Thurston Lava Tube

Thurston Lava Tube

Shaka Guide's Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Tour Itinerary

Shaka Guide

What to Expect

A trip to Volcanoes National Park allows you to see the product of Mother Nature’s handiwork work in real life.

Home to the most active volcano in the world, you’ll walk across barren lava fields, see where plants are beginning to regrow following massive eruptions, and hike some of the world’s most unique terrain.

This park is also home to a bounty of Hawaiian myths and legends, and we’ll share these with you along the way.

This tour begins at the entrance of the park and is a one-way out and back drive.

The trip has over 40 audio points and takes about 4-6 hours to complete.

You’ll drive from the Visitor Center down Chain of Craters Road all the way to the ocean.

Things To Remember

Please keep in mind that the park is currently experiencing major reconstruction to repair or replace structures damaged during the 2018 Kilauea eruptions. So, please be patient as a few buildings or roads could be closed during your visit.

Also, be aware that food or drink options in Volcanoes National Park are very limited. There is one sit down restaurant located in Volcano House called The Rim that serves a breakfast buffet, lunch and dinner. 

So be sure to pack snacks and water for your visit. You can purchase these outside of the park in nearby Volcanoes Village.

Also, the park has a $30 entrance fee per vehicle. 

PRO TIP! Parking fills up really fast, so it's best to get to the park before 10 a.m. 

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This tour takes between 4-6 hours to complete, depending on how much hiking you’re looking to do.

We recommend starting around 9:00 a.m. *See notes below about combining this tour with our South Island Epic Coastal Adventure.*

Kilauea Visitor Center

Approximate time: 20-30 minutes

hawaii volcanoes national park signHawaii Volcanoes National Park, Photo by Hawaii Tourism Authority(HTA) / Tor Johnson

Stop here to ask a park ranger some questions, fill up your water bottle, or use the restroom.

If you didn’t bring a jacket, the gift shop at the Visitor Center usually has sweatshirts for sale. You might want to pick one up here as temperatures vary drastically across the park.

NOTE: The Visitor’s Center closes at 5:00 p.m. During construction, the Visitor Center may be moved to a temporary location or closed.

Steam Vents

Approximate time: 5 minutes

Stop and stare at a cloud of steam formed from underground water meeting hot volcanic rock.

Kilauea Military Camp

Approximate time: Drive by

Learn about the history of the Kilauea Military Camp which dates back almost 100 years. Today, it offers accommodations near the park for military families.

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Uekahuna and Kilauea Overlook

Approximate time: 15 minutes

You'll definitely want to stop at these two overlooks for the best views of Kilauea Caldera and Halema'uma'u Crater.

Uekahuna is the highest point on the rim and offers spectacular views of Kilauea Caldera, Mauna Loa, and the surrounding area. It is also an important cultural site for Native Hawaiians. Note: The Jagger Museum, which used to be located at Uekahuna, has been relocated to the Visitor Center after earthquakes from the 2018 eruptions destroyed the original building.

Kilauea Overlook offers visitors the most dramatic views of the caldera and Halema'uma'u Crater. The crater experienced a dramatic collapse during the 2018 eruptions.

You can access the popular Crater Rim Trail from either lookout. The trail circles the rim, offering an even closer view of the volcano. 

Sulphur Banks Hike

Approximate time: 30 minutes

This 1.2-mile hike (roundtrip) is actually a leisurely walk along a paved path where you’ll see more steam rising from the ground. 

Feel free to hike this now or after your trip down Chain of Craters Road.

Kilauea Iki Overlook

Approximate time: 10 minutes

Head back toward the entrance and take a right on Crater Rim Drive East. At the Kilauea Iki Overlook, you can get a wonderful aerial view of Kilauea Iki Crater.

Back in 1959, this mile-long crater was a seething lava lake spewing fountains of lava up to 1,900 feet in the air.

Continue down the road to see Nahuku (Thurston) Lava Tube and to get to the shorter hike to Kilauea Iki Crater.

Nahuku (Thurston) Lava Tube

Approximate time: 20 minutes

This magnificent natural landmark is one of the most popular spots at the national park.

There is a well-maintained trail that takes you inside a 600-foot lava tube and through a lush rainforest.

Across the street from the lava tube is the shortcut trail to Kilauea Iki Crater.

PRO TIP! You also can park at Kilauea Iki Overlook and walk over to the start of the hike if parking is full and you don’t mind a short walk.

Kilauea Iki Crater Trail

Approximate time: 1 hour

overview craterKilauea Iki Overlook

The Kïlauea Iki Trail is technically a 4-mile hike that takes you along the rim of Kilauea Iki and down to the crater floor where you can feel the pulse of this magnificent volcano from the still-steaming crater floor.

If you’re pressed for time, there's a shortcut. Just across the street from Nahuku Lava Tube is a short trail to the bottom of Kilauea Iki Crater.

This shortcut takes about one hour to complete. Please know, there is a steep decline through the forest into the crater.

Once you get to the crater floor, snap as many photos as you’d like, then work your way back up to the parking area the same way you came.

PRO TIP! You also can park at Kilauea Iki Overlook and walk over to the start of the hike if parking across from the lava tube is full and you don’t mind a short walk.

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Devastation Trail

Approximate time: 30 minutes

You’ll feel like you’re on Mars as you take in the terrain on your walk along Devastation Trail.

