Park Facilities & Ranger Tours
Top 5 Hikes
Top 10 Viewpoints
Just for Fun
Shopping in the Area
The Visitor’s center is the main hub of activities and information at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. I recommend stopping here first after you enter the park to learn about various hikes and activities that may interest you during your day. They also have a very helpful hiking and driving maps to help you get your bearing in this very large park.
I also recommend using the restroom and filling up your water bottle there aren’t very many restrooms during the drive today. Next to the Visitor’s Center, just past the restrooms, there is the small wooden building that is the original 1877 volcano house and presently the volcano art center. Just outside the center, there is a paved path for a short hike called the sulphur banks. I recommend coming back to this hike if you have some extra time at the end of the day.
“Showing in the Kilauea Visitor Center every hour on the hour, 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., is our new park film, Born of Fire…Born of the Sea.
“The 20-minute movie is loaded with colorful footage, natural sounds, and boasts an original music score. It celebrates high lava fountains and fast-moving flows, the arrival of life by wing, wind, and wave, and Hawaiian chant and dance on Kilauea’s caldera rim.”
"How it all Started" geology talk
presented daily at 9:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m.
The Ranger led "Exploring the Summit" hike
offered daily at 10:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.
The ranger programs for the day are posted in the Kilauea Visitor Center, Jaggar Museum and Volcano House each morning around 9:00 a.m. Make sure to check at the Visitor center what programs are being offered so you can plan to take the Driving Tour and be back in time to participate. Even though a GPS guided tour is great, it can’t beat a real live ranger tour guide!
There are various programs that are held at various days throughout the year that feature local scientist’s finding, cultural presentations, Art after Dark and even a living history presenter.
Check out this link to learn more about what programs are being held during your visit:
One of your highlight to the park will for sure be Thurston Lava Tube or Nahuku in Hawaiian. 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. The walk takes about 20 minutes and is completed in a loop. The trail starts next to the road. Follow the crowds of people or signs to find the trailhead.
Watch your step as you descend a few stairs here and as you walk through the tunnel. It is well lite but can sometimes be slippery from the ground water seeping into the cave. While you are in the lava tube, try to imagine the lava that once flowed through this gigantic tube!
At the Kilauea iki lookout, there is a 4-mile loop trail that takes you down to the bottom of the crater. The hike takes about 3 hours to complete and is completed in a loop. This is for sure an epic hike but also very challenging with the rapid change in elevation going down into and back out of the crater.
If a 4-mile 3-hour hike is a little too long for you, then there is a shortcut to the bottom of the crater that I recommend. Just across the street from the lava tube, is an alternative to the 4-mile hike, and is located just across the street from the Thurston Lava tube. This trail takes you through the forest and down to the crater floor where you can feel the pulse of this magnificent volcano. This shortcut has a gradual decline with quite a few switchbacks, and takes about 1 hour to complete, round-trip.
Once you get to the bottom, snap some pictures and return the same way you came. Don’t continue following the trail unless you want to hike the 4 mile loop. Remember to bring water and snacks.
Let’s continue on this road towards the parking lot. There are many hiking options here at mauna ulu. Some are rather long. The one I recommend is the Mauna Ulu Fissure hike. This hike is more like a stroll and only about half a mile long and is completed in a loop.
On a quiet early morning in 1969 this area shook violently. Soon a massive crack or fissure opened up on the ground and began spewing lava 200 feet into the air. The lava wreaked havoc on a huge ohia forest here. Many of the ohia trees were coated in lava before being burnt, leaving behind some very interesting hollow pillars, called lava trees.
To find the trailhead to this short hike, follow the pavement past the gate where you will see a sign on your right to mauna ulu eruption fissure hike. Then just follow the stacks of rocks along the way to know where the trail leads.
While you are on the hike, observe the abundant varieties of volcanic formations there, including some metallic and iridescent rocks. In fact, one of the most interesting one here is a lava pillar that looks just like a six-foot tall giant ice cream cone! See if you can find it on your hike! Have fun exploring the fissure’s caves and formations!
