Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson

Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) / Tor Johnson

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Guide, Updated 2024

Spencer Lowe

Hawaii is full of attractions that are unlike anything else in the world, but even among these unique wonders, Hawaii’s volcanoes stand out as truly remarkable. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (HAVO) protects some of these natural marvels, including two of the largest, most active volcanoes in the world. If you’re looking to view lava, there’s no better destination than Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. 

At the park, you’ll also be able to see landscapes, formations, and archeological sites created by these volcanoes. There’s so much to see and do inside the park, so if you want to make sure you don’t miss anything, Shaka Guide’s Volcanoes National Park driving tour has 18 stops throughout the park.

Brief History and Eruptions of HAVO

Hawaii Volcanoes National Parks contains two of the most active volcanoes in the world, including the single most active, Kilauea, which has been erupting for most of the last three-and-a-half decades. What's more, the volcanoes inside the park are shield volcanoes, which means their lava moves at slow speeds that are safe for viewing.

In 1983, Kilauea began erupting from its Pu‘u ‘O'o crater. Although the Lava moved slowly, it remained an unstoppable force, and attempts to divert the lava were unsuccessful. Over the next thirty-five years, the lava flows caused road closures, evacuations, and lost homes until the Pu'u 'O'o rift zone eruptions finally stopped in 2018. 

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Big Island Travel Shaka Guide

Kilauea's eruption in 2018 was the largest in centuries and included tens of thousands of earthquakes and the dramatic collapse of the Halema'uma'u Crater. Kilauea's summit erupted in 2020-2021. And in 2021-2022, another eruption at the summit formed a spectacular 300-acre lava lake. The volcano erupted twice in 2023. And by all accounts, Madame Pele is not finished yet.

If the volcano is erupting during your visit, check the National Park website for the best places to safely view the eruption. Lava is best seen at night. You can also head to Kilauea Lookout (a stop on our Volcanoes National Park Tour) during the day to see steam and gas rising from the ground. 

Active Volcanoes in Hawaii

Most of Hawaii’s volcanoes are dormant or extinct. Of the five active volcanoes in Hawaii, four are on or adjacent to the Big Island. And, of these, two are within the boundaries of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. These are Kilauea, the most active, and Mauna Loa, the largest volcano in the world. Mauna Loa last erupted in 2022. 

Listen to Hawaii's Best Podcast with our Co-Founder, Andrew Fowers to learn more about the legends of Pele, the goddess of Volcanoes and Fire.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Big Island Travel Shaka GuideLava from the Kilauea Volcano hitting the ocean | Photo by Cedric Letsch

Things to See in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

There’s plenty to do and see inside the park’s boundaries, even without the lava. Between the hikes, backpacking, camping, ancient petroglyphs, and geological formations, you’re more likely to be overwhelmed than bored. Here are some of the park’s most popular attractions. 

NOTE: Some parts of the park may be closed due to construction. Be sure to check the National Park Service's website prior to your visit. 

Hiking Kilauea Iki Crater

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Big Island Travel Shaka GuideTake a deep breath before you continue trekking the Kilauea Iki Crater hike; Heath Cajandig / Flickr; CC-BY-2.0

The hiking through Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is all wonderfully unique, and the Kilauea Iki Crater trail exemplifies the one-of-a-kind beauty you’ll find inside the park. This day hike begins at a parking lot along Crater Rim Drive and takes you down into the crater. During the 1959 eruption, Kilauea Iki Crater spewed lava to heights reaching almost 2000-feet.Today, the crater is an immense, barren, steaming landscape that you'll have to see to believe.

The Kilauea Iki Crater hike is a four-mile loop of moderate difficulty. The crater can also be viewed from the scenic overlook where you park if you aren't looking to hike. If you don't want to hike all four miles, there is a shortcut to the crater.

The short trail to the crater begins across the street from the Nahuku (Thurston) Lava Tube. This is also a great time to visit the Nahuku Lava Tube, which you can read more about in the next section. The trail then begins the descent into the crater through a lush rainforest jungle. You’ll know you’ve arrived at the crater when you see it.

Hike to Halema’uma’u Crater

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Big Island Travel Shaka GuideWalking between the moss covered rocks on the Halema?uma?u trail

Halema’uma’u is the center of activity inside the much larger Kilauea Caldera Crater in terms of lava and the native Hawaiian religion. Until vents opened up in lower puna in 2018, the crater was a full-on lava pond. However, much of this lava flowed from these puna vents and this, combined with a large collapse around the crater, caused the lava to no longer be visible. In addition to being a ‘hotbed’ of volcanic activity, the Halema’uma’u crater was said to be the home of the volcano goddess Pele. 

