The culture and character of the Big Island is unique, with elements of both old and new Hawai’i found everywhere: in quaint upcountry towns like Volcano Village, in the coffee estates and cattle ranches on the Kona side, in the revival of small former sugar towns along the scenic Hamakua coast, in the remote villages of the Ka’u district and in the colorful Puna district south of Hilo.
Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park
Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park was established in 1916. It comprises more than 333,000 acres of land and stretches from sea level to the summit (at 13,679 feet) of Mauna Loa, the world’s most massive volcano. Admission to the Park is $30 per vehicle. The Park is open 24 hours a day, year-round, and attracts more than 2.5 million visitors annually. Kilauea, the park’s main attraction, has erupted continuously since 1983 and is one of the world’s most active volcanoes. Other features of the Park are the 11 mile Crater Rim Drive that encircles Kilauea’s summit caldera, Nahuku (the Thurston Lava Tube) which is open daily to the public, and the Thomas A. Jaggar Museum which provides real-time data on Kilauea’s activity and fabulous day-and-night views of the new eruptions in Halema’uma’u crater, the ancestral home of Madame Pele, the Hawaiian Goddess of Fire.
Eruptions frequently occur at the summit crater of Halema’uma’u and ash and sulfur dioxide laden plume can wreak havoc on farmlands downwind towards Kailua-Kona. Hot lava entering the ocean is a spectacular sight, but very real dangers exist. Molten lava enters the ocean at 2,100 degrees Fahrenheit, causing seawater to explode into steam and super heated rocks to blast skyward. Check with Park officials before venturing out to view the lava flows. Information on current conditions can be found on two websites: www.nps.gov/havo/ and/or www.hvo.wr.usgs.gov/ or contact the Park Service by phone at 808-985-6000.