The Pu’u Loa Petroglyphs hike is about a 20 minute walk each way through a more arid and sometimes hot area of the park. It ends at a well maintained wooden boardwalk that circles many of the 23,000 petroglyphs in this area. Most of these petroglyphs were made prior to hawaii’s contact with the western world.
You will notice a variety of human forms as well as dots surrounded by a circle. There are various interpretations of what each dot and circle means. According to an anthropologist who visited here in 1914, the circle represents a mother and the dots represented each child born to her.
After giving birth, the umbilical cord of the child was deposited here in a newly made hole and covered with a rock. If the umbilical cord was gone the next day, it ensured long life for the child, hence the name Pu’u Loa or the hill of long life. Needless to say, this is a very special place for the hawaiian people, and is a hike that I highly recommend.
Remember to step lightly and respect the sacredness of this place. Don’t step on or alter existing petroglyphs. And definitely don’t try to make petroglyphs of your own.
The most accessible short hike is the sulphur banks trail. It is an easy 1.2 Mile round-trip paved hike that begins near the visitor center (just past the Volcano Art Gallery). The paved trail meanders through a well maintained forest before it opens up to an amazing view of sloped area covered in yellow sulphur - hence the name Sulphur banks. As you near the sulphur area there is a raised boardwalk with informative signage along the way describing what you are seeing exactly.
When you are done in this area you can either continue on the trail where it connects to the Steam Vents and Iliahi Sandalwood trail or return the same way you came.
Note: this hike probably not for babies or toddlers, pregnant women, or those with heart problems due to the sulphur fumes in the air.
Just a few feet from the parking lot here, you will see an old road that was completely destroyed during the kilauea iki eruption that took place here. This is why is it called devastation trail. To the left of the parking lot is a paved trail that takes you to the cinder outfall and the erie devastation of the eruption.
The hike is ½ mile each way, relatively flat, and perfect hike for the whole family. Further along the trail you will see a large barren lava mound called the pu’u pua’i cinder cone. This is a great example of how mother nature makes new mountains. Just think that 50-60 years ago this mountain wasn’t here! And in another 50-60 years it will beam with life, covered in lush trees and foliage. Make sure you stay on the paved trail and do not climb the cinder cone as it’s a federal violation.
This trail is more like a scenic stroll along an old road that was closed after the magnitude 6.7 Kilauea Iki earthquake. Along the trail (more like an old road), there are many native plants and trees of interest for you to enjoy. At the end you will come to Waldron Ledge overlook which gives you a great view of the Halema’uma’ crater from a completely different perspective. The hike (stroll) is 1 mile round trip, wheelchair accessible and fun for the whole family.
Note: This trail is often offered as a ranger-led guided tour at a couple times throughout the day. Check the billboard in front of the visitor’s center for times. Taking the hikes with rangers is a lot of fun.
Even though this trail has a name hard to pronounce and is a little ways down the road from the Visitor’s center, this hike is THE best nature walk in the park. The word Kipuka in Hawaiian means an older area of vegetation that is surrounded by a recent lava flow. So what you will find here are many beautiful old growth trees with lush tropical vegetation. You will see a huge diversity of rare plants, trees, and even animals such as peasants and a type of quail that forage the floors here.
The trail is an easy 1.2 mile loop trail that is located in a special area outside the National park. The hike should take about 1 to 1.5 hours to hike and has informative placards for various native plants and trees along the way.
The Iliahi or sandalwood trail is as an extension of the Sulphur banks trail. Just cross the road near the steam vents to find where this trail starts. There is another starting point for the sandalwood trail near the volcano house. It is a 1.5 Mile loop that winds around a beautiful sandalwood forest with steam vents throughout. The word “iliahi” in hawaiian means sandalwood tree and grow abundantly along this trail.
The Jaggar museum is named after thomas jaggar, a geologist specialized in volcanoes, who dedicated his life’s research in the study of hawaii’s volcanoes.
This road used to wrap around the entire Kilauea caldera until air conditions became so dangerous that the national park closed most of it. Today only 2 miles of this road is open so you will have to turn around after jaggar museum.
