A Day at the Volcano National Park

The day has come, the reason why we visited the Big Island is primarily to see the Volcano National Park! Although I warned my husband that there’ll be no lava viewing so he wouldn’t be disappointed 🙂 I searched on Yelp for breakfast options on the route and found Mahina Cafe. It was on the main highway so we paid extra attention to signs to make sure we don’t drive by it. Glad the sign was big green lol, we spotted it and pulled in to park (they have a parking lot too!) The interior of the cafe is very home-like with windows that opened to let fresh air in. It really reminded me of the porch in my previous home when I opened it for the first time after a dreaded long winter – the smell of fresh air! I had to admit it was pretty chilly early in the morning! The cafe was literally empty except for one local there chatting with the waitress. Immediately after we were sat down, she delivered a free malasada, it was our first time having malasada and it was chewy but not too sweet. I would rather have malasada anytime over donuts! Breakfast…I ordered loco-moco and hubby ordered the Japanese breakfast. My loco-moco was good and filling from the rice, beef patty, gravy, and eggs! Hubby’s urggg yea fish plate is not filling once again LOL! He said he was thinking ordering loco-moco but he ordered the Japanese breakfast so I can blog it – big sacrifice! After breakfast, let our drive begin! According to the GPS, it was 77 miles and will take almost two hours! Don’t count on the radio for music too, almost the whole has no signal, was it our car or really no signal I wondered? The drive was SLOW – each direction has only one lane and there was always someone who was driving extremely slow in front of us. The road was winding and some were those S-curves that we felt we were in a race track only that the speed limit is 40 and sometimes painfully 35 mph! Some sections were legal to by-pass but most of the time on that first 30 miles was pretty dangerous to by-pass…too curvy, too short to see the opposite traffic ahead. He tried but he realized our rental car accelerate way too slow to do that in a short distance, he missed his car at home LOL! After the first 30 miles which took one hour, the road was more straight; more distance to by-pass but still whenever hubby made a by-pass, my heart started to pump and mind started to pray! Yep the 77 miles drive did took 2 hours! We finally reached Volcano National Park at around 9:30 am! We paid the $10 park entrance fee valid for 7 days. First stop was the visitor’s information center to get a map of points of interest and use the restroom. I looked at the map for few minutes and decided our route – first visit the steam vent, then Jagger Museum, and then the Chain of Craters Road 18 miles one way drive. There are a few steam vents all over the Volcano National Park and this one is probably the most visited one! Right on the parking lot of the steam vent, there were rows of this lavender colored grass which reminded me lavender fields in France (will get to see it in June!). Across the street, there are some smaller steam vents as you can see from the picture above on the way back! Next stop the Jagger Museum. The view of the enormous Halema‘uma‘u Crater! Weather wasn’t too great, no blue sky and white clouds 😦 I have thought about staying at night to see its orange glow but the winding roads of the Big Island changed my mind! We headed back to start the Chain of Craters Road. There are stops for points of interest and majority have a parking lot, the map was very helpful so be sure to grab one! First stop at the Chain of the Craters Road drive was Kīlauea Iki Crater Overlook. From a distance we could see there were people hiking down there….hiking not our thing so we were just fine viewing from here 🙂 Forgot to mention, it was pretty chilly (due to high altitude?) in the late morning so bring a little jacket or cardigan! Next, we walked through the famous Thurston Lava Tube! All the parking spaces were taken oh boy and we saw people pulled over and parked on the side of the road so we followed. First thing we did, we sprayed insect repellent and glad we did! It was another whole new world there let me tell you, does this look like volcanic at all? More like a rain forest! The entrance! I felt like we were walking into a mine cave hahaha! Inside was damp, chilly, and dark but they do have lights. Careful especially wearing flip flops or sandals like me, there were some water puddles here and there if you don’t want to get wet! The lights in there were very yellow and dripping waters here and there! The walk through the lava tube was pretty quick and before I realized it, that was it! We continued our drive and pulled over at some lava field: We were so excited to walk on the lava field, it was one of those once in a lifetime moment 🙂 Hum…how do those trees able to survive in volcanic soil? That piece of rock was heavy! Another crater? There, we saw 2 NeNe’s! Those specie of geese are native in Hawaii and exclusive in Hawaii and endangered! We were so lucky they came pretty close to us for some photos. Don’t want to disturb their lunch, we left and off to the next lava field! This was what he took! Hubby was very interested in those volcanic rocks! The road was pretty empty in the late morning! My turn to take picture! We wondered if there was a tree there before and got burned by lava? The rock was not just black, it has different colors too! Back to the car again and we drove until we reached another bigger field of lava! This was like an endless field of lava! The pattern and texture created by lava as it cool: Each formation looked unique just like fingerprints!
