A cold, early-morning wake-up call in Hawaii. I still think it’s crazy that it can get so cold on this tropical island! The Big Island provides all but two of the world’s climate zones. In one day you can snow ski on the peaks of Mauna Kea, snorkel through amazing coral reefs, hike through volcanic deserts and rain forests, and lay out on black sand beaches. Pretty crazy. And one of the reasons I LOVE this place!
This was the day during my 2009 trip to Hawaii that we hiked across the Kilauea Iki Crater. Seriously the most amazing hike I have ever been on. We parked our car near the Thurston Lava Tube and started our trip at the Kilauea Iki Overlook along Crater Rim Trail. This trail runs around Kilauea Iki and provides breathtaking views of the huge crater 400 feet below.
Kilauea Iki erupted in 1959 and this huge crater was filled with a lake of lava which rose halfway up its walls. The floor of the crater is actually the now-solid lava lake. You can see a “bathtub ring” along the walls of the crater which shows how high the lava rose.
Here are some crazy pictures taken during and after the 1959 explosion:
I don’t know about you but those pictures freak me out juuuust a little bit!
The almost 1.5 miles we walked along the Crater Rim Trail took us quite a bit of time with all of the stops we took for pictures and videos. The trail itself winds through a tropical rain forest and was an enjoyable, easy walk.
Once we got to the other side of the crater and started our descent onto the floor, things started to get interesting! From above, the crater looks fairly flat but once you’re down in it you realize that it is most definitely NOT flat!
Hiking across the lava is challenging yet fun! A steep descent into the crater brought us to the uneven floor. We walked around exploring a cave and having fun getting swallowed up in some fissures. 🙂
Really only about a third of the crater floor is covered in uneven lava – the other two-thirds are pretty flat with steam still seeping from many vents. Walking across this landscape seriously felt like walking on the moon – or what I imagine it’s like walking on the moon. It is just the strangest, most fascinating place I’ve ever been. One feels mighty tiny in the middle of this vast crater! And it’s crazy to think that this was filled with molten lava just 50 years ago!
The entire hike was four miles and took us pretty much all morning. The trail out of the crater was very steep and we were all pretty much worn out once back at the trailhead. Whew! Tiring but WELL worth it!
Next we drove along the Chain of Craters Road to the Holei Sea Arch. The landscape along this road is so amazing! It’s so barren yet so beautiful. And once we came in view of the ocean our surroundings appeared even more beautiful!
The sea arch was formed by the ocean waves carving away at the lava cliff. It’s pretty spectacular.
From here we came to the end of the driving portion of Chain of Craters Road. So we parked the car and walked to where the lava has covered the rest of the road. You can hike across this hardened lava to places where you can view the lava still flowing but at this point we were all worn out and sunburnt so we headed back to the car.
We decided to take a different route home, driving along the eastern side of the island through Hilo. We stopped at an orchid farm and walked through the numerous displays of some of the most unique orchids I’ve ever seen. (And yes, those orchids on the right are $325 – each)
Next stop was Rainbow Falls which I visited on my first trip to Hawaii. This time was a little different, however, as there wasn’t actually any water falling. Apparently they were experiencing a bit of a drought. At least that’s my guess…
We got our waterfall fix at Akaka Falls which was flowing nicely!
And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that we had our first ice cream of our Hawaiian trip on this day. And that ice cream came from…McDonald’s. Hey, beggars can’t be choosers!! We did not, however, try the taro pie. Next time.
By the time we got back home and showered off the dust of Pele, we happily collapsed into bed. Ahhhh…..
There is so much to see and do at Volcanoes National Park, I highly recommend planning an overnight trip. Keep in mind that this area of Hawaii is at a higher elevation and can therefore be much cooler than other parts of the island near the sea. It’s wise to bring a light jacket or long sleeve shirt for the cool mornings and evenings.
Although the Kilauea Iki hike is a bit challenging, if my parents can do it, anyone can! 🙂 I really can’t put into words how amazingly incredible it is to walk across the floor of this crater. So if you’re going to the Big Island, definitely pack your hiking shoes and a backpack! You won’t regret it!