Seismic forces from kilometres beneath the surface are constantly at work, shaping and reshaping Mother Earth. A deep rumble comes from within, spewing out thick rivers of molten lava and plumes of ashes that cast a dark shadow overhead. When that happens, we can only stand in the face of majestic destruction and be reminded of our scant ability to shape the landscape with such force and speed.
However, there is beauty in destruction. Eruptions birth new land and fertile soil that can house thousands of species over time. Such is the story of Hawai’i. The Hawaiian island chain was birthed out of millions of years of volcanic eruptions. The landscape is still growing with fiery volcanoes that sluice out glowing rivers which sizzle to an abrupt stop in a misty haze where the land meets water.
Volcano tourism has been on rise in the past couple of years. With the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, thrill seekers stand in the face of spewing lava and appreciate how the land we stand on and air we breathe have been drastically altered by the unstoppable natural phenomenon.
Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park
There are two active volcanoes the Park, Kilauea Volcano and Mauna Loa. Formally established as in 1916, the National Park has been attracting millions of visitors each year who flock over to witness the lava of the Kilauea Volcano making its way towards the barrier between land and water, amongst other things.
For avid hikers, this park can serve as a good weekend getaway. Set up your camp in the Volcano Village, minutes away from the park’s entrance. Get to bask in the seclusion of dense tropical rainforests and move towards the barren Kaʻū Desert to admire a change in scenery. Look above you in awe of Mauna Loa, towering at 4,169m, still active after almost a million years. If you only have a day, you could spend it on one of the many ranger-led tours/day hikes to learn more about the growing volcanic landscape.
At night, go over to the halema’uma’u crater to bathe in the orangey-red glow that hails from the molten lava circling in the crater. Expect yourself to be awestruck as you tackle multiple trails in the National Park and witness diverse landscapes.
Disappear on the Chain of Craters road and witness the scenic landscape, abruptly stopping at the endpoint at 23 miles where lava flow destroyed the roads.
You could also take a unique trail, the Sulphur Banks trail. Hike up the 2 kilometre trail past the Volcanic Art Center Gallery to a craggy landscape. Volcanic gases ooze out of the ground, interlacing with groundwater steam to form a haze over neon-coloured rocks, a contrast against the much free background.
Rich in sulphuric gases, the smell of rotten eggs hangs overhead. Pure crystals pepper the ground and sulphuric acid breaks down lava into clay, staining the otherwise neutral ground with reddish-brown hues.
Getting there and important information!
Historically, volcanoes can be unpredictable. The Park was closed for months in 2018 due to the destruction caused by a Lower East Rift Zone eruption in Puna that resulted in the destruction of park infrastructure. As the park remains under repair, there are zones which are still closed. Furthermore, as Kīlauea Crater floor slides into Halema’uma‘u the crater is growing bigger, destroying previous parking lots and roads. With constant seismic activity, billowing ashes and lava flows, it is important for visitors to plan their trips carefully. Actively find out about the zones which are closed and inaccessible, as well as dangerous spots. The Visitor centre, near the entrance of the Park ,also provides invaluable information about the present conditions of the park and areas that can be accessed.
The Park can be accessed via public transportation with the Hele-on bus. However, as the schedule is not catered towards tourists, it would be easier to use a rental vehicle to get there. The Park is at most an hour’s distance from Hilo and 2.5 hours from Kailua-Kona.
Furthermore, the car also comes in handy within the park. As there are no mediums of transportation provided in the park, a car would be useful to explore the scenic roads (Chain of Craters road) and you can conveniently pull over at some of the more secluded trails to explore further.
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