Things to do in Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park
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Even among Hawaii's many wonders, this national park stands out: its two active volcanoes testify to the ongoing birth of the islands. Majestic Mauna Loa (13,677ft) looms like a sleeping giant, while young Kilauea - the world's most active volcano - has been erupting almost continually since 1983. With luck, you'll witness the primal event of molten lava tumbling into the sea. But the park contains much more - overwhelming lava deserts, steaming craters, lava tubes and ancient rainforests. For hikers, it's heaven.
From Crater Rim Dr, this scenic 32km (20mi) road leads down to the coast, ending abruptly where recent lava flows have buried it. Rangers can advise you on how or if it's possible to hike to the active flow; a telltale steam plume marks the spot where lava enters the water. Stay for sunset, as darkness brings out the fiery glow. The road offers no services, but several short hikes lead from it, including one to a petroglyph field.
The amazing 18km (11mi) Crater Rim Drive circles Kilauea Caldera, offering almost nonstop views of the scorched, smoldering home of Pele, the Hawaiian volcano goddess. If time is short, driving this loop road is a must - be sure to stop at the overlook for Halema'uma'u Crater; the Thurston Lava Tube, an enormous cave left by flowing lava; and the Jaggar Museum, with working seismographs, lava displays and a stupendous vista.
The Thurston Lava Tube is big enough for your car, not to mention yourself - and a short initial section is lighted. Lava tubes are formed when the outer crust of a river of lava starts to harden but the liquid lava beneath the surface continues to…