Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is truly one of the most unique national parks in not just the United States, but also the entire world. The spectacular views of rainforests, craters, and two of the most active volcanoes in the world are just a small part of what makes this park so special.
No matter what attracts you to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, you can spend days here without ever getting bored. Keep reading for a guide on places to stay, things to do, what to expect, and more!
Things to Do at Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park
5 Best Hikes
1. Crater Rim Trail – This wonderful, easy trail takes hikers around the summit of Kīlauea volcano, one of the most active volcanoes in the world. The trail has multiple access points, which is a convenient feature that helps make this hike as short or as long as you’d like!
2. Nāhuku (Thurston Lava Tube) – This unique hike boasts a luscious rainforest scene that opens into a lava tube that once held lava at 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. The tube is over 500 years old but was discovered slightly over 100 years ago. The moderate trail can be accessed from various points and ranges from 1.5 to 6.0 miles round-trip.
3. Kīlauea Iki – This hike ranges from moderate to challenging difficulty. Adventurous hikers will traverse rocks and descend 400 feet through a rainforest to reach a solidified lava lake on the floor of a volcanic crater. The trail can range from 3.3 to 6.0 miles round-trip, depending on where you start.
4. Halapē – This intense hike is great for park visitors who enjoy vigorous hiking. This trail takes guests through wild grasses before reaching a small sand beach with coconut trees that give off the ultimate tropical vibe. The beach at the end of this trail is a designated campsite, perfect for well-deserved relaxation after the exciting journey there.
5. Nāpau – This moderate to challenging hike provides a little bit of all that Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park has to offer. Hikers may enjoy peaceful rainforests, traverse lava flows, and even look into pit craters.
Biking through Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is an unforgettable experience that is sure to reward any visitor up for the challenge. Delightful views can be seen from new perspectives when traversing the park on a bike.
When riding a bicycle through the park, make sure to stay on designated bike routes. Bikes are not allowed in every part of the park, and it’s important to adhere to the guidelines in order to help maintain the park’s wildlife and vegetation.
Crater Rim Drive, Chain of Craters Road, and certain paved roads are all welcoming to cyclists. Before heading out, make sure to double-check that bicycles are welcome in the area. Find out where bicycles are permitted.
The Kahuku Unit
The Kahuku Unit is a unique part of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park that is located on a former cattle ranch, one of the biggest that was in Hawai’i. Volcanic activity has altered the landscape over time, and today the hilly terrain holds years of history throughout its 116,000 acres.
This part of the park holds eight different options for day hikes, each guaranteed to provide visitors with a unique and memorable experience. Hikes range from easy to strenuous, and distances range from 0.4-mile loops to a 7.0-mile round-trip trail.
Ranger programs such as guided hikes and history talks are also commonly offered at the Kahuku Unit – a great opportunity to learn more about Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park from an expert!
Activities by Car
Crater Rim Drive Tour
This scenic drive is 5.6 miles one-way and is filled with beautiful overlooks that are well-deserving of a pit stop. Kīlauea Overlook provides stunning views of the volcano and gives easy access to the Crater Rim Trail hike.
Wahinekapu (Steaming Bluff) is another unmissable overlook that gives guests the opportunity to experience unique views of hot water vapor coming up from the ground. The heat of the water vapor can be felt at the overlook, which allows visitors to safely get up close and personal with an active volcano!
Chain of Craters Road
Another scenic route, Chain of Craters Road stretches for 18.8 miles one-way through Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. This road has had a rich history of interactions with the park’s volcanoes – parts of the road have been completely buried by lava!
While adventuring down Chain of Craters Road, overlooks with stunning sights of craters, cliffs, and views of the Pacific Ocean are all must-sees. A few hiking trails can be accessed via the road, offering guests an elevated view of some breathtaking sights.
Places to Stay
When camping in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, always make sure to remain up to date with safety alerts and impending weather events. While the weather can be very unpredictable in this type of climate, being prepared for the unexpected helps ensure that you and your family have the best and safest camping trip possible.
Sitting at an elevation of 4,000 feet, Nāmakanipaio Campground is a pet-friendly drive-in campground located in a large grassy area filled with towering eucalyptus trees. Reservations are required, and the cost to stay is $15 a night.
This campsite is operated by Hawai’i Volcanoes Lodge Company and offers visitors multiple lodging options. Guests are more than welcome to bring their own camping gear, but if you’d rather have someone else do the work for you – tents are available for rent!
Renting a tent via the campsite means that your tent will be set up and taken down for you upon arrival. If you’d like a more comfortable overnight lodging option, the campsite offers camper cabins that can accommodate between 1 to 4 guests with a double bed and a twin-sized bunk bed.
Each of the ten camper cabins has just one room and comes equipped with an outdoor grill, fire pit, and picnic table to comfortably enjoy delicious meals outdoors.
At an elevation of 2,700 feet, Kulanaokuaiki is a small campground of just nine campsites. Each site operates on a first-come, first-served basis and has a fee of $10 per night. Picnic tables are available at each of the quaint campsites.
No pets are allowed at this campground nor on the road it resides on. It’s also important to note that while this campground has vault toilets, there is no running water. If you choose to stay at Kulanaokuaiki, make sure to come prepared with all the water you’ll need for drinking and washing up!
Backcountry camping at Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is an unforgettable experience that is a wonderful opportunity for adventurous visitors looking to spend a night (or multiple!) appreciating the park’s stunning landscape.
Eight backcountry camping sites are available and can be reserved up to one week in advance. A $10 permit is required for backcountry campsite reservations, and proof of receipt is needed before your campsite can be booked. Each permit covers up to 10 people and is valid for 7 days.
You may not stay for more than three consecutive nights at one campsite. If you’ve camped for three nights and want to continue your camping journey, you can move to a new site! If you’d like to backcountry camp for longer than 7 days, make sure you have the appropriate permit to do so.
Dispersed camping is allowed in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park as long as campers are at least one mile away from both the road and any other campsites.
What to Expect From a Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park Camping Trip
Weather and Volcanic Activity
The weather at Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park can be unpredictable and change quickly. The park also covers an expansive range of elevations—one side of the park may be experiencing entirely different weather from the other side.
Higher elevations, especially around the volcano summits, can often be chilly, windy, rainy, and foggy even during warmer months. Parts of the park closer to sea level are commonly hot and dry. Coming prepared with the appropriate clothing is the best way to prepare for unpredictable weather events while in the park!
Two very active volcanoes reside in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park—just one of many things that make this park incredibly memorable. Active volcanoes can be unpredictable, and it’s always best to be prepared in case an eruption occurs. Always make sure to monitor alerts and warnings issued by the park to stay up to date on current conditions!
Pets on a leash are allowed in certain areas of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. Your furry friend is more than welcome to join you on Mauna Loa Road, any designated parking areas, Nāmakanipaio Campground, and more.
Pets are never allowed on any frontcountry or backcountry trails, or in undeveloped areas of the park. Find out where pets are allowed.
There is a fee to enter Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. The price depends on how you choose to enter the park—private vehicles, motorcycles, bicycles, and walk-in pedestrians all have different fees to enter.
Phone service in the park varies by service provider. Some areas may have decent coverage, but spotty and poor service is more common, especially in the backcountry. The Kīlauea Visitor Center offers free wifi to help guests stay connected.
Planning Your Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park Camping Trip
No matter how you choose to enjoy Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, there’s no doubt that this will be a trip filled with memories to last a lifetime.
Want to learn more about camping in other national parks? Check out our other posts on national park camping to learn more!