Without volcanoes there would be no Hawaii. Fortunately for the world, Hawaii's volcanoes continue to produce their famous molten lava, which results in a growing mass of paradise in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. One of the most spectacular spots to witness this natural miracle in action is on the Big Island of Hawaii at Volcanoes National Park, where two active volcanoes (Mauna Loa and Kilauea) regularly spout ash clouds, smoke and hot lava into the sea. Visitors can hike around the park and experience an incredible range of microclimates and sites, from rain forests to eerie lava tubes to spectacular views of the ocean. Volcanic activity is responsible for a new island that is currently being created in Hawaii, which would bring the total number of islands to 9 in the state's chain. Just off the southern coast of the Big Island is Loihi, an underwater volcano that has been erupting since 1996. The new island is scheduled to break the ocean's surface in about 250,000 years, so we have a while before we need to book our reservations.
Kilauea Iki and Crater Rim Trail was great. You will see the lush rainforest, the stark moonscape of the volcano crater, the volcano vents, and the wonderful plants striving to come back up through the lava beds. My wife is not a great hiker. Any strenuous hike will scare her, but she found this trail to be perfect. We even took our large family on this hike ages 4 to 14. They all made it fine.
The ocean entry lava viewing made this worth the trip. the bike ride is with a LOT of other people, especially if you do it at dusk as everyone left about the same time. nice setup though at the entrance and supports locals with the bike rentals. glad we did this side as opposed to entry though the park but it all depends on the lava...check on the lava status before deciding which way to go! both ways have park Rangers to help keep people safe but one way may save you a mile or two!
To get to the steam plume you can either bike or walk from the east or hike in from the west. We hiked in from the west. Great hike to the steam plume. Not technical at all, but bring plenty of water. It may be raining and cool on top of the ridge, but sunny and hot on the road. The road/trail is cinder all the way in, with a porta-potty about halfway through. It's about 4 miles in on the road, then you'll hit the NPS roadblock. It's then about a mile over lava field to reach the vent. As of JAN 17, you won't be able to see any lava - either going into the ocean or surface. The recent bench collapse changed the access. The terrain changes though, so you might get lucky. Either way, you'll see a lot of sulfur vents and be standing right over the lava tube. Check with your wife before exploring. AMAZING ocean and lava views all the way in. HIGHLY recommend the hike. Make a reservation at The Rim, for a phenomenal post-hike dinner! ***Wife's Tip Corner: You can do this trail in anything... technically. But highly recommend sturdy shoes, bandana for the vog, and work gloves as some of the lava is very sharp (my husband took his gloves off for a second and got a lava splinter). Ladies - your man might believe he is a volcanologist and go "exploring" over lava vents. I turned my back for one minute and off he went. Recommend a bell or little kid leash.***