Day Trip to Volcanoes National Park

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This is  the stuff of Hawaiian legends and the thing that geologists from all over the world flock to see. This is Kilauea, the most active volcano on Earth, and the only drive-in volcano in the world, poised on the southeast flank of Mauna Loa, the earth’s most massive mountain .

On this day trip to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (brochures), you can get close to the earth's primal creative forces and, if you're lucky, you can even witness them in action. You’ll walk on the youngest earth on Earth, smell Madame Pele’s (pronounced PEL-ee) sulfurous breath, explore a lava tube the size of a highway tunnel, sample island wine, and view native Hawaiian birds in a surreal habitat.

Note: This area of the island is subject to high concentrations of sulfur dioxide in the air. If you have breathing problems, you may want to take a helicopter tour of the area instead of visiting the National Park. There is the chance of rain on this day trip, so prepare accordingly. Bring a travel umbrella, lightweight waterproof jacket (the park is at 4,000 feet elevation), and compact binoculars. Also, areas of the National Park are subject to closure due to volcanic activity and road construction. Click here for updates.

Stops Along the Way *

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Your visit will include the Visitor Center, Volcano House, Volcano Art Gallery, and the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory and Museum. Also included are the Thurston Lava Tube and the Kilauea Iki Overlook.

Volcano Village: The only restaurant within the park was within the Volcano House Hotel. Since there is no official opening date for the renovated hotel, the nearest place to eat lunch is in the nearby town of Volcano Village.

Kipuka Puaulu: A kipuka is an open area of vegetation within a lava flow. It forms when lava flows around a small hill leaving the vegetation unharmed. As a result of this process, Kipuka Puaulu remains a small patch of old growth vegetation in a sea of black lava. By visiting early in the morning, it is possible to see and hear a variety of native birds.

The Volcano Winery: Their tropical fruit wines, honey wines, grape wines, and exotic black teas are all available for tasting and purchase.

* You will find full restrooms at most of these stops.

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Our Recommendations

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itineraries for these day trips

on the Big Island

  1. Place of Refuge and Kealekekua Bay

  2. Kohala Coast Resorts and Attractions

  3. Volcanoes National Park

  4. North Coast and King Kamehameha Country

  5. Plantation Towns and Secluded Valleys

  6. Kailua-Kona

  7. Hilo and Hamakua

Getting to the Start Point

The starting point for this day trip is the entrance to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

From Kailua-Kona: Start very early and be prepared to return late. To get there, drive south on Highway 11, the Hawaii Belt road, until you reach the entrance to the park (about 99 miles). Allow 2.5 hours each way.

From Waikoloa Resorts: This trip makes for an incredibly long day. It may be a better use of your time and money to book a helicopter tour of the volcanoes region, or stay overnight at an Inn or B&B in Volcano Village.

If you decide to drive there, follow the Queen Ka`ahumanu Highway north to the Kawaihae road. Follow that road into Waimea, and exit Waimea on Highway 19 towards Hilo. Take Hwy 11 west from Hilo until you reach the entrance to the Park. About 120 miles. Allow 3 hours each way.

From Waimea: Drive east on Hwy 19, the Hawaiian Belt Road, Follow the road through Hilo. Look for signs pointing the way to Hwy 11 and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. About 85 miles. Allow 2 hours each way.

From Hilo: Head west on Highway 11 and proceed to the entrance to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. About 30 miles. Allow 45 minutes.