Of all the eight major Hawaiian Islands the only one that actually has currently active volcanoes is the Big Island of Hawaii.
Many people staying on Maui have a desire to see this amazing spectacle but don't have enough days in their itinerary to make the trip over. For people finding themselves in this situation the best thing they could do is fly over to the Big Island from Maui in a special sightseeing aircraft and view the volcanic activity from the air on a two-hour or so flight. The best views of the volcanoes are from the air anyway as the "hot spots" are likely to be in areas where people are not allowed. Any other way of visiting the Big Island is going to be a much larger production involving regularly scheduled air transportation, renting a car and likely having to arrange for accommodations and planning to stay for at least a night.
The times we have flown over to the Big Island from Maui to see the volcanic activity have been truly amazing. It used to be that the major area of eruption, at least since 1975, was through Pu'u'o'o vent in the Volcanoes National Park. In April of 2008 however the much larger vent named Halemaumau Crater reemerged to secure its position as the largest continuously erupting volcano on the Big Island. Through most of the 1800's it held this more formidable title and in fact Mark Twain wrote extensively about it during his visit to Hawaii in mid-century. The fiery colors and generous quantities of ash which are emitted from this caldera are a site to behold. An unfortunate by product of this large amount of ash is that the air quality at times on the Big Island has become less pure. Prevailing winds usually take the ash on a path toward Kona and although it is closer, Hilo, is often spared the VOG unless the winds have reversed which is something that is more likely to occur in the winter months.
All in all, these trips from Maui to visit the Big Island are the most efficient way to see the volcanoes in their eruptive state. You'll be able to learn so much about the volcanoes and it will just take a two-hour or so chunk out of your day. Generally you will also be flight-seeing the island of Maui as well and be able to get two-islands in the bargain.
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