You can take an awesome hike through the Halemaumau area if this sounds interesting to you. The landscape will likely seem quite foreign, as this rainforest has burned and re-established itself several times over creating an intriguing lava rock/jungle juxtaposition. The Halema’uma’u trail is 1.6 miles round trip of easy difficulty. Watch your feet, though, there are a few places you could trip and fall if you're not careful. You can't see the crater from the road, so if you want to view the area you'll have to hike in!

Nahuku (Thurston) Lava Tube

Lava tubes are created when the top layer of a lava flow cools against the air. The stream of lava underneath, however, continues to flow and gradually cool, creating walls and a thicker roof. This insulation allows the stream to stay hot and continue flowing. At some point, the lava flow runs dry, leaving a hollow tube. 

Nahuku Lava Tube is a massive cave which visitors are welcomed to explore. A new electrical system was recently installed in early 2018, which lights the tube and also emits rays that inhibit the growth of invasive species. From 8 p.m. to 10 a.m. the tube is left dark for viewers that would rather experience the tube in its natural state. You’re required to bring a flashlight to enter Thurston Lava Tube. 

View Petroglyphs

Over 23,000 petroglyphs can be viewed along the Pu'uloa Petroglyph Boardwalk hike. These beautiful cultural and historical artifacts were used to record travels, navigate, express wellbeing, and record events and births. Along the short hike, you can see images of circular motifs, geometric designs, human representations, canoes, and other objects from ancient Hawaiian life that are dated between 1200-1450 CE.  The hike is 1.4 miles and rated easy since it is along a wooden boardwalk. 

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Big Island Travel Shaka Guide
Historical petroglyphs of Pu'u Loa

Other Hiking Trails

There are six other trails throughout the park that you might also be interested in taking. The Ha'akulamanu (Sulfur Banks) Trail is an easy hike along a wooden boardwalk that offers yet another wholly unique landscape with colorful, steaming mineral deposits. Or, you could view the beginning stages of returning life along the mile-long Devastation Trail. You can view all the trails available inside the park here

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Big Island Travel Shaka GuideCheck out the Sulphur banks at Ha‘akulamanu outgassing deposits of carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide; daveynin / Flickr; CC-BY-2.0

Backcountry Hiking and Open Areas

If you’d rather hike off-trail or through open country, there are seven areas throughout HAVO and its two volcanoes perfect for trailblazing or backpacking. Keep in mind that these areas are badly overgrown and not heavily trafficked. Cairns guiding you through the park are often not visible or damaged, so it is best to check with a park ranger first and bring a GPS system just in case. 

Halape is the most popular of the backcountry hikes, but Apua is equally beautiful and both treks follows along the park’s magnificent coasts. You can also hike through the more remote Ka’aha Coastal Lava Field, Keauhou Bay, Napua Crater, and Pepeiao’s grassy lava fields. Each of these adventures should only be carried out by experienced hikers. The area’s most strenuous hike goes up Mauna Loa, the world’s largest volcano. 

You’ll need to pay a $10 fee to enter any of these areas, which also grants access to campsites that are available along each adventure.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Big Island Travel Shaka Guide


There are several great camping sites available throughout the park. Each requires a permit and some require advanced reservations. Permits for backcountry camping are $10 and are included with your self-service pay station fee. 

You can reserve a backcountry permit for overnight stays through the Recreation.gov system. For other accommodations in and around the park, click here

Kilauea Visitor Center

The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Visitor’s Center should be your first stop at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The center’s staff can give you the most up-to-date safety and closure information, and they are also excellent sources of knowledge and act as a sort of park concierge. There are also park exhibits focusing on the Island’s formation, wildlife, ecosystems, and protection inside the Visitor Center. 

The center’s standard hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day, however, these times are subject to change depending on park happenings like eruptions and events. If you’re looking for more information, you can reach the visitor center at (808) 985-6000. The visitor center may be temporarily closed or relocated during construction.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Big Island Travel Shaka GuideFind out what's inside and learn more at the Kilauea Visitor Center; Hawaii Volcanoes National Park / Flickr; Public domain

RELATED: Volcanoes National Park: 31+ Things to Do

Visitor Information and FAQs

Map and Directions

To get to the park from Hilo, follow Highway 11 all the way through the town of Volcano. You can also enter the park from Kona by traveling southwest on Highway 11. The Kilauea Visitor Center is located at 1 Crater Rim Drive, Volcano, HI 96785.

HAVO’s website has an excellent interactive map. 

