Big Island is about an hour flight from Honolulu to either Hilo or Kona. We chose to to land at the Hilo airport as the Volcano National Park is only about 50km drive. As soon as we landed, we noticed that this island is vastly different from Oahu. Not only it rained there in comparison with the sunny, white sand beaches on Oahu but black lava fields were visible everywhere. It looked like there was an Armagedon. As we wanted to stay as close to the Volcano National Park as possible, we've decided to camp in Namakanipaio Campground which is only 5km away from the main gate to the National Park. It is very small camp with very basic facilities but it was enough to stay overnight. The temperatures were much cooler than on Oahu. The campground is first come first served and it's only 15USD per night.
There is an admission fee to the National Park and you can buy either a daily ticket or an annual pass which covers all national parks in USA and Hawaii.
Chain of craters road
As soon as we booked our tent site, we were off to check out the Chain of craters road. There are several interesting points of interest along the road.
Kilauea Iki Trail
This is the first point of interest on the road and the stop for people who want to hike this trail to get closer to the Kilauea Caldera.
Thurston Lava Tube
Only a short drive from the Kilauea Iki Trail is this interesting lava tube. From carpark it is only a short hike through the forest.
Further down the road, the lush tropical forest is replaced but unforgiving lava fields and pit craters. Their size is enormous and you feel like dwarf standing on the edge of the pit.
The wind and drizzle were unforgiving the day we visited the park and it only added to the gloomy atmosphere we felt driving through the park. Living in New Zealand for many years we are used to strong winds but these were gale force and made it even hard to walk. It was very challenging to take photos in these conditions but we are always up for a good challenge.
As you get closer to the sea, temperatures increase and you can feel immediately feel warmer. We really liked the Lava Closed Road or Alanui Kahiko. It was scary to see how fierceful and unforgiving the nature can be.
Holei Sea Arch
Our last stop on the Chain of Craters Road was the Holei Sea Arch, a natural wonder where the ocean waves have carved a beatutiful archway out of lava cliffs. Standing above the arch, it is spectacle to see the huge waves crashing on the clifs. This is the official end of the road. There is a small picnic area with restrooms.
To get to the museum, follow the road along the Visitor's Centre. At the museum, there is the only platform to see the active Kilauea, although it is from the rather large distance. This information was valid in April 2015 as the gases from the volcano were dangerous and all other trails to the volcano were closed.
It is best to see the crater at night, when the glow of the red lava reflects on the clouds on sky. It is an unbelievable vista.