As Hawaii is renowned for scenic grandeur
and volcanic origins, it's not surprising that the state is home to
two spectacular national parks as well as several significant
national historical sites. In this first part of a two-part series,
Travel Weekly takes a look at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and
Haleakala National Park. The second installment will highlight the
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
than 300,000 acres, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big
Island includes a swath of volcanic landscape that ranges from the
coast to the 14,000-foot summit of Mauna Loa, Hawaiian for "Long
Mountain." En route, the park encompasses much of Kilauea Volcano,
whose summit, called Halemaumau, is adjacent to the park's visitor
Located 30 miles
west of Hilo, HVNP has campsites and hikers' cabins. There are both
easy and demanding trails. The variety of terrain includes dense
forest, lava rock desert, coastal flatlands and rocky
A visit to HVNP
starts with a driving circuit of the park along the Crater Rim
Road, an 11-mile drive that includes walk-through lava tubes; lush,
fern-filled rain forest; and a look into Halemaumau's perpetually
steaming caldera. The Chain of Craters Road links Kilauea's summit
with the coast, following the active East Rift Zone to where it
empties into the ocean.
Luckily for the
millions of visitors who have seen it, lava has been flowing for
the past 23 years, the longest eruption cycle on record. Cars park
where lava covered the road some years back, with a well-worn trail
leading to lookouts of the eruption zone.
Park rangers are
present until sunset. If visitors arrive at dusk,
flashlights are a must, as are sneakers or hiking shoes and
limit their time in HVNP to a day trip from the resorts along
Hawaii's Kona and Kohala coasts, but the park is worthy of a few
is best seen at dawn and dusk, difficult timing to incorporate into
a visit for travelers staying at a western Hawaii resort. Visitors
should plan a five-night stay with two nights in Hilo or Volcano
Village and three at a Kona or Kohala property.
They should start
by making Hilo the point of entry and/or departure. There is no
shortage of accommodations in the area. Volcano House, situated on
Halemaumau's crater rim, is the only accommodations option, aside
from camping, within the park.
numerous bed-and-breakfast inns and cabin rentals in Volcano
Village, a township just outside the park entrance. There are
several restaurants open for breakfast, lunch and dinner in Volcano
Village. There are two general stores for food and basic
The volcano can
be cool, since it's 4,000 feet above sea level and prone to misting
rains that come and go, providing an appealing moodiness that
suddenly clears to brilliant blue skies.
Haleakala National Park
Not quite as
large as HVNP, Haleakala National Park, on the neighboring island
of Maui, is every bit as diverse and dramatic.
The park includes
volcanic Mount Haleakala's 10,023-foot summit, its great sunken
caldera and a section reaching from the summit to the coast, at
Legends are told
of the demigod Maui's lassoing the sun from
Haleakala's summit, slowing its passage across the sky to give the
Hawaiians time to grow and harvest their crops. Haleakala
translates as "House of the Sun."
sunrise from atop Haleakala is a must for many visitors. While
sunrise can be exhilarating and beautiful, I'd recommend the sunset
following an afternoon hike into the crater, when there are far
fewer people to disturb the serenity of the experience. Plus, it
doesn't require a middle-of-the-night departure.
There are several
ways to visit the park. The three Park Service cabins in the crater
and others on the summit's outer slopes allow for overnight stays
that almost always require advance bookings.
head into the crater on a five-hour horseback excursion offered by
Pony Express Tours. Maui Mountain Cruisers offers downhill
bicycling from the summit to the coast, a popular family option
that includes stops on the two-and-a-half-hour journey.
reach the summit in rental cars, adding upcountry options to a
day's itinerary. These include botanical gardens in Kula,
historical churches and visits to Makawao and Keokea, which have
small-town charm. Sweeping views mark the route on a two-lane
highway that snakes its way to the summit.
through groves of giant eucalyptus and sweeping alpine pastures,
travelers reach the visitor center at the mountain's 7,000-foot
Views from the
summit are spectacular. The caldera, comparable in size to the
island of Manhattan, is the largest dormant summit caldera in the
world. Hiking trails offer half-day, full-day and multiday hiking
summit, the park's wild lands sweep down to the coast at Kaupo.
Beyond lies Oheo, where the renowned Seven Pools are located,
reached by car after a drive along the scenic Hana
Oheo, with a
separate visitor center, is about nine miles past Hana Town and is
a three-to-four-hour drive from Maui's coastal resorts.
Rather than doing
it in one day, travelers should stay a night or two in Hana at the
upscale Hotel Hana-Maui or one of the small condominiums, cottage
rentals or bed-and-breakfasts, which are the less pricey
Even remote Hana
can get crowded with day-trippers from the "outside," as Hana
people refer to everywhere else. Being there early and late lets
visitors enjoy the beauty before roads and lookouts get crowded,
giving them time to experience the unique beauty and style of this
isolated part of Maui and the hikes and horseback excursions the
To contact reporter Allan Seiden, send e-mail to [email protected].
second part in the two-part series on Hawaii's national parks and
historical sites, see "Ancient to modern, historical sites bring Hawaii's
heritage to life."