The view of the crater from Jaggar Museum is amazing. But even more awe-inspiring is staying in the park until after sunset to view the red lava glow of Hale’ma’u ma’u crater. If it gets crowded at the museum and is not rainy, there is also another view of the lava glow from Kilauea overlook just down the road.
The volcano at night is definitely something to behold!
In 1959, one of the vents of Kilauea called Kilauea iki violently erupted. For 5 weeks, millions of tons of lava spewed out of the earth and created a lava fountain that reached up to 1900 feet (600m) high, taller than even the tallest buildings in the U.S.! After the lava fountain stopped, a lava lake was created. Eventually this lava lake drained back into the underground magma reservoir through cracks in the crater. One of the highlights of our tour today is to actually hike down into this crater and feels it’s magnificent pulse.
At Kilauea Iki is an overlook with a remarkable view of this crater and a great primer before actually hiking down into the Kilauea iki crater where this lava lake once was.
Puhimau crater was likely formed around 1500 - 1800 ad. This crater and many others you will see today are called pit craters. A pit crater is formed when a large amount of lava flows underground and eventually forms a lava pool with a vertical ceiling. When the pooled lava suddenly drains out, a hollow shell is left which eventually collapses to form a crater.
This pit crater is huge and you have to see it to believe it! There is a small wood platform a few feet away from the parking lot where you can get a great view of the crater.
This is another pit crater with a short boardwalk for a great photo op. This Pauahi crater is huge: about 3 football fields wide and about 300 feet deep.
An interesting thing about our tour today in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is that scientists have studied the very craters in this park, in order to better understand volcanic activity on other planets such as mercury and mars. Just imagine that the crater you are looking at is really similar to what you would see on other planets!
Off the side of the road here is another massive expanse of lava. This place is called Mau Loa o Mauna Ulu. In hawaiian, which means mauna ulu forever unceasing, referring to the mauna ulu eruption that lasted for more than 5 years. The shiny, smooth and ropey-looking lava is pahoehoe lava. Erupting at very high temperature, it flowed quickly through this area covering everything.
What do you think the field looks like? Kinda reminds me of a giant pan of brownies don’t you think? You may also notice some small ohia lehua trees already staking out their place on this lava rock only 40 years after its eruption. Nature has such an amazing resilience!
Muliwai in hawaiian means river of lava and is usually a sloped area where molten lava once flowed through. From this lookout, you may just see a lot of lava rock, but from a bird’s eye view one can see how the mauna ulu eruption flowed down this path like a massive river about 5 miles to the ocean. The lookout is worth a quick stop. It may not seem like much because at this point in the tour you have already seen a lot of lava rocks by now. But I bet you don’t go to a park, full of volcanoes everyday do you?
Kealakomo overlook is a platform built on top of holei pali, a steep cliff with a 2,000 foot (600 m) drop. If you brought a picnic, there are tables at the overlook that you can use. Otherwise, there is a snack shack and a few picnic tables at the end of the road. Note it can sometimes get a little windy here at this overlook.
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 completely buried the village of kealakomo.
This overlook is the last view from this high up before you descend to the ocean level.
The turnout for Alanui Kahiko lookout is easy to miss. Look out for the sign and a large shoulder to pull over. While at the lookout to your right, you will see an epic view of lava that once cascaded down this mountain during its march to the ocean.
To your left about 50 feet away from the lookout, you will see the old road covered by lava that I just mentioned. It was buried in the 1972 alae lava shield flow. This is one of the only places in the park now to take a picture with a lava covered road.
At the end of the road there is an epic sea arch named holei. To get to it you will need to follow a path past the ranger station towards the ocean. The view of this towering 90 foot tall sea arch is definitely a well deserved reward for you for making it all the way there! This sea arch was formed from an ancient lava tube, roughly 500 years ago, that hardened as it entered the ocean. And just within the last 100 years or so, the sea arch itself was created by ocean erosion.
But consider yourself lucky because the holei sea arch won’t last forever! Eventually the power of the ocean will overtake it, causing it to collapse and crumble into the pacific.
