Big Island Trip Planning: A One-Day Volcano Itinerary

Crater Rim Trail in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park.
Crater Rim Trail in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. Photo © Scott Carpenter/, licensed Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike.

The must-see here is Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. For the best day in Big Island’s Volcano area, though, make sure you spread your time in the park around so you can experience both some daytime and evening highlights, and add in a little mingling with the locals.

  • Wake up early and walk the Crater Rim Trail.
  • Stop at the visitors center to chat with a park ranger (before it gets crowded).
  • Visit the Thurston Lava Tube and hike the Kilauea Iki Trail.
  • Get back in the car and drive the Chain of Craters Road, stopping at a lookout to have your packed lunch.
  • In the later afternoon, after a brief rest, stop by the Volcano Winery for a tasting.
  • Have an early dinner in Volcano Village.
  • Return to the park to watch the glow from the Thomas A. Jaggar Museum.
  • If you’re not too tired, go bowling at Kilauea Military Camp or visit the Lava Lounge for some karaoke with the locals.
Stop by Volcano Winery for a tasting.
Stop by Volcano Winery for a tasting. Photo © Wehi Lono, licensed Creative Commons Attribution No-Derivatives.

Rainy Day Alternative

I’ll try to break it to you as gently as possible: It can rain at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. Sometimes it’s a spritz and you can continue on with only getting slightly damp, and other times it can rain hard and outside activity is not really possible. There are a few inside places you can go while waiting for sunshine.

From facials to pedicures to traditional lomilomi massages, Hale Ho‘ola: Hawaiian Healing Arts Center and Spa does it all and does it well at half the cost of spas on the Kona side. What makes this a truly great rainy day activity is that you can call last minute and owner Suzanne Woolley will try to accommodate you.

Art enthusiasts will love 2400 Fahrenheit Glass Blowing, just a few minutes north of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. Even if glass blowing isn’t taking place, this gallery makes for a worthy stop.

If the weather still hasn’t cleared up, try the Volcano Winery for a tasting or drive to Hilo. Often the weather in Hilo can be drastically different than in Volcano (you can see the clouds moving as you drive north on Highway 11).

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