This one-mile trail takes you along the path of a destructive and explosive eruption dating back to 1959.

Along the way, you’ll see spots where life is beginning to regrow and find a large barren lava mound called the Pu’u Pua'i Cinder Cone -- a perfect example of how mother nature forms new mountains.

Puhimau Crater 

Approximate time: 10 minutes

Does seeing the views of massive volcanic craters ever get old? We don't think so!

Chain of Craters Road got its name from the handful of massive craters with viewpoints along the road.

Puhimau Crater is one of many dramatic holes likely formed around 1500-1800 AD. In our opinion, this gigantic pit crater is one of the best views on the tour.

What’s a pit crater you ask? It’s a depression in the ground that forms when a volcano shifts or expands--and surprisingly not the result of an explosion. 

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Thermal Hot Spot

Approximate time: 2 minutes

In this area, you will notice the vegetation suddenly looks dead.

Pull over to the side of the road to learn a bit of geology about a thermal hotspot where magma is believed to be just 500 feet below the surface.

Pauahi Crater

Approximate time: 10 minutes

Take a short walk to the boardwalk where you can take an epic photo in front of Pauahi Crater -- another huge pit crater that’s roughly 360 feet deep and 1,600 feet long.


Maunaulu Fissure Hike

Approximate time: 30 minutes

dried lavaOhia plant rising from lava field, Photo by Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) & Kuni Nakai

More of a stroll than a hike, the Maunaulu Fissure Hike is at the site of a 1969 eruption that spewed lava up to 200 feet in the air, destroying a native 'ohi'a forest in the area.

As you walk you’ll see lava trees and a variety of volcanic formations. The trail is marked with stacked rocks. Please do not disturb the rocks or build new stacks.

Muliwai a Pele

Approximate time: 10 minutes

Pull over and get out of your car for a quick stop at Muliwai a Pele. In Hawaiian, Muliwai means river of lava.

This lookout might just appear to be more lava rock, but from a bird’s-eye view, you can actually see how the Maunaulu eruption flowed from this volcanic cone about 5 miles down into the ocean... truly a river of lava.

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Kealakomo Overlook

Approximate time: 10 minutes

The overlook is built on Holei Pali, a steep cliff with a 2,000-foot drop.

At the Kealakomo Lookout, in addition to the panoramic view of the Pacific Ocean, you will also have an expansive view of the vast lava flow in 1971 that buried portions of the ancient coastal village of Kealakomo.

PRO TIP! If you brought snacks or some lunch there are picnic tables near the lookout. This is a great place to stop, marvel at the terrain around you and enjoy a bite to eat. After this, we descend quickly to the lower lava fields with less of a view.

Halona Kahakai

Pull over quickly and try to look for South Point in the distance. On clear days you might be able to catch a view.

Pu'uloa Petroglyphs Hike

Approximate time: 50 minutes

petroglyphs  in dried lavaPetroglyph, Photo by Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) Tor Johnson

One of our favorite stops on the tour, the Pu'uloa Petroglyphs hike tells the story of Hawaii’s past.

As you walk along this trail you’ll see ancient petroglyphs or inscribed images on stone.

This hike takes about 20 minutes each way and ends at a well-maintained wooden boardwalk that circles many of the 23,000 petroglyphs in this area.

In fact, this site is home to the largest grouping of petroglyphs in Hawaii! As you walk, remember to respect the sacredness of this place.

NOTE: This hike can get hot and there's no shade. Remember to bring water.

Holei Sea Arch

Approximate time: 30 minutes

sea cliffHolei Sea Arch, patchattack, CC BY SA 2.0, via Flickr

Located at the end of the Chain of Craters Road, this 90-foot sea arch was formed roughly 500 years ago from an ancient lava tube that hardened as it entered the ocean.

And just within the last 100 years or so, the sea arch was sculpted by ocean erosion.

Here you will also find porta-potty restrooms, a small ranger shed that sells snacks and drinks, and picnic tables at the end of the road.

This is a good place for a break after all the fun you’ve had today.

Return to the Visitor Center

After you check out the sea arch, you’ll make your way back towards the visitor center to exit the park and continue your day.

There are no stops on the return trips, but we’ll tell you loads of stories for the roughly 40-minute return drive.

PRO TIP! You can pair this tour with our South Island Epic Coast Journey. If you do, you’ll have to buy the tours separately, or buy the tour bundle and save!

In the tour, the audio narration will tell you when to turn off the South Island Epic Coastal Journey and turn on the Volcanoes National Park Tour for a seemless tour experience.

Then, once you’re done here in the park, you can rejoin and continue the South Island tour.

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

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We hope that we’ve given you all the information you need to make the most of your day. Your vacation is extremely important to us so if you have any questions feel free to reach out at aloha@shakaguide.com.

Shaka Guide recognizes the use of diacritics in the Hawaiian language including the okina or glottal stop and the kahako or macron. In some instances, these have been omitted on our site to ensure the best online experience for our users since not all online platforms recognize these marks. We understand the importance of these diacritics to preserve the language and culture of Hawaii.

Ready to take the tour? Check out Shaka Guide's Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Tour Tour!

Ready to take the South Island Epic Coastal Journey? Here's everything you need to know before you go! 

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Know Before You Go, Shaka Guide's Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Tour

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