Exploring Hawaii Island: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Halemaumau Crater, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park


Between May 11-22, KHON2’s Wake Up 2day and Living808 are airing a special series from the Island of Hawaii. Kathy Muneno went exploring and found the joys of a staycation on Hawaii’s largest island.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park has been especially busy lately with the lava lake in Halemaumau Crater producing an explosive show.

“We’ve been experiencing a lot of big rise in visitation that kind of go up with that rise in the lava in the lava lake, and even though the lava lake has gone down a lot, the glow is still attracting many, many people and maybe as much as 5,000 a day are coming here to (Hawaii Volcanoes) National Park,” said public affairs specialist Jessica Ferracane.

For those planning to visit, Ferracane offers the following tips.

The park is open 24 hours a day so the observation deck outside Jaggar Museum gets much colder at night. “It’s really good to remember that we’re at 4,000 feet (elevation level). It can be a little breezy, like it is now. It can be rainy, so it’s good to be prepared,” Ferracane said. Bring a rain jacket, flashlight and umbrella, if necessary.

Ferracane also recommends binoculars “so you can see that crater glow about a mile away or so from where we are now.”

Ferracane admits she comes into work early herself at times to enjoy the view. “I can’t help it. I’m kind of glued to the USGS web cams. I wake up early and want to come up here and see that beautiful glow. It’s been going since 2008, but lately it just seems more vivid since the rise and now the drop back down into the crater,” she said.

The park previously closed backcountry trails between Crater Rim Drive and the coast overnight, as well as Kulanaokuaiki campground, due to an increase in seismic activity along the East Rift Zone. They were reopened earlier this week.

“There was an increased level of seismicity or earthquake level here at the summit as well as out in the Southwest Rift Zone and for the protection of our visitors and staff, we closed some of the backcountry overnight camping, everything that was lower than the summit that might be impacted by that,” Ferracane said.

Now that seismicity appears to have returned to its normal background levels, Ferracane says most of the park is open. “The only parts that are closed are what’s been closed since 2008, which is about 4.72 miles of Crater Rim Drive that is directly underneath that plume of gas coming out of the volcano,” she said.

Ferracane also recommends exploring Jaggar Museum, which features a variety of exhibits from real-time monitors to seismographs and Pele’s hair, a byproduct of the lava lake.

“You have the lake of lava that’s bubbling up, and those little bubbles are captured by the wind and stretched out like Silly Putty into fine filaments called Pele’s hair,” she explained. “(It’s) sharp as glass. In fact, it’s made out of glass and that’s also what you find in that plume of gas and particulates that’s coming out of the crater.”

In addition to the gas itself, Ferracane said Pele’s hair is one of the hazards that prompted the partial closure of Crater Rim Drive.

The park also features an 18-hole, par-72 golf course. Volcano Golf and Country Club allows visitors to play at the 4,000-foot elevation level among ohia trees, nene and other native wildlife.

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