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Unique Ways to Explore an Active Volcano

Posted on March 31, 2015

It’s no wonder that visitors to Hawaii Island crave an extraordinary volcano experience. For the insider take on ways to explore Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and beyond, we sought advice from a few knowledgeable friends.

Public Affairs Specialist Jessica Ferracane, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park 

“The best eruption viewing continues to be Kilauea Volcano’s summit eruption from a vent within Halemaumau Crater – the easiest and closest eruption site for visitors to enjoy. By day, a robust plume of volcanic gas, steam, and particulates rises from the depths of the crater; by night, the lava lake within casts an ethereal and mesmerizing glow on the plume and the night sky.”


Sunrise glow at Jaggar Museum (Photo credit: NPS Photo/Janice Wei)

“According to scientists, the vent is 721 feet long, by 524 feet wide, larger than an American football stadium. The lava lake level rises and falls, and isn’t visible to visitors due to its depth, which ranges between 100 and 200 feet below the crater floor (that’s taller than the Statue of Liberty!).”

Jaggar Museum is the closest you can get to the glowing lava lake deep within Halemaumau, and it’s the park’s most popular spot after 5:30 p.m. Bring a flashlight and a jacket for the short walk to Jaggar Museum. If you can’t avoid peak hours, park staff might re-route overflow traffic to Kilauea Overlook.”

Insider tip: “Consider observing the glow from a less-crowded location, like Keanakakoi, Akanikolea (Steam Vents), Waldron Ledge, or Kilauea Iki Overlook.”

Owner Warren Costa, Native Guide Hawaii 

With a background as a naturalist and also in archaeology, Warren takes guests on exciting hiking adventures in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

“I think that visitors appreciate my hospitality and the educational aspect of my Volcano Adventure tour. They also like that I am actually from Hawaii.”


Koa, the largest of native forest trees (Acacia koa), typically grows in higher elevations and can be found within the park. (Photo credit: Native Guide Hawaii)

“My family and I enjoy going on hikes in the park. Sometimes, after hosting the Volcano Adventure tour, I will go to Kipukapuaulu to work out.”

Insider tip: “Most visitors go to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to hike and sightsee, but I think that the roads and trails in the park are perfect to do some serious training.”

“My all-time favorite thing to do in the park is hike into the coastal areas in the backcountry to camp and fish. I do this several times a year with my sons.”

Social Media Manager Domino Gourley, Paradise Helicopters

“Paradise Helicopters offers several unique ways to view the volcano. For starters, we have the only doors off tour over Kilauea. This means that our guests are able to experience the lava without anything hindering their view. It’s a great option for thrill seekers, photographers, and bucket-listers. With tours out of Hilo every hour, people are able to get in on the action, while also having the rest of the day to discover Hilo on their own.”

“For visitors who are interested in seeing the active lava flows and exploring more in-depth in the park itself, we also offer the only Volcano by Air and Land tour out of Kona.”


Aerial view of active lava as seen on a Paradise Helicopters tour in March 2015 (Photo credit: Paradise Helicopters/Bruce Omori)

“On this tour, guests can view the active lava from the air (often the only way to see it!) as part of the full aerial tour. Plus, there’s a built-in ground tour portion that explores Hawaii Volcanoes National Park in-depth. It’s a great value, because guests get to spend the day in the park, without having to waste a lot of time in the car.”

Insider tip: “A lot of visitors don’t realize that Hawaii Island has such dramatic valleys, so we always recommend getting to either Pololu or Waipio [through our tours]. It is sometimes difficult to describe how lush and beautiful Kohala is. We know that if people can see it for themselves, they won’t regret it!”

-by Big Island Visitors Bureau

1 Comment »

  1. The volcano area of the Big Island is very magical and a must see when visiting our island!

    Comment by Patti Freeman — April 1, 2015 @ 1:08 pm

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