16 Easy Things To Do In Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Woman walking through a jungle lava tunnel

Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park is one of those places that just takes your breath away, especially for first-time visitors. If you’re planning to spend some time exploring this National Park, we have put together all of the best things to do in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park – that you can easily see in a single day!

From unique Mars-like landscapes to steaming vents, epic viewpoints, underground lava tunnels, and other unique volcanic features, this park has a lot to offer its visitors. There are hidden gems all throughout the park and you don’t have to venture far away from the main highway to see them.

Here is our ultimate Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park day guide covering all of the top stops and landmarks to see on your visit!

For the ultimate way to experience Volcanoes National Park book this safari helicopter tour that will take you on a memorable aerial adventure flying over volcanoes, lava flows, and lush jungle forests!

At Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park you can explore a variety of unique landscapes!

Some of the links used in this blog may be affiliate links. At no extra cost to you, I earn a small commission when you book through these links for which I am very thankful!

16 Best Things To Do In Hawaii Volcanoes National Park:

Here are all of the best places to go in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park! We organized this list in order to optimize your visit starting with the Kīlauea Visitor Center and ending with the Hōlei Sea Arch all the way south.

1. Kīlauea Visitor Center

Upon arriving at Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, I recommend first stopping by the Kīlauea Visitor Center near the park entrance. Here you can find maps of the entire park describing all of the top attractions, chat with park rangers for insider visitor tips and browse through the exhibits to learn more about the park.

Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park has limited cell reception so I recommend taking photos of the park maps and downloading an offline Google Map before venturing away from the visitor center. This way you can keep an eye out for all the main landmarks as you explore the park.

We also created an interactive Google Map of all the top stops within Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park that you can check out here:

Map Tip: Click on the different points of interest to get more information.

At the visitor center, you can fill up on water, stop by the souvenir store and use the restrooms. There are basic restrooms at most of the major stops, but no water, gas, or food going south past the visitor center.

Google Map Location: Kīlauea Visitor Center

Looking to rent a car for your visit to Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park? We recommend and personally use Discover Cars because they offer the best pricing and free cancellation up to 48 hours before your trip!

2. Kīlauea Overlook

Kīlauea Overlook is one of the best things to do in Hawaii Volcano National Park!

There is one main road that travels through the park and most of the attractions can be found along it. Driving this highway is the easiest way to explore Hawaii Volcanoes National Park if you’re coming for only one day and want to see all of the main stops.

For first-time visitors, I recommend starting with the Kīlauea Overlook along the West Crater Rim Drive. From there you can make your way south while stopping at various landmarks along the way.

At the Kilauea Overlook, you can walk around the Kau Desert Trail for different vantage points of the Halemaʻumaʻu crater.

Kīlauea Overlook offers a view of the enormous Halemaʻumaʻu crater where you could previously see red lava coming out of the ground. Although the lava is no longer flowing at this location, you can still see steam vents in the distance along with a dramatic volcanic landscape.

The overlook is very easy to reach along a paved trail from the visitor parking lot. This wide crater formed in 2018 after the Kīlauea caldera collapsed 1600 feet due to magma being drained out from beneath the volcano summit.

Google Map Location: Kilauea Overlook

3. Steam Vents At Wahinekapu

At Steam Vents you can see steam evaporating from cracks in the Earth.

The next stop along the Crater Rim Drive is the Steam Vents. Here you can witness hot volcanic steam rising from the ground. You can also go on a quick walk along a crater ridge to see steam on a cliffside that surrounds the crater walls.

As you walk along the trails you will be able to see volcanic gasses come out of faults and fractures in the ground nearby. This scenery is very similar to what you can witness at Yellowstone National Park near Bozeman, Montana (but on a smaller scale and without that strong sulfur scent).

Google Map Location: Steam Vents

4. Sulphur Banks

Sulphur Banks is one of the most interesting Hawaii Volcano National Park attractions.

From the Steam Vents parking lot, you can easily walk over to the Ha’akulamanu (Sulphur Banks). You can also reach the Sulphur Banks from the Kīlauea Visitor Center – both are about the same distance.

Sulphur Banks consist of a bare, colorful landscape resulting from sulfur and other gases being released from the ground. Boardwalks and pathways have been created so visitors can observe the unique setting from a safe distance.

Google Map Location: Sulphur Banks

Keep in mind: Due to high amounts of sulfur dioxide gas, it is recommended that visitors with heart or respiratory conditions, pregnant women, infants, and young children should avoid this area. I was pregnant on this trip so I skipped the Sulphur Banks Trail while my husband went to check it out.   

5. Volcano House

Volcano House at Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park.

Volcano House is a hotel, restaurant, coffee shop, and gift shop located across the road from Kīlauea Visitor Center. After exploring the northern part of the Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, we stopped by the Volcano House for a lunch break.

