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One Day On Hawaii’s Big Island | Don't Ever Look Back

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One Day On Hawaii’s Big Island

One Day On Hawaii’s Big Island

You can’t visit The Big Island of Hawaii without a trip to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and the famous Mount Kilauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes.

Although many companies offer organized tours of Volcanoes National Park, it is definitely easy enough to hire a car and explore the volcano and its surrounds on your own. So after you book your accommodation through a website like Expedia, arrange your rental car and start planning!

Here are some of the stops that you might want to check out whilst exploring The Big Island.

Rainbow Falls

Rainbow Falls

Rainbow Falls

Rainbow Falls is a beautiful 80-foot waterfall located just two miles from the town of Hilo and a great place to make your first stop of the day. There are also some magnificent Banyan Trees to see here.

Once you’ve finished at Rainbow Falls, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is 30 miles southwest (approximately a 45-minute drive). You probably want to start off at the Kilauea Visitor Center to get the latest information on trails, road conditions and safety precautions. Then it’s time to hit the roads!

Steam Vents

Steam Vents

Steam Vents

Less than a mile after leaving the Kilauea Visitor Center, you’ll spot steam vents ahead on the left side of the road. Rainwater seeps through the ground and is heated by the hot volcanic rocks, rising to the surface as steam. Don’t stay here too long though – there is sulphur dioxide in the steam and you don’t want to be exposed for an extended period.

Thomas A. Jaggar Museum/Kilauea Overlook

Halema`uma`u Crater

A view of the Halema`uma`u Crater from Jaggar Museum

The next stop is Jaggar Museum, located on the edge of the rim of Kilauea Caldera. The overlook provides some incredible views of the caldera and the main crater (Halema`uma`u) and you can get a great look at the smoke coming from the volcano.

Within the Thomas A. Jaggar Museum, you can learn about the history of the Hawaiian volcanoes and there’s also a gift shop for those who want to take home a souvenir.

Thurston Lava Tube

Thurston Lava Tube

Thurston Lava Tube

The forest starts to flourish as you approach the Thurston Lava Tube, one of the highlights of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Did you know that The Big Island is home to 11 of the world’s 13 climate zones? An amazing fact considering the size of the island is just 4028 square miles.

After a short walk through the rainforest, you’ll reach the 500-year-old lava cave that once had a river of red lava flowing through it. Very cool!

There are many more overlooks and hikes within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park – check out the Crater Rim Drive if you have more time to explore the park. Note that some parts of the road may be closed due to excessive sulphur dioxide in the air.

Kaimu Black Sand Beach

Black Sand Beach

Black Sand Beach

It’s time to leave Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and get back in the car for the hour drive to Kalapana, located in the Puna district of The Big Island. The area was destroyed by lava flow in 1990 and the town was buried under a thick layer of lava.

Located nearby is New Kaimu Beach, a spectacular black sand beach that was formed in the 1990’s by the volcanic flows. The scenic path to Kaimu Beach is through a hardened lava field and well worth the short walk.

Kalapana Lava Viewing Site

Lava glow from Kalapana Lava Viewing Field

Lava glow from Kalapana Lava Viewing Field

By now the sun should be starting to set and you’ll want to get yourself over to Kalapana Lava Viewing Field, located at the end of Highway 130. This is where you can view the current lava flows of Kilauea Volcano including where it spews magma into the Pacific Ocean.

Unfortunately there have been no lava sightings since January 2011 so all we got to see was this glow from the volcano. Nonetheless, it was still quite surreal to see the lava lighting up the night sky and a perfect end to a great day of exploring Hawaii’s Big Island.

Have you visited The Big Island before? Is there anything that should be added to this list?


  1. Posted October 3, 2011 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

    Oh this looks amazing. One of the things I regret from my trip to Hawaii was not visiting the big island… It was so cheap too, but I was loving the beach too much. Oh well this means I must go back to see it for sure. So one day I will. I love the photos & it looks just amazing.
    Jaime recently posted..Music Monday – Live Your Life

    • Posted October 4, 2011 at 2:12 am | Permalink

      The Big Island is such a unique and amazing place, you definitely want to go there (although try and wait until the lava starts flowing again!). We remember getting off at Kona Airport and stepping into a barren lava field, very cool experience.

  2. Posted October 5, 2011 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    So much to see and do on The Big Island!! I am currently in the middle of all my posts on my trip there in August.

    Snorkeling with dolphins and manta ray’s, wine tasting, lounging in a natural hot water pool and short hikes were just some of my favorite things to do there!!!
    Rebecca recently posted..End of the World

    • Posted October 5, 2011 at 2:31 pm | Permalink

      We would’ve loved to have done a lot more on The Big Island but we only had one day of exploring the volcanoes and the other looking around Kona. Really looking forward to seeing your posts!

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