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Visitor Information

Following is some information about the village, Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park (HVNP), and Hawai‘i Island. We also have some additional information about the Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park and it's volcano eruptions.

The Big Island

The island is twice as big as the other three main islands put together, is bigger than Rhode Island and Delaware, combined, is as large as Los Angeles County. There are 37 people per square mile on this 4,038-square-mile island, compared to 1,460 on O‘ahu and 2,450 in Los Angeles. It has all but two of the world’s climate zones (lacking Arctic and Saharan). It’s new, geologically speaking, with three active volcanoes (from very [Kilauea] through fairly [Maunaloa That’s the old-fashioned spelling of the volcanic mountains’ names.] to occasionally [Hualalai]), so there are more black than white sand beaches. There’s even a green sand beach!

More county comparisons -- extremes and coastlines: our island has an extreme length of 93 miles (twice the length of the next closest, Maui) and an extreme width of 76 miles (more than twice the width of the next closest, O‘ahu.) Kailua-Kona and Hilo are about 60 miles apart (as the ‘alala One of the most endangered species on earth, the ‘Alala is the Hawaiian raven, often called a “crow”, which once flourished over all the islands; none survive in the wild, with about seventy individuals, in captivity. flies.) No point on the island is more than 29 miles from the shore. Hawai‘i Island has 266 miles of coastline, compared to Maui’s 120, O‘ahu’s 112, Kaua‘i’s 90, Moloka‘i’s 88, Lana‘i’s 47, Ni‘ihau's 45 and Kaho‘olawe’s 29.


Some island activities include scuba diving and kayaking, golfing and horseback riding, hiking and biking, star gazing and even boogie boarding in the snow on Maunakea That’s the old-fashioned spelling of the volcanic mountains’ names. (when weather conditions paint it the color of its name, “Mountain White”). Volcano is at the top of the Puna district. The Volcano area, which includes the village and several other subdivisions, is right outside the Park and had about 2,238 people in the 2000 census. The area is densely zoned but not much developed. The upland rainforest in which the village is situated is still intact over fairly large areas.

Volcano Village

The village has a couple of convenience stores, one with a Hawaiian quilt store behind it, a post office, a hardware store with crafts gallery and a laundromat, and six restaurants/cafés: Kilauea Lodge and Restaurant, for fine dining seven nights a week, as well as breakfast and lunch, daily; the local-style Lava Rock Café (American/Hawaiian), for breakfasts and lunches daily, dinners five nights per week; the Thai Thai Restaurant, serving delicious, authentic Thai food for lunch and dinner, daily; the Kiawe Kitchen, with a wood-fired oven for pizzas and made-on-site pasta, open for lunch and dinner, daily. Those four restaurants have liquor licenses, so serve beer, wine, and mixed drinks. Café Ono offers vegetarian lunches, daily, and Café ‘Ohi‘a offers take out (with outdoor tables) from 6 AM to 7 PM, daily. Nohea has a well-equipped kitchen in which you can prepare all your own meals, if you prefer. The kitchen is stocked with hot and cold cereals, granolas, various teas, instant hot chocolate packets, and regular and decaf coffees, along with salt and pepper, oil and vinegar.

Even though it’s a thriving community, Volcano doesn’t seem urban as there are no sidewalks or streetlights, just narrow, sometimes winding roads, many only one lane wide, through the forested land on the slopes of a volcanic mountain. It gets dark at night! Most communities attempt to keep their night lighting low to facilitate the “seeing” at Maunakea’s world-class astronomical observatories. The village is a quiet place.


Because the village is from 3700 to 4200 feet above sea level, it gets cool, even on summer nights, and can be rainy. You’ll want to bring warm clothes to layer. Our average mean temperature is 61 degrees Fahrenheit (16ºC), with temperatures ranging from highs of 75ºF (24ºC), perhaps even 80ºF (26.6º), in the Summer, to lows of 40ºF (4.5ºC), even down to 36ºF (2.2ºC), in the winter months. The coolness here surprises people. The cottage has the living room heat stove, an electric baseboard heater in the bedroom, house slippers, and umbrellas.


Hilo, about twenty-six miles northeast of Volcano, is in a district named for it, is the biggest town on the Big Island, and is the county seat of the County of Hawai‘i. There are lots of small shops in old downtown Hilo in buildings that are being restored or renovated, and there are two popular farmers’ markets on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Hilo is a really green town, as you will note from the air, flying in, with lots of beautiful trees and green spaces. The windward side of the island is very lush, with numerous waterfalls and valleys cut into the Hamakua District’s coast, north of Hilo.

Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park

In HVNP, the entrance to which is just west of the village, Kilauea is the source of interest for a lot of visitors and the font of tremendous creative energy. There are hundreds of miles of trails and fantastic landscapes throughout the Park. Near the entrance, at the summit of Kilauea, known as the world’s only active drive-in volcano, there’s a visitor’s center, an observatory/museum, guided hikes, some through pristine lava tubes, the Volcano Art Center, the only privately run art gallery in a national park, housed in one of the original, historic Volcano House Hotel structures, and the Hotel itself, closed for renovations for most of 2010, perched at the edge of the caldera. Compared to many mainland parks, the entrance to HVNP is low key, just ‘ohi‘a/hapu‘u rainforest, no strip development. The Park is spread across two districts in Hawai‘i County. The Kilauea summit area is in the Ka‘u District, just west of the Puna district. Much of the Park is in Puna. Both districts are briefly described below.