Many people miss the Volcano House on their visit, but it’s well worth a stop! This historic landmark was recommended to us by a local for the amazing views that you can see of the Halemaʻumaʻu Crater directly from the hotel. Here you can grab a coffee, walk around the Crater Rim Trail, and enjoy food at the onsite restaurant that has tall glass windows overlooking the volcanic crater.

There are also restrooms and a couple of souvenir shops on the property where we found cute souvenirs (at reasonable prices) to bring back home for our family.

Google Map Location: Volcano House

6. Volcano Art Center Gallery

Volcano Art Center is located next to the visitor center so you can stop by here for a quick visit. At the Volcano Art Center, you can browse and see the artwork displayed by local artists along with jewelry, ceramics, sculptures, and paintings.  

This is not a very busy attraction so it’s a great stop to take a break away from the tourist crowds.

Google Map Location: Volcano Art Center Gallery

7. Kīlauea Iki Crater

Kīlauea Iki Overlook

Continuing south along the Crater Rim Drive, the next major stop is the Kīlauea Iki Crater. We stopped at the Kilauea Iki Overlook, but you have the option to hike down into the crater floor which is such a cool experience! Just be prepared for a steep 400 feet climb back up.

If you’re up for the hike, you can follow the 3.2-mile-long Kilauea Iki Trail and Crater Rim Trail from the AllTrails Hiking App. This loop starts at the Crater Rim Trail, then descends into the Kīlauea Iki Crater where you can walk across Mars-like landscapes.

While visitors can now explore the Kīlauea Iki crater floor, in just 1959 this crater erupted spouting hot lava thousands of feet into the air. This spectacle brought over 750,000 visitors to the park who got to witness this magnificent eruption.

Google Map Location: Kilauea Iki Trailhead

Hiking Tip: Be sure to set aside 2 hours for the hike, bring plenty of water bottles with you and wear good slip-resistant hiking shoes. This trail is mostly exposed to the sun so having a hiking hat and mineral sunscreen are essential to keep you cool and sunburn-free!

8. Nāhuku – Thurston Lava Tube

Nahuku – Thurston Lava Tube is situated near the Kīlauea Iki Crater so you can make a stop at both locations at the same time. But this parking area has very limited spaces so finding a spot can be a challenge. We ended up exploring the rest of the park and came back to hike the Thurston Lava Tube Trail around sunset when parking started to open up more.

The Thurston Lava Tube Trail is 0.5 miles long with very little elevation change. It only takes around 30 minutes to hike the entire trail and walk through the underground tunnel. This unique cave was formed 550 years ago by a hot lava river flowing along the ground while melting the ceiling and inner walls.

Now visitors can walk through the dark underground cave that has been reclaimed by the surrounding jungle. There are some lights that are turned on inside the tunnel between 8:00 am to 8:00 pm so visitors can safely walk through from one end to the other. After 8:00 pm you will need to bring your own headlamp to see anything inside the lava tube.  

Google Map Location: Nahuku – Thurston Lava Tube

9. Devastation Trail

Interesting volcanic landscapes along the Devastation Trail.

After scorching hot lava rained down in this area during the 1959 eruption, much of the vegetation was destroyed and hasn’t recovered yet. Along the mile-long Devastation Trail, you can see the aftermath of a volcanic eruption along with burned trees and shrubs.

You can start the hike from either Pu‘Upua‘I Parking Lot or the Devastation Trailhead. After walking through the jungle for a bit, the trail will open up to a bare landscape earning it the name ‘Devastation Trail’.

Google Map Location: Devastation Trail

10. Drive The Chain Of Craters Road

The Chain Of Craters Road is paved – suitable for any rental car!

After doing a bit of hiking, you can enjoy a scenic drive along the Chain of Craters Road that travels all the way south to the ocean. Along this route, you can stop at many larger and some smaller craters that have formed in the past such as the Luamanu Crater and Puhimau Crater.

The Chain of Craters Road is wide and paved so any rental car will be able to handle it. Just make sure to fill up on gas, food, and water before going on longer drives within the park. There is very limited reception and amenities past the visitor center.

Looking to rent a car for your trip to the Big Island of Hawaii? We recommend booking with Discover Cars because they offer the best pricing and free cancellation up to 48 hours before your pickup!

11. Pauahi Crater

Pauahi Crater is the next ‘big’ crater in the area. This is a quick stop with a designated visitor parking lot. Here you can park your car and quickly walk to a wooden overlook of the crater.

Pauahi Crater is round and very deep with a 360-foot drop & some vegetation growing along the crater walls.

Google Map Location: Pauahi Crater

12. Pu’u Huluhulu Trail

Volcanic landscape near Pu’u Huluhulu Trailhead.

