It was sunny and clear when we woke up at Volcano House, so we were ready to hike. Before breakfast, I stopped to take a picture of the volcano.
We walked across the street to the Visitors Center, and consulted with a park ranger about the hikes. He recommended we hike Kīlauea Iki in the morning, then stop at the Thurston Lava Tube, and finally to drive to the end of Chain of Craters Road, so that was what we did.
The volcano that Volcano House overlooks, Kīlauea, is one of the most active volcanoes in the world, and it has currently been erupting since 1983. The Iki in Kīlauea Iki refers to the eruption in 1959 that created the crater.
A view of the volcano from the rainforest trail. I think that is Volcano House on the right.
The trail descends from the rim of the crater through rainforest to the “still-steaming” crater floor, as it is described by the NPS, and they are not kidding. The crater floor is not dangerous, but you can feel the heat rising off of it and you can see steam escaping in other parts. The crater looks like a moonscape, and the black lava rocks glitter in the sunlight like crushed diamonds.
Flowers on the crater floor.
The Thurston Lava Tube was short but fun. A lava tube is basically a cave that lava used to flow through.
On our way down Chain of Craters road, we came across a family of nēnē. These are native Hawaiian geese and they are endangered. We kept encountering caution signs while driving that said “Nēnē Crossing,” so we were delighted to actually see some. It was a small family: mom, dad, and three chicks crossing the road, but we didn’t have a chance to get photos.
As we drove down to the coast, the temperature rose into the 80s and I began to regret not bringing sunscreen. You have to leave your car and walk the final bit to get to the lava flow that covers the end of the road. We both ended up getting a little sunburnt walking to the lava and wandering around on top of it.
The lava made crazy patterns and colors. Some parts it fanned out like a shell, or it was twisted and ropey. Some pieces had an iridescent, oily sheen, or ribbons of pink and purple color in the rock.
The lava ran right into the ocean, so we climbed over and sat looking down the lava cliffs into the waves crashing below.
Afterwards we drove out of the park for a late lunch in the nearby town of Volcano. Then we rested in the afternoon and had dinner again at Volcano House. After dinner, we drove to the Jaggar Museum for a closer view of the volcano.