Visiting Volcano National Park in Hawaii

Volcanos National Park. The main reason I chose the Big Island for this trip was so I could explore Volcanos National Park. I toured the park as part of an organized tour. I’m not much of a hiker and didn’t want to do it alone. The tour I joined was great. While we have storm chasers in the Midwest, I referred to our tour guide as a lava chaser. He has some amazing photos and stories of the lava flows that have occurred over the past couple of years. He also has some crazy stories of people he has found while out chasing lava (including a tourist who was out trying to find the lava at night in slippers. What?).

The first few photos below are from around the Big Island. The landscape was mostly black lava where I stayed on the west coast, definitely not the lush, green environment I picture for Hawaii. It looked like a massive construction zone of black dirt. The area with lush vegitation on the west coast (such as near the hotels) are irrigated with water from the east side of the island. The east side gets fresh water from significant rainfall.  

The volcanoes in Hawaii are Shield Volcanos. They are very flat. These types of volcanoes do not have the massive eruptions and the cloud I associate with stereotypical volcano (called Composite Volcanos). In Hawaii, the magma finds a weak point and then starts to flow down the side toward the ocean. There doesn’t tend to be a dramatic start to the lava flow.   

Below is the Halema’uma’u Crater of Kīlauea volcano (the volcano with the most recent lava flow). There is no lava flowing to the ocean at this time. We were able to see the glow of the lava inside this crater at night. 

Another bad selfie.   

A lake of cooled lava. People were down hiking on it. 

The hole below is known as Devil’s Throat. The photos don’t do it justice. It is a huge hole that is very, very deep. I didn’t want to get any closer to look straight down.   

Somewhere over the rainbow…

  When the lava flows occur, they take out everything in their path, including the trees. But the trees do not disintegrate instantaneously as I assumed. They burn slowly. Below you can see the hollow areas in the cooled lava where there were once trees. The second and third photos are also from where there was a tree. Once the lava cools, it settles, leaving the raised areas. The one below looks like a Hulk fist (in my opinion).    

Really pretty sea arches along the coast.   

You can watch it whip and do the stanky leg, but do not feed the Nene. The Nene is the state bird of Hawaii. 
Before heading back to the Jagger center to see the crater glow, we stopped to explore a lava tube. A lava tube is a natural conduit formed by flowing lava under the hardened surface of a lava flow. In this case, the lava flow had ceased and the lava had cooled, leaving a long cave-like channel. The best part of exploring the tube at night was that we were the only group there so it was quiet and enhanced the experience. The bad part? It’s kind of creepy walking through the area at night. Our tour guide played into it by hiding in the bushes at one point and jumped out making pig noises (there are a lot of wild pigs in Hawaii). I was in the back talking with another woman on the tour and he scared the crap out of us! We both screamed. It’s funny now, not sure how I felt about it at the time. Regardles, he was still an awesome tour guide. 🐷🐽🐖

The glow of the volcano at night. 

The day after exploring Volcanos National Park, I hit the beach. Here is a sign posted before walking onto Hapuna Beach. Very comforting. 

Hapuna Beach. Another great beach on the Big Island. Fine, white sand and good waves for boogie/body boarding.   

The sky looked ominous but it never did anything more than sprinkle. 

So back to the strawberry guava…the strawberry guava is a very invasive plant not native to, but very prominent in Hawaii. While that is bad, our VNP tour guide told us that there is a good lesson from the strawberry guava. It can live and thrive anywhere. I like this motto for myself and my life. I strive to be able to thrive almost anywhere…so I want to be like the strawberry guava.


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