Volcano National Park
Location: 26 miles south of Hilo
Features: Lava, Crater, Jungle
Probably the most visited attraction of Big Island is Volcano National Park. It provides the most spectacular vegetation zones on a small area.
On the Kilauea Iki trail, for example, you go from dense jungle like vegetation to the bottom of Kilauea Iki Crater with almost no plants at all, and that in a matter of one or two hours.
While the crater rim drive provides a good overview, it's an experience of it's own to stand at the bottom of Kilauea Iki Crater, which last erupted in 1959.
A real adventure is the trip to the Pu'u 'O'o vent, the lava source of the current eruption. It makes a good one-day hike (8-mile roundtrip) on muddy paths and through farns, taller than you are. What you see here is real rain forest and chances are high, that it will at least drizzle, so take your rain clothes with you and definitely wear hiking boots.
Once you're on the trail always follow the blue tags you'll ocassionally see on the trees. As long as you're in the woods, the trail goes pretty much straight on, but when you get out of the jungle onto a huge lavafield you should defenitely keep in mind, WHERE you left the trees in order to find back on the trail. We had a hard time finding the entrance when we came back to the edge of the forest.
Once you're outside you'll see the cone of Pu'u 'O'o, releasing over 2500 tons of sulphur dioxide per day. If the weather is nice, it must be an awesome sight, unfortunately when we got there it was so cloudy that you couldn't tell what was from the cone and what from the sky.
You can get closer to the vent by simply hiking the lavafield, but I wouldn't wanna go on top of the cone! You'll probably also pass that funny sign, whose contents everybody should take seriously...
The trailhead is at the end of South Glenwood Road (single lane gravel road for the last 500 yards), which goes off highway 11 between the 19 and 20mile marker. It's a nice hike, let me just give you one advice:
NEVER EVER leave any of your belongings IN the parked car,
there is nothing like the feeling you'll have when you come back from the trail and see the smashed window of your car and no trace at all from your backpack!!! There are a lot of weird people living there, and when we reported the break-in to the police, they told us, that this happens a lot in that area. Best thing is to have nothing in the car, or at least take all your valuables + personal things like films from the last two weeks with you. Fortunatelly, most of the things, those bastards got, were old clothes, but they also took like 6 roles of film, taken during the last two weeks...and that sucked!!! So if you consider hiking the trail, keep that in mind...
Big Island of Hawaii
Akaka Falls / Pololu Valley / Rainbow Falls / South Coast / Volcano National Park / Waipio Valley