Hawaii is a vacation destination which takes several trips to truly experience all of the islands’ natural beauty. Our family vacation last summer was my fifth visit to the Aloha State, and my first visit to the island of Hawaii. We enjoyed lots of sunshine – as well as kayaking, snorkeling, fishing, waterfalls and beautiful scenery. The highlight of our trip was our day in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
HHVNP is worth at least one day – and one night of your stay on the Big Island. Our adventure started with a scenic drive around the southern tip of the island and a stop at the Punalu’u Black Sand beach to admire the local Sea Turtles. Not a good beach for swimming, however. Rough waters, wind and rocks - sent us quickly on our way.
The island is home to 11 of the world’s 13 climate zones – with occasional snow at the higher elevations. Mauna Loa and Kilauea are both active volcanoes, continuing to shape the geography of the island. A stop at the Ranger station inside the National Park is always recommended to learn about current conditions and potential volcanic and seismic activity. We met our guide – Tyler from Akamai Adventures – at the Visitors Center and set out to explore the park.
Our hike covered the diversity of HVNP, including the Thurston Lava Tubes, views over the Kilauea Caldera and a hike up for a view into a volcanic crater. Several stops along the way, we learned about the history of the area and the local flora and fauna. Our guide reminded us to stay on the trail – we could feel the heat radiating from the steam vents – an important reminder that the lava isn’t too far below the surface!
The lava formations have incredible variety and strange beauty – fields of black lava, lunar-scapes with mushroom formations, and deep fissures in the ground where plant life has taken root. Viewed from the Jaggar Museum after sunset, the glow of the active lava in the caldera in the distance provided to be the highlight of a day well spent at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.