Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on Big Island, Hawaii

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If you visit Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island of Hawaii, you will see in its rainforest and along its moonscape chain of craters, many of Hawaii's endangered species, including the Hawaiian nene goose and the i'iwi, a Hawaiian honeycreeper.
You may also see steam and ash from its newest eruption at Halema`uma`u Crater, and at night you may see a glow.
When you pack for a Big Island vacation, keep in mind that in higher elevations such as Volcanoes National Park, it gets very cold up at night, often frosty.
Unlike the year round 75° to 85° daytime temps at Hawaii's beaches, up here the daytime temperatures rarely rise above the 60's and 70's, and the cool breezes and rainfall can make it seem cooler.
At night, temperatures often drop down to the 40's.
Many of the homes have fireplaces, and so do the campgrounds.
The Volcano Lodge has a massive fireplace where they say the fire has been kept going for over 100 years.
You can stop by and check it out.
You don't need to be staying at the lodge.
Many who go inside to check out the gift shop or have hot cocoa or a drink in the bar, will sit by the fire for a bit.
The Park's Visitor's Center is also a must-see, and it provides hiking trail maps, driving maps, and lots of useful and interesting information.
For no other than safety reasons, stop here first.
In the park you can visit the volcano's series of craters (including the steaming Halema'uma'u Crater where you might want to leave a leave a lei for Pele), several steam vents, and a rain forest that is a bird watcher's heaven and ends at the walk-through Thurston Lava Tube.
This particular area has a well paved path and stairs.
Hiking trails abound in the park and through some of the craters.
Volcano Village is inhabited by many artists, drawn to Pele's creative energy.
In this small town, you will find many workshops in hula, fine arts, and crafts at the Volcano Art Center.
Cedar trees are everywhere, and up above the village, you'll find grazing horses and cows in pastures.
The wildlife is way different though.
No bear or cougar.
Wild pigs runt, but we've never seen one.
In the summer, yellow ginger blooms in abundance along the Volcano Highway (Highway 11, leading up to the Park and to the South end of the island where you can continue around to Kona).
Mauna Loa and Kilauea are also favorite spots among the locals for plucking maile for special lei, berries for jam and all sorts of treasures for Hawaiian Christmas wreaths.
The park also offers beautiful, pristine campgrounds at not extra charge than the National Park's entrance fee.
If you have ever thought about camping in Hawaii, or just plain enjoy camping, you can camp for free up here.
Last but not least, you may get to see the glow from the erupting Hale`ma`uma`u.
It is often visible from the patio of the Park's Jaggar Museum.
When everyone is quiet, you can hear the crackling from it! In the daytime you will likely see steam and ash, but not lava - unless things change, and Pele is known to change her mind without notice! The lava flow viewing is actually outside of the Park at the coast in Kalapana at the end of Hwy 130.
It is managed by Hawaii Civil Defense.
Sometimes you can see the lava flowing into the sea (about 3/4 mile away) and a ribbon of lava flowing over the terrain on its way to the sea.
Other times you can't see anything.
Update: Due to Halema`ma`u's eruption, the sulfur dioxide levels can be high enough at time times to close the National Park.
Those with lung problems, and those very young or very old, pregnant should check with their health care provider before going.
Also you can get a report on the levels by calling the National Park.
With the new eruption you cannot walk to the rim of Halema`uma`u, but you can view from the Park's Jaggar Museum's lanai (patio).
In the daytime you may steam and ash and at night a glow.
When people aren't talking, we are hearing the crackling from the eruption.
The lava itself here at the crater is of this writing only visible to the Park's web cam.
But you can see lava flows in other ways such as via helicopter, boat or at the Kalapana viewing site.
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