Big Island

Touring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Tuesday, September 16 –

This morning we ate breakfast before driving back to the Park. We took the Crater Rim Drive, 10-and-a-half-mile drive that circles Kilauea Caldera. The loop will took us to the park’s main attractions: the Kilauea overlook, the Jaggar Museum, Halemaumau Crater, the Devastation Trail, the Kilauea Iki Crater Overlook and the Thurston Lava Tube.

Kilauea crater from the helicopter during the previous day.

Kilauea crater from the helicopter during the previous day.

We started at the Jaggar Museum. The volcanologist Thomas Jaggar was pioneer in the science at Kilauea. A video and educational exhibits discussed lava flows, geology of the area and recent seismological patterns. We learned that Kilauea currently produces 250,000-650,000 cubic yards of lava per day, enough to resurface a 20-mile-long, two-lane road daily.

Later we toured the Volcano House hotel overlooking Halemaumau Crater. Mark Twain once stayed there and we saw some interesting artifacts inside from recent history. A famous oil painting depicting the volcano goddess Pele as Caucasian resided in the hotel’s Volcano Art Center for about 75 years, donated by artist Howard Hitchcock. It was criticized, so in 2003 a competition was being held for more modern version of the goddess.

After lunch at the hotel, we took a stroll around the Halemaumau Crater. Steam vented from plumes of the massive crater into the air. To the Hawaiians, it is known as the home of Pele, the volcano goddess. Before 1967, the crater was filled with a lake of lava, but it eventually drained away.

To understand lava tubes – like the Puu Oo’s lava tubes we witnessed the night before – we took a hike to see some ancient lava tubes. We walked through the 500-year old Thurston Lava Tube that was formed when an underground channel of molten lava drained from its cooled walls forming a massive, hollow chamber. On the other end we were surprised to find a tropical rainforest.

After having our fill of volcanoes, we drove south to the southern most point in the 50 States – Ka Lae. We saw tons of huge windmills blowing in the wind generating renewable energy.

As we headed west on Highway 11 Located on the southeastern Kau coast, we decided to stop and see the Punaluu Black Sand Beach. The beautiful beach is one of the most famous black sand beaches in Hawaii. We had to walk on it, and the fine volcanic sand felt like no other sand I have ever walked on. Nearby, we drove out to Ke’e point the southernmost spot in the nation.

We had a long drive ahead of us, so we headed north towards the Kona coast. After passing through Kailua Kona on the Queen K highway, we eventually arrived in Waikoloa. We would be staying at the Marriott Waikoloa Beach Resort for the next few nights. This hotel was beautiful. We had a fantastic dinner at the hotel before going back to our rooms to get some rest.

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