HAVO Safety

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park was closed for a long time following eruptions and collapses that damaged much of the park’s infrastructure in 2018. The park has reopened, however, there are new safety guidelines that you should be aware of before entering the park. 

First and foremost, bring lots of water. The only place to refill your bottle will be at the visitor center. You shouldn’t count on finding water at any of the attractions, so bring plenty of your own. 

Many cracks and sinkholes have also opened up due to the 2018 activity. Stay far away from the edges, as these areas are inherently unstable. Similarly, stay away from cliffs since the park is currently at increased risk of rockfalls and slides.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Big Island Travel Shaka GuideBring lots of water. It can get quite hot. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, NPS Photo by Janice Wei / Flickr; Public domain

How is the Weather?

The weather varies a lot inside the park depending on the elevation. The lava fields at lower elevations can be warm while higher elevations can get down into the 50's. Wear layers and pack a jacket to prepare for these changing temperatures. 

Can I Do Hawaii Volcanoes National Park in One Day?

You can’t trek the whole park in a day, but with the right help you can see most of the park’s popular attractions in a day! Shaka Guide offers an audio driving tour that starts at the park's entrance and visits major hikes, scenic spots and attractions within the park. It can be completed in about 6 hours. 

Visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park with Kids?

Outdoorsy kids will love Volcanoes National Park and all of the natural wonder that has to offer. HAVO also offers a park-specific Junior Ranger program and Hawaii Island National Parks Junior Ranger program. The park-specific program offers two handbooks, one for children under the age of 7 and one for 7 to 12-year-olds. 

You can also download and print other children’s activities for the park here


The park itself is open to visitors 24/7, 365 days a year. The Visitor Center is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Do not explore the park at night without a flashlight. 


Entrance to the park costs $30 per vehicle. There are also several designated National Park free days, which you can check here

Some of the open country and backcountry hiking areas also have a $10 fee. The two campgrounds have $10 or $15 fees depending on where you stay. 

How Much of HAVO is Wheelchair Accessible?

Much of the park is wheelchair accessible, including a few of the hikes which follow boardwalk paths. Ha'akulamanu Sulphur Banks Trail and the Steaming Bluff are both Wheelchair accessible. Wheelchair accessible bathrooms can be found at the Kilauea Visitor Center, Volcano House, Kipukapuaulu picnic area, and Maunaulu. 

Wheelchairs are available for use from the Kilauea Visitor Center.  

Are Any Tours Available?

The park itself doesn’t offer any tours, but it does have several special programs available which are excellent sources of information and entertainment. You can check up on the current special events here. Of course, Shaka Guide offers an awesome audio tour through the park. Guided bus tours are also available. 

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Big Island Travel Shaka GuideDiscover the many sceneries and flora at the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park | Photo by Steve Halama / Unsplash

What Should I Bring and Wear?

Be sure to bring plenty of water, sunblock, and money for any of the fees you’ll be paying (at least $30). The $30 park entrance fee and the bakcountry permit fee can be paid with card. 

You should dress in layers since temperatures in the park vary a lot depending on altitude. You’ll probably want a hat as well, since you’ll likely be in direct sunlight most of your time in the park. Be sure to wear closed-toe shoes for all the walking and hiking. 

Should You Take a Tour or Drive Yourself?

Both! You can take a tour through the park and have your own vehicle available for exploration if you use Shaka Guide's Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Driving Audio Tour!

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Big Island Travel Shaka GuideSteve Halama / Unsplash

When is the Best Time to Visit?

It’s always a good time to visit HAVO. The weather on the eastern side of the island tends to be a bit more rainy than the west side, but Volcanoes National Park is certainly a place you can visit with some drizzle. Just remember to bring layers and dress for cooler weather.

Is Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Still Worth the Trip?

YES! Although a portion of the park was damaged by recent lava flows and is undergoing major construction, there is still a ton to see, do, and experience throughout the park’s open attractions. In fact, seeing the landscape's plant life reestablish itself as it has many times before is one of the most surreal experiences that Volcanoes National Park has to offer. 

When you’re in Hawaii, we ask that you act respectfully towards the locals, land and wildlife. Please pick up your trash; never touch any marine life, plants, or other animals; and avoid spots that are unsafe. Hawaii’s natural resources are precious, it’s up to all of us to help preserve these resources.

SHAKA GUIDE'S BIG ISLAND TOURS: Kohala Coast Backcountry TourNorth Island Jungle Adventure Loop, South Island Epic Coastal JourneyKona Big Kahuna LoopVolcanoes National Park Driving Tour



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