It started to get warm as we were going down in altitude so don’t forget to pack few bottles of water, there is no water station or shop until the very end of the road! The empty road…both sides were nothing but lava fields! We finally saw more cars around another look out area: The view from the lookout, the Chain of Craters Road goes all the way down there descending 3,700 feet! The winding roads again going down but it wasn’t as bad as the wrong Saddle Road we turned into yesterday! And we made it down! Here the lava field looked smooth on the surface which reflected lights from the sun and gave it a metallic look! I picked up a little piece of volcanic rock, it was all holes as it cooled and made it very brittle! We found this colorful rock just like a rainbow! We drove all the way till the closed road. There is a little snack place selling water and snacks (excellent location no competition)! Walked a little way out to see the Holei Sea Arch (too bad it wasn’t the perfect lighting condition)! I was starving by then, it was already 2 pm!!!! We drove to the near by Volcano Village and had lunch at Thai Thai Restaurant.On the way up to exit the Volcano National Park, there were much more people arriving then than in the late morning! I would recommend to come early like us if you are not staying overnight at the Volcano Village. The restaurant is big but only the dad and son are waiters that we waited quite some time to be seated….as well as order….and the check -.- Hubby ordered the shrimp wonton soup: ermmm it wasn’t that good, the whole shrimp was wrapped in the wonton skin and the noodle was overcooked! I ordered…as you may have guessed it….pad kee mao! It was just okay! The lunch cost $35 including tips, pretty expensive for the quality of the food but it was the only Asian restaurant close by. Time to head home……it took another 2 hours….on the way back, I had a thought wouldn’t it be nice to have something iced cold? We drove to Kauila-Kona town for the highly rated Scandinavian Shave Ice! There is a parking lot behind the street of stores so we parked and walked there. There was a line of people in there, must be good right? I ordered a big shaved ice with pineapple ice cream in the middle and picked 3 flavors: pineapple, mango, peach and coconut cream on top: It costed a whooping $7+ but it was refreshing after a long, hot day at the Volcano National Park! We walked across the street and watched the sunset as we having our shaved ice! That’s what I called – vacation! The shaved ice was good but I still prefer the Taiwanese style shaved ice we had two years ago in Sweet Home Cafe…wish they sell that! Sunset, although not the colorful one that I kept waiting for! We weren’t hungry yet since we had a very late lunch but we don’t want to get back to the hotel (at least 10 minutes away) and the come back out later on for dinner so we decided to order take-out back to the hotel! We chose TK Noodle House near-by and ordered the braised duck noodle soup and the stir-fried udon. The restaurant was nearly empty, we were surprised probably too early? Right next to the restaurant is a small little Asian convenient store and then there are tables set for hot pot (shabu shabu). Both dishes total $34.37! We got back to our hotel, relax, shower, watch tv as we were having our dinner 🙂 Hubby’s seafood udon – it tasted great! Braised duck noodle soup, I was craving for soup noodle and I was satisfied! We were thinking maybe we will go back to TK Noodle House for our undecided New Year’s Eve dinner! The day trip to Volcano National Park was very do-able, we didn’t feel exhausted but we were tired haha. No lava viewing this time….maybe someday! Tomorrow, we’ll take it easy so not going to set any alarm 🙂

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9 thoughts on “A Day at the Volcano National Park

  1. Thank you for sharing your photos and vacation with us. The photos are awesome. Wife and I will be going to the Big Island in May and are planning to visit most of the sites you have visited. I am an amateur photographer and was wondering if I could ask you a few questions about your photos and equipment.

  2. You’ve done a fantastic job of capturing features of Hawaii! Brings back great memories! What kind of camera do you use? I Amin the market but want something that travels well…

  3. What type of lens were you using at the Crater and are you using a tripod or monopod? I was planning on using a 10-20 Sigma F2.8. Thanks again for sharing your photos.

  4. Had a laugh regarding your comments about the lack of radio reception while on the BI as the exact same thing happened to us too. Turns out someone had broken the antenna off our rental car! We returned it and got another. In fact there IS really good radio reception pretty much over the entire island 😊
    Ps am loving you photos – well done!

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