photos.