Flipping through glossy promotional brochures about Hawaii, you are bound to see an image of glowing hot lava oozing from Kilauea Volcano. After all, Kilauea is one of the most active volcanoes on Earth and a major tourist draw bringing in over 2.6 million visitors each year. Here are a few of the sites and a couple of tips for your trip to Kilauea.

Since this is an active volcano, presenting legitimate danger, it is carefully monitored to be approachable, but harmless enough for those who want to take an up-close view. For many years, there has been a frequent flow of lava spewing somewhere in the national park.

For a good starting point, head over to the visitor’s center to find out information on current eruptions – what everyone wants to see. While the 2000° lava would certainly be an exciting thing to see, it can be a hit or miss proposition to actually get close enough to see the lava. On our trip to the Big Island, we weren’t one of the lucky ones. When we stepped inside the visitor’s center, park rangers were flanked in a row with their hands clapped in front of them. A ranger welcomed us and quickly stated that there was currently not any lava flow accessible to the public. We expressed our disappointment, and he went on to clarify. He said, “There is lava flowing, but it is three miles away from any public areas.” I could tell explaining this disappointing information was wearing thin on him. I know it’s his job, but it’s what everyone wants to experience.

Driving up to the summit, we pulled off on to an overlook where many cars and a few buses where parked. Here, we peered into steam vents, and walked around the natural environment on this volcanic land. Misty rain began to fall making our time short-lived at this stop.

Burst of Color on Kilauea, hawaii

A burst of color in the earth-toned landscape

After reaching the summit, we quickly made our way to the overlook to see the Halema’uma’u Crater. A vapor plume rose from the crater’s center. It’s a pretty spectacular sight to see.

Kilauea activity, hawaii

Volcanic activity at crater

Built on the edge of the crater, Jaggar Museum houses displays of all things related to volcanology. Take a look and you will find information on the different types of lava, the history of Kilauea, many seismograph instruments, and cultural exhibits on Pele, the Hawaiian volcano goddess.

Pele Portrait by Sara Kendall


While we weren’t able to get close enough to see it, we did get to see spewing lava streaming live on a television monitor. Understanding its popularity, video equipment has been set up close to the lava site so visitors can enjoy it and remain safe.

Spewing Lava Kilauea by Sara Kendall

Spewing lava on tv monitor

Yes, we saw flying lava, but I don’t think it made a big impression on us, since we were watching it on a television screen, and not in a real-life situation. For a brief moment, I thought I could have just seen this on Discovery Channel and not flown halfway around the world. I quickly dismissed this thought, and realized I was breathing Hawaiian air, and seeing a Hawaiian landscape that doesn’t exist where I live.

I couldn’t mark off seeing live lava, but I guess we now have an excuse to make another trip back to the Big Island. I found my silver lining from our day at Kilauea, adding The Big Island back on our must-do list.

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