Next stop was a visit to Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park where 1.3 million people visited in 2010. To enter costs $10 per vehicle or $5 per individual (both are good for 7 days) but the cashier/ranger was a grumpy, older Haole – the only one I encountered the whole trip. The best starting point is the information center to get … information. There we met up with my old friend Jessica Ferricane who is now the PR person for the park (she used to do PR for the Big Island and she hired me once to be the keynote speaker at the Big Island Convention Bureau’s luncheon – it was my first keynote speech so it was special). The most important fact I learned was the park is 520 square miles — about same size of the islands of Kauai and Oahu combined! How mind blowing is that?! The best thing for you to do is to check out the itineraries they have on their website as they have them for anywhere from one to five days.
My Top 10 Experiences of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park Were:
- Seeing the awesome spectacle of Pele’s creation and the lava glow of Kilauea at night at Halema’uma’u Crater. FYI: You don’t see much during the day except steam.
- Jaggar Museum which is the lookout point for Halema’uma’u Crater.
- Crater Rim Drive; an 11-mile road that encircles the summit caldera, passes through desert, lush tropical rain forest, and traverses the caldera floor.
- Seeing Nene. They sure look like a Canadian geese but these state birds are supposedly rare to see.
- Devil’s Throat. It’s an unmarked pit crater that you won’t find unless you are with an experienced guide. Don’t get too close.
- East Rift and coastal area of the Park via Chain of Craters Road. The road descends 3,700 feet in 20 miles and ends where a 2003 lava flow crossed the road. Standing on these rocks and smelling the fresh ocean air makes you feel like you are on an island.
- Hiking Napau Trail. It took about two hours and we saw all kinds of cool stuff including Mauna Kea.
- Learning that Mauna Kea is the biggest natural structure on earth. Our guide said you can take all the materials from it and build a wall twice around the world 2.5 miles high and wide.
- It was so clear we could see the water and Puu oo — the other volcano eruption many miles away.
- Having dinner right outside the park at Kilauea Lodge. An old school restaurant with a ture Hawaiian feel that had the most incredible split pea soup with curry and turmeric. Loved the Hawaiian music and fire place.