Great Hikes: Kïlauea Iki Crater

Hawai'i has more to offer than beautiful beaches
Staff Writer

Black- and green-sand beaches, chocolate-covered macadamia nuts, great scuba diving – did you really need another reason to visit Hawaii?

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is the icing on a very decadent cake, and our featured hike today, Kīlauea Iki, will soon have you booking your next trip across the Pacific.

Kīlauea Iki is a hike down the Kïlauea Iki Crater through rain forests full of native plants and birds. You can see the still-steaming, black crater floor made of solidied lava, as well as the gaping vent that built the Pu’u Pua’I cinder cone. Not only is this hike interesting because of the unique landscape, but it was also the site of important (and sometimes dangerous) scientific research.

The route you'll walk is close to the one Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientists took daily during the volcano's eruption in 1959. That year, the Kīlauea Iki Crater erupted for five straight weeks and spewed lava 1,900 feet into the sky, a record for the highest fountain ever measured in Hawai’i. The scientists made the risky descent to collect samples of gas and lava.

Although volcanos can be very destructive, you can hike peacefully. Today scientists closely monitor Hawai’i’s volcanoes for research and to keep residents and visitors safe.

Distance: 4 miles

Elevation Change: 400 feet

Difficulty Rating: Moderate

Duration: 2-3 hours

Best Time to Go: Year-round

How to get there:

Fly into the Hilo or Kona Airport on the big island of Hawaii. You’ll need to rent a car to take you the rest of the way. From Hilo, the national park is located 30 miles southwest on Highway 11; from Kailua-Kona, it’s a 2-2.5 hour drive via highways 19 and 11. Once in the park, the Crater Rim Drive Tour will lead you to the Kilauea Iki parking lot. For a detailed map of the park, check out the National Park Service website. 

For more information about the trail to the Kïlauea Iki Crater, check out the brochure

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