what it’s like to see an active volcano

You know those clips you see on TV of hot, bright orange lava, slowly and viscously seeping through piles of old rocks? Well, sorry to shatter this image but it is nothing like that. At least it wasn’t back in June when I visited Kilauea, the most active of the five volcanoes that form the island of Hawai’i (Big Island).

Instead, what you should expect to see is a lot of steam from various steam vents, which are just cracks in the volcano. You won’t see much else volcanic activity in the daytime other than that. The trick is to come back after dark. This is when you’ll be able to see the glow of the lava. Although it wasn’t quite the view I was looking forward to, it was still an amazing one, nonetheless.

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One of the many steam vents you’ll find at the park
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Me, my sister, and brother-in-law with some volcanic activity going on behind us
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Glow of the active Kilauea

Since you’re already at the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, you might as well take this opportunity to hike across a volcanic crater. The Kilauea Iki trail is a 4-mile round trip hike that will first take you through a rainforest, before it leads you to the crater floor. Once you get there, you’ll have many more chances to check out some steam vents, as well as abundant ohia flowers, which grow on top of lava flow. Hawaiian legend has it that Pele had met a warrior, Ohia, and asked him to marry her. Ohia was already set to marry Lehua. Pele was so angry at his rejection of her marriage proposal that she turned him into a twisted tree. Lehua was heartbroken, so the gods took pity on the couple and turned Lehua into a flower on the tree so that they could be together forever.

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Beginning of the trail – the dirt is is black due to the volcanic ash

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Made it to the bottom of the crater!
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Hardened molten lava
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Ohia flowers

Another interesting sight to see at the park is the lava tubes. These are caves that were formed out of lava. Nahuku is a 500-year old cave that you can walk through. It’s not for the claustrophobic though.

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Inside of the lava tube

Cost: $10 for a parking pass per car, which you can use for 7 days

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