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7 Smoking Sights to See in The Volcanic National Park

For half of us, right now, the fall is coming. And, by that we mean cold weather and crunchy leaves, not Gillian Anderson stalking serial killers in Belfast.

When the season changes, it is certainly time to turn your eyes towards the blazing sun, blue skies and iridescent seas of Hawaii. If you want to warm up even more – then take a look at some red hot Hawaiian volcano tours in the Volcanic National Park, like lava hot.

Yup, this is like visiting Mordor, only without a super-secret quest, the one ring and Sean Bean going a bit crazy. For those who don’t give Sean Bean his due – check it out…

If you want to see smoke and steam, fiery lava pits, molten lava gushing into the sea, cracks in the earth, deep cut caves and incredible landscapes that seem to belong on Mars, then check out these smoking sights you can see on a big island tour of Hawaii’s Volcanoes National Park…

But, we want to be clear.  These sites are part of an active volcano.  Hawaii Volcanoes National Park might be amazing, but it is also dangerous, so follow signs and instructions from guides so you can spend the next day on the beach.

Halema’uma’u Crater

halemaumau crater

When the earth splits open to show you its molten lava heart – this is exactly what it looks like when you peek inside the Halema’uma’u Crater.

If you have never seen a volcanic pit, but always thought of one, odds are this is exactly what you saw. A lake of fire that, bubbles, spits and sends plumes of smoke and fingers of flame hurling into the air. According to ancient legend, this was the home of Pele – goddess of fire. This place is a must for those who want to witness a sea of lava fire in the relative comfort of a national park.

Chain of Craters Road

This is 23 miles of open road that swerves in and out of a world devastated by lava, fire and brimstone. The Chain of Craters Road is what it says it is on the tin- a scenic drive, pockmarked with gaping crater holes, lava tubes, petroglyphs and, when the conditions are right, even active lava making its way down the hill.

This is your chance to see the mark that Pele has left on her world. At the end of the road, you suddenly find yourself face to face with the crashing sea – a place where you can watch rosy red and burnt orange lava flow with a hiss into the white-capped crashing waves.  An awesome site to see when parasailing in Waikiki or Flying over the Islands in a Helicopter.

Kipuka Puaula Bird Park

kaena point bird sanctuary

A hundred acres of heaven invites you in to play at being Adam and Eve in your own glorious garden. Only please do cover up with more than just a leaf.  And, if you need to meet any chatty snakes, then just ignore what they have to say.  Actually, that won’t happen.  There are no snakes in Hawaii.

Other than that, we suggest that you keep your eyes to the sky, because this is the spot to sight rare Hawaiian birds, most notably the bright and beautiful Khalij Pheasant.

When you start to get a neck cramp, you can lower your eyes and soak up the splendor of a patchwork quilt of thick forests and swaying meadows. Just avoid peeking through the lava tubes, as they are often home to big-eyed hunting spiders. EEEK.

Thurston Lava Tube

Speaking of lava tubes without massive spiders (no we are not pulling a Gollum-like trick to get you into Shelob’s lair), the Thurston Lava Tube is an absolute must for visitors on Hawaii volcano tours.

While walking through a dark cave for an hour may seem a bit of a moot thing to do, just the fact that you are wandering through a 500-year-old cave that’s former job was lava tube may be enough to snatch your interest back.

The caves are illuminated, allowing you to see the waves of color and texture from the minerals that are embedded in the lava walls. Cathedral ceilings soar and, after tiptoeing through the mesmerizing natural rock formations, you will burst out the other side into a dazzling green rainforest.

Volcano Art Center Gallery

volcano art center

The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park isn’t all fire and flow.  Stitched into the seams, you can find the finery of art and culture. The volcano art center is all about showcasing Hawaiian heritage, meaning that beneath the shadows of volcanic spires and surrounded by the wonder and danger of an active volcano, you can take hula lessons on the lawn.

Not only is the art center a fascinating and fabulous place to admire handcrafted goodies by local artists, hear someone strum out a tune on the ukulele and sip a cup of volcanic black coffee – but you can also admire the building itself. Once upon a time, this place was the old Volcano Hotel, erected in the 19th century.

Kilauea’iki Trail

Don your walking boots and get ready to explore the volcanic park on foot, with a hike along the Kilauea’iki Trail.  It’s four miles, three hours and the equivalent of climbing up and down a forty story building.

Sure, that last statement doesn’t sound like a lot of fun.  But, when you throw rainforests, old lava lakes, natural steam vents, beautiful birds dressed in bright feathers and cinder cones into the mix – suddenly it seems way more interesting then running up and down urine-scented stairwells.

This is the place where, back in 1959, an eruption of lava burst from the cracks in the ground – literally as though hell had opened up and was ready to swallow the whole world. Or, put another way, a dormant volcano became an active volcano.  For five weeks, molten lava gushed like blood from an open wound.  And, when it finally solidified and chilled out, a petrified lake was left.

Walking across the still steaming lake is without a doubt one of the coolest things to do in Hawaii.

Sulphur Banks

Sulphur Banks, Hawaii. Kilauea volcano.

Who doesn’t want to go to Hawaii to stand in a mystical fog and breathe in the sweet scent of rotting eggs. Yup, forget classy cocktails in the sun, pristine rainforest views and watching whales dive and plummet into the depths of the blue. What a holiday is really about is huffing a steamy stink at the Sulphur banks.

Actually, jokes aside – this place is kind of cool. 8 miles from the Kīlauea Volcano Visitor Center, you can pull up and lean over the caldera, to see the spot where ground water becomes steam, as it soaks through the smoking hot volcanic rocks.

Seeing the mist seep through the trees and form a thick blanket on the ground is a natural phenomenon highlighted by the rumble of geothermic Hawaiian activity beneath your feet.

So, if you’re ready for a unique nature excursion, Hawaii volcano tours are probably right up your alley.  And, by visiting via a national park, you gain the advantage of experienced and knowledgeable guides while you feel the heat from lava flows, enjoy black sand beaches and just generally stand in awe of the world’s most active volcano.  Besides, this will be the only national park that naturally grows in size, every day.




  • Elizabeth L

    Aloha! I’m Elizabeth L. At LiveYourAloha, I am responsible for writing about sightseeing tours and Hawaiian culture. For the last 12 years, I’ve been working as a tour guide in Hawaii. It’s been a great way to see the world and learn about new cultures. I love nature and the outdoors, and have even climbed two of the world’s highest peaks! Making connections and showing my visitors the incredible beauty of these beautiful islands is a passion of mine. When I’m not out giving tours, you’ll likely find me on an invigorating hike or enjoying local cuisine on the beach.