a VirtualTourist member from Gurnee
Everything I can find seems to talk about viewing the lava flows at night. We're staying in Honolulu, and we can't really go to the big island for more than a day. So, nighttime viewing is out. We're trying to decide if it's worth the flight expense to island hop over to Hawaii to see the lava flow area.
I should note that our major reason to go would be the volcanic activity. We're not big nature lovers generally...it just seems like this Hawaii trip is our only shot to get near volcanic activity. But then...we don't want to do it if the only way worth doing it is an overnight and we're not staying overnight...we'll just be mad at ourselves for not "doing it for real."
There's also the time factor. If we arrive at 9:30am and have to be back at the airport at 4:30pm, do we even have enough time to do anything worthwhile?
You can't do it if you fly into Kona (the park is about 3 hours by car from the airport), and even Hilo is a bit of a stretch if you have to be back at the airport at 4:30, but it can conceivably be done. It will take about an hour to drive to the park from Hilo (maybe a bit longer). So say that you pick up a rental car, get to the park around 11:30 and then have to leave at 3. You can do a driving tour of the park, stopping at a whole bunch of places, and see a reasonable amount. Don't bother with a tour--this park is very easy to see on your own.
Volcanoes National Park is totally unique in the US and I can say with total conviction that seeing a lava flow is one of the most exciting things I have ever experienced. I saw some great flows in 1993 (including night viewing, which was fantastic) and returned in 2004 to see more.
I too would advocate staying overnight somewhere west of Hilo if at all possible, or at least catching flights that will allow you more time on the Big Island.
Thanks for the replies. :) We're still debating what to do. It seems like most of what we're reading is that the volcano lava just isn't horribly viewable right now.
(We'll be in Honolulu starting this Saturday.)
Mr Arnott has just posted on his website that the National Park Service has just reopened the lava flats. These flats are where the surface lava flows can be seen down near sea entry within HVNP.
There is a huge lava bench that has been created and it is feared that it is ready to break off (you do not want to be near or on it when it does).
Here's the bad news: From the end of Chain of Craters Road (inside HVNP), it is about a three mile hike one way to get to the surface flows! We did the hike in 2001 when it was about 2.5 miles and it was real tough for my wife.
Here's the good news: The lava is entering the ocean from two points (look at the map linked below) and you MAY get to see it from the eastern-most entry if you drive around the east side of the island and enter from Kalapana. We did this back in 2001. It is mostly unpublisized so the only way to know for sure is to drive down to Kalapana and see if it is open. When we went, it was just locals down there.
This viewpoint was out of service in 2002 when we returned because the lava flow had switched course. This can happen at any time.
Please check the following websites for updates before you depart on your trip.