It may be no secret that I'm a bit of a science nerd/geek.. ok, a bit might be a major understatement. So when I get the chance to visit and interesting museum, or unique park, I'm pretty excited. Volcanoes National Park was no exception.
As many of you are probably aware, the Hawaiian islands were formed through volcanic activity. Under the surface of the Earth is a hot spot where convection currents in the Earth's molten core rise and hit the crust. Magma currents rise and punch through the surface creating eruptions on the surface. As plate tectonics moved, the hot spot punched through in different spots across the travelling plate. This created the chain of islands that are Hawaii.
Currently the volcano, Kilauea, is one of the longest non-stop eruptions in the world, starting back in 1983. Eruptions are tame enough for a park to exist and people to get fairly close to the volcano, though this is still over a mile away in most cases.
Visiting Volcanoes National Park is a fascinating experience for any number of reasons. If you enjoy the idea of nature, geology and active volcanoes, then this is obviously the spot for you. While you may not be able to get up close and personal with lava, nor should you want to, but you can see the active crater. If you return at night, another thing I plan to do on a return trip, you can see the cloud of gases billowing from the ground, lit by the glowing lava.
Those interested in hiking, the park is covered in trails, many are fairly easy, but some are more strenuous and take you down into parts of the crater (once again, another goal for my next trip). Some trails are old paved roads, and others wander off into the wilderness. You can even make a trip to the peak of the big island (no Kilauea is not the peak). There is even a short paved hike through an old lava tube, how cool is that?
There is even a lodge if you want to stay int he park overnight, for a price that I don't think is terribly unreasonable. Many of the rooms feature a view of the active volcano and would make amazing views at night. The lodge features a restaurant that is open to guest and park visitors alike. Sorry, no review here as we did not eat here.
Really I can't say enough good things about this park. It is a decent drive from the airport, but I think the best way to approach the park is to stay around Kona, and spend a night or two in the lodge, that is certainly my plan for my next trip to the island.
If the Big Island is a destination of yours in the near future, make a stop at Volcanoes National Park a stop on your list of things to see. The place is well worth at least a few hours of your day.