Considering this is one of the few restaurants in town and way far away from town, the food it pretty good here. They have an assortment of curries to choose from seafood and noodles dishes. The portions are a little small but the dining ambience is well lit and nice. The price range is average - not too cheap but not too expensive either. This is the only non-american type of food in the area so if you are looking for burgers and fries, then check out the others.
19-4084 Volcano Rd
Volcano, HI 96785
Phone number (808) 967-7969
This place serves up an assortment of burger, fries, salads as well as a few good seafood dishes. The prices are reasonable and the food decent. The Loco moco seems to be the favorite. The eating environment is okay. Be aware that the big tour buses unload here so it can get pretty crowded at times. There is Big O’s sandwich place is on the other side of the building if you just want to grab something to go (same owner). The reviews for this place is moderate, I guess it depends who they have working in the kitchen! But considering there are not a lot of choices in town, this place is not that bad and fills you up after spending all day hiking and driving.
Lava Rock Cafe
19-3972 Old Volcano Rd
Volcano, HI 96785
Phone number (808) 967-8526
This place is located just off the main road around the corner from Lava Rock Cafe in the convenience store. I like the sandwich options here. Not cheap but pretty tasty and convenient. They also have an assortment of other quick to-go food like hotdogs and soup. No seating area. The convenience store here is a good place to buy some snacks and drinks before the driving tour. Be aware that the big tour buses unload here so it can get pretty crowded around lunch time. This place is not open for dinner.
Big O's Sandwiches
19-3972 Old Volcano Rd
Volcano, HI 96785
Phone number (808) 967-8526
This little cafe is right next to the only gas station in town. They offer a nice selection of homemade sandwiches along with some nice warm soup and chili that really hits the spot. These sandwiches are pretty big so a half would probably be enough for most people. If you want to try something a little more local, go for their lau lau plate! There is only outdoor seating and might be a little wet if it rained recently. This is a solid sandwich option here in town with decent prices before or after your adventures in the park.
19-4005 Haunani Rd
Volcano, HI 96785
Phone number (808) 985-8587
The Rim at the Volcano House
This place was recently renovated and reopened along with the Volcano House. The food was good using local farm ingredients that tasted fresh. Portions are a little small and a little pricey but a great way to end the day overlooking the Kilauea caldera. Service is good and eating ambience the best you will find in town. If you want to get a better, more up close view of the red glow, I recommend driving down the road to Jaggar Museum.
Volcano House Dining Room
Right next to The Rim restaurant is a small bar and dining room with various options similar to what you will find at the other restaurant just not as fancy. This place is a little more informal compared to the other place but with just as good of a view. This is a great place to relax and grab a bite to eat while waiting for the sun to set.
This place has it all if you are looking for a great lunch or dinner place: great food, ambience, and even history. The main lodge building is an old YMCA building back in the day. Make sure you check out the fireplace while there to get a feel of the history of the place. The food here is pricey but excellent with many locally farmed produce and entrees that you can taste the quality. If you don’t have reservations you may have to wait a little while for dinner. Despite not having a view, this is by far the best food in town with great service and ambience.
19-3948 Old Volcano Rd
Phone number (808) 967-7366
This place is located behind the Kilauea Military camp and only recently started to serve non-military visitors. The food is decent with a variety of American style options. This is a good place if you are on a budget but remember this is a military camp and ambience is more like a cafeteria. They have good portions but the food isn’t the best. One decent option is the all you can eat salad bar and baked potato. Yum! Anything tastes good after a long day hiking and driving!
This is a bar and lounge with TV screens playing the latest sport game. A nice place to relax before sunset enjoying your favorite beverage. Remember to not drink and drive!
After doing all the outdoors stuff for the day, a great place to unwind for the whole family is the Bowling Alley located on the Military camp. This has only recently been made available to the public but only when it is being underutilized by military guests. Every time I have gone there are open lanes so give it a try if you are looking for some fun!
