The Big Island & Volcanoes National Park

Hilo Travel Blog

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Akaka Falls - a State Park just north of Hilo that is a quick, pleasant hike!

I’m cheating a bit because the itinerary we’ve been following is from our last trip in 2005.  This was the first time we didn’t get over to Hawaii, “the Big Island” – so named because as all of the other Hawaiian Islands are eroding away into never-never land, Hawaii continues to grow (it is actually bigger than all the other islands combined).  There are many facets to the Big Island : Kona is a tourist mecca; you can see snow in Hawaii by visiting the splendid Mauna Kea Observatory, and; Hawaii is home to numerous ranches and ‘Hawaiian cowboys’ (paniolo).


But for me the standout attraction is Volcanoes National Park, home of Kilauea, the world’s most active volcano.

Kahuna Falls - another gem in Akaka State Park.
  This is a spectacular destination that came back to mind, thanks to Elke (Sunflower300) as she makes me incredibly jealous with plans to return to Hawaii soon!


We stayed in Hilo each time we were fortunate enough to experience this national park.  I love this town – it is very small and has a laid back vibe that is much more relaxed than in Kona (and if memory serves, Kona is the driest city in the US while Hilo is the wettest!).  While very convenient to the national park, you can also head north out of Hilo to witness some magnificent water falls.


There is plenty to do at Volcanoes National Park if you enjoy hiking about.

Volcanoes National Park
  Steam vents are everywhere and lend a surreal atmosphere to the setting, accented by the pungent odor of sulfur (seems like you are sucking on a pack of wet matches).  There are miles of trails and you can avoid the tourist masses by striking out on foot.  The trails can be a bit tricky to follow since the entire landscape is smooth rock, but there are plenty of cairns and there is actually a bit of wear from countless footsteps that make the paths discernible if you really look.  I will never forget the woman in heels who was resting her butt on a cairn with a huge purse we encountered – we told her we were hiking and she expressed that you couldn’t see any trails.  I countered that there were plenty of cairns, to which she replied “what’s a cairn?”  My response, of course, was “you are sitting on one!”


My wife and I hiked about ten miles here during that inaugural visit in 1995 and had a blast.

Dad sacrificing his daughter to Pele at one of the steam vents in Volcanoes National Park.
  Of course we brought the flower leis we had been given a couple days before and sacrificed them to Pele, the Hawaiian fire goddess who lives in Kilauea.  A native Hawaiian friend insists that we enforce this ceremony, which only involves placing the lei on the ground and thanking Pele (although she tells us that Pele appreciates a little nip of gin with the lei!).  Even if you don’t strike out on foot, be sure to visit the Thurston Lava Tubes, which are readily accessed by vehicle and a fun investigation (formed by massive lava flows where the outer crust solidified while the rest kept on running to leave the inside hollow).


Last time I was actually here was 2000, so I hesitate to try and provide to many details for fear that they are stale.  But if you plan to visit Hawaii, please check out the Big Island and its amazing opportunities!
vances says:
No, never seen active flows, but I remember your Hawaiian adventure, certainly did! Cost you some skin though, if memory serves?
Posted on: Oct 20, 2014
anupa_rk says:
I loved my stay at the big island.. and at Hilo :) Did you get to see the actual lava flow at all?
Posted on: Oct 20, 2014
vances says:
Kona is where most people go and it has a lot of the usual tourist stuff --- but some excellent snorkeling options where they take you on a boat, quality luaus, etc. Certainly worth checking out!

Have a great time!!!
Posted on: Oct 15, 2011
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Akaka Falls - a State Park just no…
Akaka Falls - a State Park just n…
Kahuna Falls - another gem in Akak…
Kahuna Falls - another gem in Aka…
Volcanoes National Park
Volcanoes National Park
Dad sacrificing his daughter to Pe…
Dad sacrificing his daughter to P…
Yeah, we bought the cheesey pictur…
Yeah, we bought the cheesey pictu…
Performance at luau in Kona
Performance at luau in Kona
photo by: vances