The next stop on our scenic Hawaii Volcanoes National Park drive was Pu’u Huluhulu Trail. From here you can go on a longer day hike to Pu’u Huluhulu Cinder Cone via Napau Crater Trail or stay near the trail starting point to explore dramatic volcanic landscapes.

Due to limited time, we walked around the lava fields at the beginning of the hike. Here you can see interesting terrain made of newer black lava that has recently formed.

Google Map Location: Pu’u Huluhulu Trailhead

13. Kealakomo Overlook

Kealakomo Overlook and picnic ground.

As you drive south towards the shoreline, you’ll be able to start seeing peeks of the Pacific Ocean in the distance. Sitting at 2000 feet in elevation, Kealakomo offers a pretty good view of the turquoise water surrounded by vast lava fields.

This rest stop also has picnic tables if you want to enjoy a lunch overlooking the volcanic landscape and the ocean.

Google Map Location: Kealakomo

14. See Lava Fields

Lava fields near the ocean.

As you drive through the park, you can stop at many unmarked pullout stops and explore neverending lava fields as far as you can see.

Just keep in mind that lava fields are shadeless, hot, and can be difficult to trek across. Be sure to watch your step to avoid falling and injuring yourself.

15. Pu’uloa Petroglyphs

If you’re making your way south along the Chain of Craters Road, the Pu‘uloa Petroglyphs are one of the top things to see in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park!

This archeological site features over 23,000 petroglyphs carved into lava making this one of the largest petroglyph fields in the world. The petroglyphs can be seen by following an easy 1.2-mile out-and-back Pu’uloa Petroglyphs Trail.

Google Map Location: Pu‘u Loa Petroglyphs

16. Hōlei Sea Arch

Hōlei Sea Arch at the end of the Chain of Craters Road.

Hōlei Sea Arch is one of the last attractions that you can see while visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The Hōlei Sea Arch is a 90-foot tall sea arch that was formed on a rugged volcanic coastline. Due to powerful winds and water, the arch is only temporary and is constantly eroding away!

While this is one of the top things to do in Volcano National Park, the Holei Sea Arch is pretty far away from the viewpoint. It is quite difficult to see and take photos of unless you have a good zoom lens.

To reach the arch you can park along the Chain of Craters Road. This stop marks the end of the road so here you can see the arch, turn around and start heading back north towards the park exit station near the Kilauea Visitor Center.

Google Map Location: Hōlei Sea Arch

We hope this guide has helped you discover all of the best things to do in Volcano National Park! Most of these attractions are very easy to visit and can be done on a day trip.

Looking for more awesome things to do on your trip to the Big Island? We highly recommend booking a Night Manta Ray Adventure in Hawaii. Along with visiting Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, swimming with Manta Rays at night was a bucket list experience for us that you can’t do anywhere else in the world!

Tips For Visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park:

Here are additional tips for Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park to help you more with trip planning!

Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park Location

The main highway that travels through Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park.

Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park is located in the southeast part of the Island of Hawai’i. To reach the park it’s about a 45-minute drive from Hilo and a 2.5-hour drive from Kona. To get to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park from Hilo you can take Highway 11 all the way to the park Entrance Station here.

For visiting Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, we specifically booked a few nights’ stay in Hilo so we could be closer to the park entrance. We arrived at the park gate at around 10 am and stayed up until sunset at 7 pm exploring all of the stops mentioned above.

If you plan to visit Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park from Kona, you will need to head out very early in the morning and potentially drive back in the dark (which is not so fun with wild pigs and goats crossing the highways).

If you don’t want to drive yourself, I highly recommend booking a Volcano National Park Adventure Tour From Kona. This guided tour visits Hawaii Volcanoes National Park along with Punalu’u Black Sand Beach, Rainbow Falls, and other popular stops in just one day!

Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park Entrance Cost

To visit Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park it costs:

  • $30 per vehicle
  • $25 for motorcycles
  • $15 for walk-in individuals

With this entrance fee, you can return for 7 days if you want to come back and see different areas of the park.

Personally, I like to get the America the Beautiful Annual Pass that allows unlimited entries into any US National Park for an entire year.

This pass costs $80 but we visit quite a few National Parks throughout the year so it always pays off and ends up saving us a lot of money. 

Restaurants & Food At Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Lunch at The Rim at Volcano House Restaurant within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

There are limited amenities at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park so come prepared with plenty of water, food, and snacks for the day.

The Volcano House does offer dining options at the onsite The Rim Restaurant and Uncle George’s Lounge. We stopped for lunch at The Rim at Volcano House which kept us pretty full for the rest of the day.

We also stocked up on snacks and water before arriving at the park. The weather can get very hot and humid so you can go through a lot of water quickly.

What To Bring For Visiting Volcano National Park

The weather at Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park can change drastically throughout the day. During our visit in July, it was warm and sunny one moment and rainy & cold the next. Come prepared for a variety of weather and bring layers that you can easily put on and take off.

