Destinations / GO
Although lava was not flowing into the ocean, the world’s longest continuing eruption continued to put on a good show at Hawaii Volcanoes
National Park ( nps.gov/havo) at press time, with molten rock surfacing
on the coastal plain and in Haleamaumau Crater’s spattering lava lake.
The vast park, 96 miles southeast of Kona, is also home to many other
fascinating reminders of destruction and rebirth, as well as culturally
FOR ROOKIES Understandably, nearly all of the 1.8 million annual visi-
tors want to ogle the belching caldera of Kilauea Volcano and to walk
gingerly through the eerie tunnel of Nahuku, aka Thurston Lava Tube.
Park superintendent Cindy Orlando urges first-time visitors to also make
time for other “special places and unique experiences” within the park.
“The drive down Chain of Craters Road to the coastal area is pretty
amazing. You drive through lava fields that open up into this incredible
lava landscape and as you come down the pali (cliff), you’ve got ocean
forever,” she notes.
For when you’re en route to a photo op at Holei Sea Arch, Orlando
recommends the “relatively easy” two-mile round-trip hike to the
Puu Loa Petroglyph Trail, where ranger-guided tours now take place
most afternoons. “It traverses older lava flows and when you get to the
boardwalk, you’re viewing Hawaii’s most extensive petroglyph field.
It’s just a very special experience.”
FOR REPEAT VISITORS The park entrance fee of $25, valid for seven
days, also includes access to the Kahuku Unit, 42 miles west of the
main Kilauea Visitor Center. The former ranch in rural Kau became
part of the national park in 2004, but it took several years to fund necessary infrastructure and staffing, Orlando says.
The area is open Friday to Sunday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. with at least
one guided hike every weekend on some of its nine miles of trails and
dirt roads. “You’re going to drive through open pastures, alongside the
most epic eruption in Kau from 1868, with trailheads connecting to
trails,” Orlando says. “It will be a loop that just immerses you in that
whole southwest rift of the lava flow.”
ADVICE FOR ALL “Always stop at the visitor center to get the latest
information and latest conditions,” Orlando says, adding that the park
website also offers lava-viewing updates.
Anyone who hikes to see lava inside the park, including those who
start from the county’s viewing area in Kalapana, should “wear sturdy
closed-toe shoes — not rubber ‘slippahs’ — and long pants, because lava
is glass and it’s sharp,” Orlando says. “They should also wear sunscreen
and hats, and bring water, and, if they’re staying after dark, a flashlight
with extra batteries.”
The National Park Service can’t claim any sites on the Garden Island
— often to the surprise of those who visit majestic Waimea Canyon or
hike the breathtakingly strenuous Kalalau Trail. However, the three
preserves in the Kauai National Wildlife Refuge Complex, all managed
by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, have deservedly found their way
onto Instagram as well as more venerable travel media.
FOR ROOKIES If the 199-acre Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge
acts like a beacon to visitors, that’s because it has one — a beautifully
restored 1913 lighthouse now named after the late Sen. Daniel K. Inouye,
open for a half-dozen free docent-led tours on Wednesday and Saturday.
But the North Shore preserve is also a powerful magnet for endangered
feathered beings, which flock to the point and Nihoku, the hill across the
cove, newly protected by a predator-proof fence. “We’re known for seabird
species and the nene,” says Refuge Ranger Jennifer Waipa proudly, referring to the indigenous Hawaiian goose that’s also the state bird.
The North Shore’s 917-acre Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge is
home to endangered native wetland birds such as stilts, moorhens and
coots, as well as nene. Waipa recommends viewing the emerald quilt of
privately owned taro patches lining the Hanalei River from the overlook off the Kuhio Highway before the road dips down into Hanalei.
Hiking on Chain of