Kilauea’s East Rift Zone (ERZ) eruption of Pu‘u ‘O‘o began January 3, 1983 and has continued its activity with style changes (from episodic fountaining for the first three-and-a-half years to continuous flowing from then on) and several significant pauses, deflections, and deflations. Since the geological activity in the Park is so changeable, it’s best to go to the internet for information, either http://volcano.wr.usgs.gov/kilaueastatus.php or http://www.nps.gov/havo, or you could call the Park at 1-808-967-8862 for a recorded update about the lava flow.

Chain of Craters used to be a loop road, and one could drive from the summit of Kilauea down to the ocean through the Park, past Kamoamoa Visitor’s Center, makai (toward the sea) of the road, where Volcano residents used to go for Moonlit Potluck Picnics and where there were hula festivals and local families camping on weekends, and on past Waha‘ula Heiau, famous in centuries past for human sacrifices, which survived the lava flows for a long time and was surrounded by lava up to the tops of its encircling walls, then finally overrun in August of 1997, and on past Royal Gardens subdivision, mauka (toward the mountains) of the highway, in which only a few houses now stand, inaccessible by vehicles, and then on to Kalapana, a small town that had a store, two churches, and a large percentage of Hawaiian residents. The distinction here is between Hawai‘i residents, who are people of any race who reside in Hawai‘i, and Hawaiian residents, who are people of Hawaiian ancestry who reside here. (The Catholics moved their church out of the path of the lava and the Protestants didn’t, but that’s another story!) Lava has buried miles of this road between Holei Sea Arch in the Park and Kaimu, the once-famous black sand beach, at the conjunction of Highways 130 and 137, and the connection is broken again. The loop has been closed in decades past, then repaved, then buried again.


The Puna district is fun to explore, from Volcano, in upper Puna, down through Kea‘au to Pahoa, a wild-west little town with several restaurants and charming little stores, then along a stretch of road overhung with a full canopy of lacy green leaves fifty feet overhead and out through papaya orchards, past a volcanic cone overgrown with trees, to Kapoho, with vacation rentals among the tidal pools, and Kehena, with its clothing-optional beach, and finally down to the edge of the lava that destroyed the village of Kalapana and the black sand beach at Kaimu. Both are buried under up to ninety feet of lava now. If you drive to the end of Highway 130, you’ll see the shiny black lava, mostly pahoehoe, of the ERZ flows of Pu‘u ‘O‘o, as well as what’s left of Royal Gardens up the hill from the County’s lava viewing area, which keeps getting moved backwards by persistent surface flows. Over the years, the ERZ lava has gone down the pali both underground, in lava conduits (“pyroducts” or lava tubes), often entering the ocean. There are currently no surface lava flows, but Pu‘u ‘O‘o is refilling with lava, now. Keep abreast of the lava’s activity by referring to the HVO site.


Beyond the Park’s southwest boundary, the Ka‘u District, generally a dry area, nonetheless received 37 inches of rain during a twenty-four hour period from November 1st - 2nd, 2000! Down below the dry ranch land and macadamia nut orchards on the slopes of Maunaloa, the world’s largest shield volcano, which last erupted in 1984 (and which is slowly inflating again but without the significant seismic activity which signals imminent eruption), you will find Punalu‘u Black Sand Beach, the largest and most accessible such beach since Kaimu was overrun by lava. Just mauka of the highway, there’s a Tibetan Buddhist temple and retreat center in Wood Valley, a remote area above the mac nut orchards on the outskirts of the plantation town of Pahala. Also in Ka‘u are Na‘alehu, the southernmost town in America, and South Point, from which Green Sand Beach is about a three-mile walk (or drive, with a four-wheel drive vehicle), and also the Ninole Hills, a fascinating remnant of ancestral Maunaloa.


The Kona districts, North and South, are on the leeward side of the island, a two-hour drive from Volcano around South Point. That is the drier side of the island. South Kona offers fine snorkeling, snuba- and scuba-diving opportunities, as well as kayaking, whale watching (in season), swimming with honu (turtles) and manta rays in the sheltered bays below the coffee-plant-covered slopes of Hualalai. South Kona and North Kona districts each have a National Historic Park. North Kona has mega-shopping, big box stores, many restaurants. Kailua-Kona is the main town on the leeward side; it’s part resort-y, part local, with increasingly heavy traffic. It’s a different world, on the same island! The Kohala Districts, up north, have the towns of Waimea and Hawi, the beautiful, mostly inaccessible Kohala Forest Reserve on the Kohala Mountains’ east side, with its deeply cut valleys and steep cliffs towering above the waves, and vistas of ranch land, with patches of forest, and a view of Maui’s Haleakala on the weathered mountain’s leeward side, where there is a National Historic Site, Pu‘ukohola Heiau. This is a big island! Come explore.

UPDATED May 14, 2011

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