After seeing some of Pele’s handiwork first hand, but before getting up close and personal with the volcano goddess, we had the opportunity to glimpse her from afar. Our first night in the Big Island’s Volcano region, we stood on a viewing platform at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. In the distance, a giant plume of smoke rose from Halema’uma’u Crater, part of Kilauea, one of the most active volcanoes on earth.
Visitors have long been dazzled by Kilauea—which has erupted more than 60 times since 1823—including Mark Twain, who happened by in the late nineteenth century. As we watched that evening, excitement grew among the crowd standing with us as an orange glow gradually became more and more vivid in the deepening darkness.
This tantalizing hint of Pele’s power was undoubtedly a high point, but the next day we returned to explore the park to see what else it had to offer.
Thurston Lava Tube
An opening in a rain forest leads inside a 500-year-old lava tube. Much like a river carves a canyon, a lava flow gradually built solid walls and a ceiling to create this cave-like structure. When the lava ceased its activity and the last of the hot stuff continued downhill, a tube was formed that visitors can now meander through.
Chain of Craters Road
This 20-mile scenic drive starts on the slopes of Kilauea Volcano and continues to the coast. Along the way there are craters to peer into, ancient petroglyphs to peruse, and ocean vistas to admire. The road used to extend further until Pele blocked the way.
Holei Sea Arch
Look at what teamwork can do. A lava flow brought molten rock to the ocean’s edge, while the crashing surf did the rest to create this dramatic arch.
Volcanic activity created the Hawaiian archipelago, and two of the world’s most active volcanoes, Kilauea and Mauna Loa, are still adding land mass to the Big Island. Evidence of the powerful, defining, destructive force is prevalent throughout the park. And as impressive as all of this was, it was just a mere warm-up act for the main event: a hands-on encounter with an active volcano. But that’s a story for another day. Stay tuned.