Here are a few items that I recommend packing for your visit:

  • Light rain jacket. It started raining several times throughout the day. A light rain jacket can keep you warm and cozy as rain and wind start picking up.
  • Danner Trail 2650 Hiking Shoes. You’ll be doing quite a bit of walking across uneven surfaces. Good hiking shoes with a strong grip are a must to prevent slipping and falling. The Danner hiking shoes are lightweight, waterproof, and made with Vibram 460 outsoles for traction on wet surfaces.
  • Hiking hat, mineral sunscreen & lip balm. Much of the volcanic landscape is bare and exposed to the sun. Be sure to bring a hat and mineral sunscreen to keep you cool and sunburn free!
  • Refillable water bottles. Pack plenty of refillable water bottles for your visit. We stopped by the visitor center couple of times to refill our REI Co-op Nalgene bottles.
  • Black Diamond Headlamp. Volcano National Park is open 24-7 to visitors. If you plan to stay past sunset, bring a flashlight so you can navigate the park safely.
  • Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Poles. If you plan to do any longer hikes, trekking poles can assist with tackling steep trails, finding balance, and hiking across difficult surfaces like rocky lava fields.
  • Anker Portable phone charger. I always bring a battery pack when going on longer day trips. A portable phone charger can come in handy in case your phone runs out of battery and you need to use it to look up directions, things to see, and places to eat.
  • Small travel backpack. I have a small travel pack that fits all my essentials, water, and camera gear. This backpack comes with adjustable straps, and plenty of pockets where I can put small things like hand sanitizer, polarized sunglasses, and a small medical kit.

Where To Stay In Hilo

Relaxing at our hotel in Hilo after a full day of outdoor adventures.

For our visit to Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, we stayed at the Grand Naniloa Hotel, a DoubleTree by Hilton in Hilo. Hilo is the closest ‘big’ town to this National Park that has everything you may need from restaurants and coffee shops to stores and gas stations (but the hotel choices here are pretty limited).

The Grand Naniloa Hotel is one of the nicest hotels in Hilo. The hotel is situated next to a beautiful coastline made of turquoise water and black lava rocks offering spectacular scenery just outside the hotel doors.

Grand Naniloa Hotel features spacious guest rooms with strong AC (a must-have in Hawaii), in-room coffee makers, free parking, an outdoor pool, a restaurant, and a fun lounge. We loved staying here because of all the amenities and multiple onsite dining options so we could return to the hotel and not worry about where to go get food.

In the evenings you can enjoy lobby entertainment and music, two complimentary cocktails per stay, and watch the sunset from the lounge chairs next to the ocean.

FAQ’s On Hawaii Volcanoes National Park:

How long does it take to tour Hawaii Volcanoes National Park?

It takes a full day to tour Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. You can see most of the main park attractions within one day, but with the entrance fee, you can also return for 7 days to explore more remote sections of the park or go on a longer hike.

Best things to do in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

If you’re looking for the best things to do in Volcano National Park Hawaii, be sure to have these on your list:

  • Kīlauea Visitor Center
  • Volcano House
  • Kilauea Overlook
  • Steam Vents
  • Sulphur Banks
  • Nahuku – Thurston Lava Tube
  • Kīlauea Iki Crater
  • Devastation Trail
  • Chain of Craters Road
  • Pu‘u Loa Petroglyphs
  • Hōlei Sea Arch

Steam Vents at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Do you need reservations for Hawaii Volcanoes National Park?

You do not need reservations to visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park for the day. The park is accessible to visitors 24 hours a day and does not require entrance reservations.

How long does it take to hike Thurston Lava Tube?

Thurston Lava Tube is one of the shortest day hikes within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. This trail is only 0.5 miles long with 50 feet of elevation gain so it is suitable for families and kids. It takes around 30 minutes to hike the Thurston Lava Tube Trail and walk through the volcanic cave.

What is the best time to visit Thurston Lava Tube?

The best time to visit Thurston Lava Tube is from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm when there are lights inside the otherwise pitch-black tunnel. Outside of this time frame, the lights are turned off and you will need to bring your own headlamp or flashlight to navigate the lava cave in the dark.

How long does it take to drive the Chain of Craters Road?

The Chain of Craters Road is 19 miles long and takes 45 minutes to drive one way without making any stops. We recommend setting aside a few hours to drive this route and explore all of the top attractions, craters, and viewpoints along the way.

Chain of Craters Road In Hawaii.

Do you need a 4wd for Chain of Craters Road?

You do not need a 4wd to drive the Chain of Craters Road. This is a smooth, paved highway so just about any rental car is suitable for driving it.

Where does Chain of Craters Road start and end?

The Chain of Craters Road starts at the Devastation Trail and travels south for around 19 miles until the Hōlei Sea Arch. At the Hōlei Sea Arch, the road ends so you can turn around and start heading back up north.

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