This post continues details of our two-day circular driving tour of the island of Hawaii, which we began on our ninth day in Hawaii (May 25th). Our first stop was at South Point. Our next three stops were in the towns of Waiohinu and Naalehu. Our fifth stop of the day was at Punalu’u Beach Park, near the town of Pahala. All five of these stops were in the South Island region. Our sixth stop was at the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
From Panalu’u Beach Park we continued eastward on Highway 11 to the entrance to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The park is home to two volcanoes — Kilauea and Mauna Loa. Kilauea is the world’s most active volcano. Kilauea began erupting in 1983 and hasn’t stopped since. Mauna Loa is the world’s most massive volcano. Mauna Loa is an active volcano as well; however, it is more quiet than Kilauea. Mauna Loa’s last eruption was in 1984.
Map obtained from National Park Service website
We stopped briefly at the Kilauea Visitor Center. We looked inside and opted not to stay, as it was very busy.
Continuing past the Kilauea Visitor Center we drove on Crater Rim Drive to the Jaggar Museum. Inside the museum are interesting exhibits, such as seismographs that measure earthquake activity. The seismographs showed some activity while we were there.
Most of our time at Jaggar Museum, though, was spent outside looking at the view from the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory.
This view is from the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory at the Jaggar Museum. The white smoke that you see coming from the crater is sulfur dioxide.
The Jaggar Museum was the end of the road for us on Crater Rim Drive. When departing the museum we followed Crater Rim Drive back towards the Visitor Center. We stopped at the Steam Vents. Rain that has seeped into the ground is heated by Kilauea and emerges as steam. The amount of steam varies daily depending on how much it has rained in the past few days.
We followed a short trail toward the crater rim, where we saw more steam vents.
More steam vents at crater rim
From Steam Vents we passed by the Visitor Center and continued on Crater Rim Drive to the Kilauea Iki Overlook.
Just past the Kilauea Iki Overlook is Thurston Lava Tube. The lava tube was created from a river of hot lava running through cooler lava.
I read that undisturbed lava tubes have floors that are littered with rocks. Thurston Lava Tube has been cleaned up and lighted to make it easy to visit.
From Thurston Lava Tube we drove to Chain of Craters Road. We made one stop, at Puhimau Crater Overlook, while on Chain of Craters Road.
We had hoped to see lava flowing into the ocean, while at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. New lava, however, covered the parking lot run by the park service. The park will have to negotiate with other private landowners to create a new parking area or more likely will wait for a few months until the lava flow moves and cools so they can rebuild the access road and parking area on the old location. The only way to see the lava entering the ocean was by boat, which would have cost approximately $150 each. We could have parked and walked one mile to the end of the newly lava covered road. We would have seen steam plumes from the distant ocean entries. We opted not to walk to see only steam plumes.
Next stop – Lava Tree State Park