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.
Just marvelous. You start at parking lot and drop down through verdant tropical forest for half hour, that then opens onto massive lava plain. The trail is marked by ahu (stone cairns), important to keep track of in foggy conditions. Pass by numerous massive rock formations, steam vents and plants reemerging from lava fissures. Take the side path half way across to see the reddish depression that looks like a cave. Sit and enjoy the quiet and breeze while you ponder the miracle of earth. The walk across the lava field is about 45 minutes with a rest, then climbs back up through the birdsong filled forest back to parking lot. We emerged by Thurston Lava Tube so saw that, too. Ten minute walk back down to our car. Just the best!! Moderate hike for experienced hikers, harder for newbies. Take water, hat, camera, snack bar for a rest break.
Great trail. easy to moderate, there is a steep descent at the beginning and a gradual ascent counter clockwise, or the reverse if doing it clockwise. I recommend the former: Park at the trail head, take the steep descent down following the route markers, and finish by walking through the lava tube. You're only 500ft from the carpark at this point.
Plenty to see; cool, lush tropical rainforest, and baking hot lava crater surface, with interesting plant life and steam vents.