Good news — you don’t have to visit another country to walk on the most active volcano on the planet. Kilauea at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island is one passport-free plane ride away. Considering that more than 4,400 visitors can descend on this 24-hour national park daily (during peak hours), rangers have come up with some tips for visitors.
Volcano Visitor Tips
ARRIVE EARLY If you can get to Nahuku (Thurston Lava Tube, pictured) before 10 a.m., not only is parking available, but the lava tube is virtually empty of people. As a bonus, bird watching at Nahuku is best in the early morning.
HIKE IT One of the most scenic and popular trails is the four-mile Kilauea Iki Trail. Plan to hit the trail by 8 a.m. and be out by 10:30 a.m. Ideally, you can go to Nahuku (above) first at 7:30 a.m.
SEE MORE The historic and scenic Chain of Craters Road originates at the summit of Kilauea and stretches 19 miles to Holei Sea Arch. Overlooks, pullouts, and lesser-known hikes (Mauna Ulu, Puuloa Petroglyphs) abound — and it’s a good way to avoid the crowds and see more of what the 333,086-acre park offers.
GET THE GLOW The best time to observe the volcanic glow from Halemaumau at Jaggar Museum overlook is before sunrise or after 9 p.m., when most visitors have left.
FOLLOW THE LIGHT Since Jaggar Museum is the closest visitors can get to the summit’s glowing lava lake, it’s also the park’s most popular spot after 5:30 p.m. Consider parking at the Kilauea Overlook and bring a flashlight for the short walk to Jaggar.
GO HIGHER Mauna Loa Road is well worth exploring during prime hours, especially in good weather. Kipukapuaulu offers an easy, forested hike, and the views and bird-watching are excellent along the way to the Mauna Loa Overlook at 6,662 feet.
This article originally appeared in Marin Magazine’s print edition under the headline: “Get Active.“