One of the reasons we chose to visit the Big Island is because it is home to the Volcanoes National Park. The park encompasses two of the world’s most active volcanoes Mauna Loa and Kilauea.
Did you know that the park has 7, yes 7, ecological zones. Because of this the weather changes quickly and can be very unpredictable. When we left our condo in Kona, it was sunny and about 78 degrees. When we arrived at the park, it was raining and a cold 52 degrees. So take my advice and dress appropriately =) From the condo, it took us about 2.5 hours to get to the park. I loved driving along Highway 11 on the southern part of the island. The views of the Pacific Ocean are stunning.
As we were driving along just about to enter the park, a rainbow appeared!
Most people stop at the Jaggar Museum first, but I wanted to get to the Thurston Lava Tube before it got really crowded. A short 1/3 mile walk leads you through a lush and tropical rain forest to the lava tube entrance.
Several hundred years ago, a river of hot lava rushed through here.
We then hopped back in the car and continued exploring the park via the Chain of Craters Road. This road is a 19 mile one way scenic drive. You start out at the top of the park and descend 3,700 feet to the coast. There are no amenities along the way so plan accordingly. This was my favorite thing we did at the park. There are tons of pull-off’s and scenic views.
As the road got closer to the coast, we pulled off and walked over the hardened lava fields to get a better view of the ocean. Waves crashed against the lava rocks. It was stunning.
The road winds down the East Rift Zone ending at the Holei Sea Arch.
My brother and I took a walk down the road after parking the car and just on the other side of a little hill was a beautiful, tropical oasis.
Okay, I will be the first one to admit that I was not that excited to go to the Volcanoes National Park. I am more of a waterfall and green landscape kinda girl, but let me tell you, I was so wrong. This park is not to be missed. I didn’t think “ugly” black lava could be beautiful, but there was something about the harshness of the hardened lava contrasting with the green vegetation that was absolutely beautiful. Driving the Chain of Craters Road is something that I will never forget. The landscape is just something that takes your breath away.
We headed back up the Chain of Craters Road to the Jagger Museum and the Kilauea overlook.
We then headed back towards Kona and along the way we stopped at the Punaluu Black Sand Beach. This beach is beautiful. Tall palm trees outline the beach.
Behind the beach is a little lagoon area. There was even a wooden bridge! (I love bridges!)
We even got to see some sea turtles sunning on the beach. So cool!
We soaked up the sun for a bit and then made our way back to Kona! All in all, it was a lot of driving, but it was so worth it. Volcanoes National Park is something you have to experience if you go to the Big Island.