This is a large game room with a wide selection of arcade games, pool, and ping pong. This a great place to take kids that want to relax a bit and have some fun before checking out the red lava glow at night. They also have some snacks for purchase. Speak to the attendant for help.
“Volcano Art Center Gallery is located in the 1877 Volcano House Hotel under a cooperative agreement with the National Park Service. Centered at Kilauea, home to Pele, the Hawaiian goddess of the volcano, of creativity, of Fire, Volcano Art Center Gallery has been a mecca for visual artists since 1974. This dynamic and powerful environment has inspired the Hawaiian people and their crafts, songs, dances, and legends for centuries. Today, the Kilauea region continues to draw artists, performers, writers, scientists, and educators from around the world to create, reflect, learn and embrace the beauty and power of the natural world.” Ref: http://volcanoartcenter.org/
Volcano Art Center
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Bldg 42
Volcano, HI 96718
Phone Number (808) 967-8222
This general store is located right next to the Lava Rock Cafe. It has an assortment of snacks, drinks, as well as easy food that you can take with you on a picnic such as sandwiches from Big O Sandwiches housed in the same store and run by the same ownership.
This is the only gas station in town but also doubles as a convenience store with a nice variety of food items, snacks and drinks to take with you on your drive. They also rent out DVDs if you want to watch a movie back at your condo. Cafe Ohia is right around the corner here if you are hungry.
The Volcano Store
19-3972 Old Volcano Rd,
P_hoa, HI 96778
Phone Number (808) 967-7555
Open 6:30 AM – 7:30 PM
Located inside the Volcano house, this is much larger than the visitor’s center gift shop and offers more little trinkets and things that are nice to buy as a souvenir. Everything from keepsakes to park books and maps. They even sell pre-prepared sandwiches to-go and drinks that are a little pricey but convenient.
This gift shop is run by a non-profit associated with the Park. A portion of the proceeds from your purchases goes to support the park. They have a wide range of books, CD’s, children’s books, stuffed animals and videos about the park. The gift shop is small but a much larger one is located at Jaggar Museum if you can’t seem to find what you are looking for at the Visitor Center.
“In Our shop we sell Hawaiian quilts, fabric, quilt patterns, and notions, we also carry an array of Hawaiian local arts and crafts. It truly is a wonderful place to visit with wonderful people waiting to meet you! You can find us In Volcano Village, next to Kilauea General Store and Lava Rock Cafe.”
19-3972 Volcano Rd.
Volcano, HI 96785
Phone Number (808)-967-8090
This is the largest and cleanest bathrooms on your trip and one of only two that actually flush! There is a great faucet place where you can fill up your water bottles for the drive.
This it at the halfway mark of the tour and in a remote place of the park. So needless to say these toilets do not flush and are more like a hole in the ground covered by a building. But I guess when nature calls it doesn't really matter that much! There is one toilet for male and one toilet for female.
These restrooms are also glorified outhouses without flushing toilets. Being so far away from civilization that is the best you are going to get. But at least they were clean. There is a total of 4 restrooms - 2 male, 2 female.
Just down the way from Jaggar Museum, this picnic area is a great place to take in the red glow from Kilauea caldera. The restroom here do not have flushing toilets. There are nice covered picnic tables here if you want to enjoy your lunch overlooking Kilauea.
HAWAII VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK TOUR
This tour begins at the entrance of Volcanoes National Park and guides you to popular spots in the park.
Here are some of the popular spots you can explore on the tour!
For help planning your day check our Volcanoes National Park Tour suggested itinerary, the complete list of tour stops here, and tour highlights in the app!
How much you spend really depends on the activities you choose to do along the tour route, but here’s a breakdown of some costs.
Yes! Feel free to join the tour along the route. If you don’t begin at one of the tour starting points you’ll miss a few stories, but you’ll still have a great experience.
No, this tour can only be done in one direction.
Still have questions? Send us an email at email@example.com or give us a call on 1-888-250-2261.
We’ll use GPS to give you directions to popular spots with stories and music along the way.
No data needed! Just download the tour before you go.
It’s your vacation -- flexible to stop and go as you please.
Use it now, later or as many times as you’d like.