Located over 2,000 miles from the US mainland, the Hawaiian archipelago includes eight major islands and creates a unique setting for your vacation. The reason for their appearance was the intense underground activity that began more than 65 million years in those places.
Now, there are four active volcanic structures – Kīlauea, Mauna Loa, Loihi, and Hualalai – located within the Big Island and Maui. They periodically throw out magma, but fortunately, this doesn’t pose a danger to humans. At the same time, other islands such as Oahu, Kauai, Molokai, and Lanai have dormant volcanoes that you’ll be happy to explore. Therefore, the rich volcanic heritage of the Hawaiian archipelago allows you to study and admire these mighty natural phenomena.
Want to connect with the volcanic past and dedicate a Hawaiian trip to explore craters, lava fields, calderas, and rocks? We have prepared for you a list of perfect places to witness nature’s power!
Haleakala National Park
Located in the southeast part of Maui, this park provides an outstanding volcano exploration experience. As proof, it receives over one million visitors a year. The territory of the Haleakala National Park can be conditionally divided into two parts – the famous Haleakala caldera and the Kipahulu coast.
The walls of the huge formation rise almost 10,000 feet and look like a monolithic structure. From the top, you will enjoy unearthly views and see the lunar surface with cinder cones. Most people prefer to visit this place in the early morning or late evening to catch the breathtaking panoramas of sunrise or sunset, and this is the right decision. The fact is that climbing can be exhausting during the midday heat.
The park features multiple hiking trails – they are suitable for walking, cycling, or horseback riding with the whole family. Also, why not rent a campsite or set up a tent overlooking lava fields? Each solution is ideal to stay overnight and enhance your experience by enjoying the night scenery.
Another part of the park to hit your eyes is the Kipahulu Coast. It will surprise you with its abundant tropical plants, waterfalls, and dramatic natural scenery. Capturing the views of Waimoku Falls and Oheo Gorge are must-try activities at this location as well.
When staying on Oahu, don’t miss Diamond Head Crater, the most sought-after local highlight. Formerly an extinct volcano, it looks impressive and invites you to explore it on foot or wheels.
First, get your feet ready for the 2-mile-long Summit Trail. Reaching the 760-foot top, breathe deeply and enjoy the stunning 360-degree views of Waikiki and the turquoise water of the Pacific Ocean from above.
According to seasoned travelers, driving is the greatest way to get to the caldera’s foot. Thus, we strongly recommend that you collect a car rental in Honolulu located a 20-minute drive away. If traveling with family or a group of friends, consider a 6 seater car rental. You can book a rental 6 seater car at any time before your trip, and thus guarantee the availability of the vehicle on the desired date. Entrance to the territory of the park costs $ 5 per car.
The journey to the caldera foot will take you no more than 1.5 – 2 hours. Try to visit it in the morning when the area is not so crowded and the weather is not too hot. On your return, you can follow to Pali Lookout for a breathtaking panorama of the Koʻolau cliffs and lush Windward Coast.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
The park’s name speaks for itself – it offers fascinating landscapes of active eruptions with craters and lava fields. Located on the Big Island within a 45-minute ride of Hilo, it covers approximately 300,000 acres of land, and offers you a walking challenge.
The most desired tourist attractions of the national park are Kilauea – an active volcano, and Mauna Loa, which is the world’s biggest subaerial volcanic formation. The park’s over 150 miles of hiking trails promise you the perfect chance to enjoy the charming scenery, rare flora and fauna, and watch the lava flow into the ocean. Also, you can see the petroglyphs engraved on the hardened lava by the native Hawaiians many centuries ago.
If you want to explore volcanoes in a more scientific setting, head to the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory available within the park. Although not open to the public, you can visit the nearby Jagger Museum. It specializes in volcanic artifacts and exhibitions and hosts a small souvenir shop. Although the observatory occupies the highest point in the park, the 15-mile-long trip doesn’t take long. However, take enough water with you to avoid dehydration.
Hanauma Bay is a nature reserve located in the crater of an extinct volcano. You’ll find it on the southeast coast of Oahu, a 30-minute drive from Waikiki. The bay is famous for its incredibly diverse and beautiful underwater world – it’s home to over 450 species of exotic tropical fish and green sea turtles.
The magnificent beach with fine golden sand and calm waters is one of the best and most popular places for snorkeling. Also, this is an excellent vantage point against the backdrop of a volcanic caldera.
Molokini Island is part of a sunken volcanic crater, which was the result of lava eruptions that occurred many years ago. It’s located 1.8 miles off the south coast of Maui in the Pacific Ocean. The crescent-shaped rocky island is a popular snorkeling and diving destination.
Visitors can enjoy snorkeling among 250 different species of exotic fish and marine animals and admire the beautiful underwater world surrounded by beautiful corals. The island is also a nesting site for rare birds such as wedge-tailed petrels and Bulwer’s typhoons.
You can get to the island only as part of an organized tour. Boats to Molokini depart daily from Lahaina Harbor, Kihei Boat Ramp, Makena Beach, and Maalaea Harbor.
Generally, the unique geological structure of the Hawaiian Islands distinguishes them from similar resorts. The multiple volcanic sites provide you with an incredible spectacle, and you will hardly find anywhere else such an extensive collection of craters, lava fields, formations, and calderas in a relatively small area. So, if you’re an explorer at heart, visit all of the above attractions as part of your next Hawaiian journey!