Seasons, Fees and Permits
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is open all year round, but the Kahuku section of the park is only open on weekends from 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. It is also closed every first Saturday of the month. Standard entry for the park costs $10 per car or $5 per individual entering by foot, bicycle or motorcycle, and are good for seven consecutive days. A $25 tri-park pass entitles the bearer to unlimited entries at Puuhonua o Honaunau, Haleakala and Hawaii Volcanoes National Parks. Permits are required for overnight stays in the park’s backcountry, and must be picked up in person at the backcountry office at the Visitor Emergency Operations Center.
Campgrounds and Lodging
No reservations are required for Namakanipaio and Kulanaokuaiki campgrounds, the park’s two drive-up campsites. Spaces are available on a first-come, first-serve basis, and no additional fee is charged. The historic Volcano House and Namakanipaio Cabins do require reservations, but at time of writing, these were closed for seismic retrofitting and fire-protection upgrades. Backcountry campgrounds can get pretty rustic — some don’t have water or shelter of any kind. It’s a smart idea to check in with a ranger to get the most up-to-date information on current conditions before starting any sojourn to the backcountry.
Kilauea Visitor Center & Jaggar Museum
The Kilauea Visitor Center is the first stop for most of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park’s 2.6 million yearly visitors. The center provides an overview of the park’s historic and natural features, and hosts special events related to Hawaiian culture. It is open daily from 7:45 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and is adjacent to an art museum that highlights work from local craftsmen and artists. The Jaggar Museum is devoted to exhibitions about volcanology, and provides an excellent, indoor overlook of the Kilauea caldera.
Volcanoes and Volcano Safety
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is home to two of the five volcanoes on the Big Island, and both of them are active.
In fact, Kilauea is one of the most active volcanoes in the world. Naturally, this presents unparalleled educational opportunities, including firsthand views of lava flows and exploration of a volcanically-shaped landscape. But a heightened degree of caution is something that every visitor to the park should bring with them.
Volcanic eruptions can happen at any time, and even at a distance, fumes and other fallout — such as pumice, cinder and volcanic glass — can be very harmful to visitors. Gas in particular can collect in areas with active vents and be quite hazardous. Be sure to review the park’s air quality monitor before visiting, and stay upwind of any vents.
When hiking, make sure to stay on marked trails, and don’t hike after dark, especially on lava flows. Vegetation and cinders can hide deep holes in the ground. In a volcanic landscape, such depressions are common, and usually hidden under a thin crust. Avoid hiking over holes, loose rock and lava crust. When hiking on flows, make sure to wear sturdy footwear and light hiking pants — falling on lava rock is like falling on broken glass. Stay upslope of any active lava flows.