Success, celebrations in Hawaii national park's 100th year

The lava lake in Kilauea's Halemaumau crater can be seen from the Jaggar Museum overlook.
The lava lake in Kilauea's Halemaumau crater can be seen from the Jaggar Museum overlook. Photo Credit: Mark Wasser/National Park Service
Shane Nelson
Shane Nelson

One of the Aloha State's most popular attractions, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island welcomed more than 1.8 million visitors last year, an increase of more than 8% from 2014.

The park also generated more than $151 million in visitor spending in surrounding communities on the Big Island, an increase of more than 9% from the year prior, according to estimates released by the National Park Service earlier this spring.

"National park tourism is a significant driver in the national economy, returning $10 for every $1 invested in the National Park Service, and it's clearly a big factor in our local economy as well," Cindy Orlando, the park superintendent at Hawaii Volcanoes, said in a statement. "We appreciate the partnership and support of our neighbors and are glad to be able to give back by helping to sustain local communities."

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park will celebrate its 100th anniversary Aug. 1, and officials have put together a wide arrange of events to mark the occasion, including a series of After Dark presentations and lectures as well as daytime expert-guided hikes on some of the destination's most popular trails.

Evening centennial events usually happen on Tuesdays while the guided hikes take place Saturday mornings, and a variety of themes have been showcased thus far, everything from geologic to cultural subject matter and a host of ecologic themes. In July, for example, an expert-guided hike will be offered through the park's Kipukapuaulu Special Ecological area, where visitors can often spot many native Hawaiian forest birds. And an evening presentation about the national park's endemic insects will headline the lecture series.

"That's something a lot of people don't realize," said Jessica Ferracane, the park's public affairs specialist and centennial coordinator. "They come to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and they think, 'Oh, it's all about active volcanoes,' not realizing that there is an entire ecosystem that is reliant on the landscape here. And we have an entire natural resources division that is tasked with protecting these endangered species: plants, animals, insects, whatever."

The presentations and hikes are excellent for both first-timers keen to take in a more comprehensive understanding of the park as well as repeat visitors looking to enjoy new experiences. Perhaps most importantly, however, the centennial celebration activities are another way to encourage travelers to schedule more time at the attraction to enjoy its many top-notch offerings.

Travelers planning to just buzz into the park and spend a few hours checking off highlights miss out on so much, including some of Hawaii's most incredible hiking, which allows visitors intimate access to the incredibly diverse landscapes and ecosystems.

"I think people often don't realize just how huge the park is," Ferracane said. "It's 333,000-plus acres or about 530-something square miles. It is almost as big as the entire island of Oahu."

For a full schedule of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park centennial events, and more about the destination's lengthy array of terrific visitor experiences, click here.
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