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Tips for Visiting Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park During Busy Season

December 31, 2014
Visitors gather around Park Ranger Dean Gallagher on Dec. 28, 2014 to hear his "Life on the Edge" talk at the Jaggar Museum observation deck, overlooking Halema‘uma‘u Crater.

Visitors gather around Park Ranger Dean Gallagher on Dec. 28, 2014 to hear his “Life on the Edge” talk at the Jaggar Museum observation deck, overlooking Halema‘uma‘u Crater.

Park visitation increases during the holiday travel season, especially between Christmas and New Year’s Day, and this week is no exception.

More than 4,400 visitors a day have explored the park since Christmas, hiking in the sunshine and watching the summit eruption from Kīlauea Volcano’s Halema‘uma‘u Crater. As a result, parking is crowded at popular areas like Kīlauea Iki, Thurston Lava Tube, Jaggar Museum, and Kīlauea Visitor Center – especially during peak hours between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m.

Park rangers offer these tips so all visitors have a positive and memorable time in the national park:

  • Plan to arrive early and explore Nāhuku (Thurston Lava Tube) before 10 a.m. Not only is parking available, but the lava tube is virtually empty of people. As a bonus, birdwatching at Nāhuku is best in the early morning.
  • Want to hike Kīlauea Iki Trail? This four-mile trek is one of the most scenic and popular trails in the park. Plan to hit the trail by 8 a.m., and be out by 10:30 a.m.
  • Drive and explore Chain of Craters Road. This historic and scenic road originates at the summit of Kīlauea and stretches 19 miles to Hōlei Sea Arch. Many overlooks, pullouts, and lesser-known hikes (Mauna Ulu, Pu‘uloa Petroglyphs) abound – and it’s an ideal way to avoid the crowds and see more of what the park offers.
  • Night owl or early riser? The best time to observe the glow from Halema‘uma‘u is before sunrise, or after 9 p.m., when most visitors have left. The park is open 24 hours a day.
  • Jaggar Museum is the closest visitors can get to the summit eruption’s glowing lava lake, and it’s the park’s most popular spot after 5:30 p.m. (6,670 people were counted at Jaggar Museum one night this week.) If you can’t avoid peak hours, work with park staff who are re-routing overflow traffic to Kīlauea Overlook. Bring a flashlight and a jacket for the short walk to Jaggar Museum. Or consider observing the glow from a less-crowded location, like Keanakāko‘i, ‘Akanikōlea (Steam Vents), or Kīlauea Iki Overlook.
  • Mauna Loa Road is well worth exploring during peak hours, especially in good weather. Kīpukapuaulu offers an easy, forested hike, and the views and birdwatching are excellent along the way to the Mauna Loa Overlook at 6,662 feet.
  • Visit Kahuku. Kahuku is free, never crowded, and is open to the public every Saturday and Sunday of the month. Located on the mauka (inland) side of Highway 11 near mile marker 70.5 in Ka‘ū.

“With a little planning and preparation, it’s easy for visitors to avoid the crowds and have a safe and memorable park visit,” said Acting Superintendent Rhonda Loh.



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