If you're staying on the Kona side of the Big Island you should plan to spend at least one day of your trip going over to the other side of the island to visit the Hawaii Volcanos National Park. This area is one of the most geographically diverse places and if for no other reason you should go there at least for the sake of being able to say that you saw the erupting volcano in Hawaii. However, before you make the decision to jump in your rental car and drive over there you should know a bit about what you're getting into.
When you leave Kona you're looking at about 3 hours of driving in each direction getting to and from the park. Pretty much no matter how you decide to do this trip it will be a very long day and you might want to consider going on one of the guided tours with Nui Pohaku Adventures. This morning we did just that.
We were picked up in downtown Kona fairly early in the morning. We were the last members of the group to be picked up (most of the others were staying farther north in Waikoloa). We introduced ourselves to everyone as we got on the van. We had people in our group from all over the world. We had an Australian group, a group from London and many other groups from various areas of the continental united states. Our driver took the southern route to the Volcanos National Park that took us past Kealakekua Bay, Naalaehu Town and South Point. We made some stops along the way before we eventually made it to the park.
As we rounded the southern tip of the island and began to make our way up the eastern slope of Mauna Loa we could begin to see the massive plume of volcanic gasses coming out of the volcano. It grew larger and larger until we were eventually got very close to it and we stopped the van to get out and get a better look. The location that we stopped at is a place that is known as the Jagger Museum. This building is located on the edge of a massive volcanic pit crater that is known as Halemaumau. The massive crater of Halemaumau has a very flat bottom with the exception of a small pit that is located on the southern side of the crater that was spewing out gasses in mass amounts the whole time we were there. We spent plenty of time on the observation deck looking at the volcano before we made our way into the museum to check out the various exhibits. After we spent some time here we moved on to get a closer look at some of the trails that go through the park
The first area we explored after the museum was a small foot path that led us by a series of steam vents. The vents had guard rails surrounding them to keep anyone from falling in, but if you leaned over the rail you could feel the heat of the steam as it passed over your body. I thought these were really cool but I was a little disappointed to see that some previous visitors had thrown massive amounts of pennies into the bottom of one of the vents, I though that was a shame.
From here we moved on to a trail that took us along the rim of the crater right by the location of one of the most explosive eruptions in the history of Kilauea. When I was in college I remember learning about a type of rock that is formed from an explosive eruption like the one that happened here. This rock is generally shaped like a teardrop or a football which is because it cools into it's final shape in the air after it has been hurled high up into the air. I noticed a few of these football shaped rocks on the edge of the trail which I thought was pretty cool because the majority of the eruptions that happen in Hawaii are not very explosive and almost seem to happen in slow motion.
After we finished the trail we continued on to the Thurston Lava Tube and then onwards towards the Puna Side of the island. In Puna we saw black sand beaches and had a dinner at the edge of a massive lava field as the sun set off in the distance. We spent the day seeing all kinds of great things but my favorite part of the trip happened on the way home when we stopped back at the Jagger Museum to get another look at the erupting volcano in the dark.
It was a completely different experience. When we were there earlier in the day there was no glow, in fact it was hard to see any activity from the volcano except for the massive amounts of smoke and gas that was coming out of it. However, after the sun went down the red glow of the lava at the bottom of the pit could be seen reflecting off the light colored smoke above it. Unfortunately the lens on my camera only went down to f3.5 so I had a hard time making the glow show up very well on video........but when I tried taking some long exposure stills it was a whole different story!
The experience that my Dad and I had on our Paradise Helicopters flight this morning is something that I will never forget for the rest of my life. We did the complete island trip that departed from the Kona Airport.
People often ask me what my favorite Hawaiian Island is. I always tell them that I am a bit biased towards Maui because I was born and raised there but all of the islands have something different to offer.
The volcano is one of the Big Islands most popular attractions. The view from the Jagger Museum is something that everyone should see at least once in their lifetime.
We had been outside waiting by the curb for about 30 seconds when the Paradise Cove Luau bus pulled up in front of us. The luau representative greeted and gave us our admission tickets to the luau grounds.
Aside from a luau I think the most classic nighttime activity that we offer is a sunset dinner cruise in the waters in front of Waikiki. These trips, with the classic view of Diamond Head and the skyline of Honolulu are something that I would recommend every visitor on Oahu to experience at least once.
One of the most popular things to do in the state of Hawaii is the Polynesian Cultural center. This attraction is located on the northern tip of Oahu is the town of Laie.
What many people do not know is that you do not HAVE to leave Waikiki to do a Luau. There is actually a luau that is held at a massive rooftop luau grounds.
Your day begins with a fully narrated drive from Kona or Waikoloa to the Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. Experience all that the Kilauea Volcano has to offer.
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