Volcanoes National Park – The number one visitor attraction in Hawaii
For islands that was created by and has ever-changing landscape because of continuous volcanic activity, there is no question why the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is the most visited tourist attraction in Hawaii. Established in 1916, this national park is home to two active volcanoes: Kīlauea, one of the world’s most active volcanoes, and Mauna Loa, the world’s most massive volcano. These volcanoes are just two of the five shield volcanoes that are said to be responsible for the creation of the Hawaiian island chain over tens of millions of years.
The park gives visitors stunning volcanic landscapes never seen anywhere else as well as a peek at the exotic plant and animal life that thrives in the harsh and ever changing environment. Because of its natural and biological significance, the 323,431-acre park was designated as an International Biosphere Reserve in 1980 and a World Heritage Site in 1987.
Over the park’s safer grounds is the Hawaii Volcanoes Wilderness area which provides unusual hiking and camping opportunities to visitors including a variety of environments that range from sea level to the summit of the Earth’s most massive volcano, Mauna Loa at 13,677 feet (4,169 m). Climates in the park range from lush tropical rain forests, to the arid and barren Kaū Desert.
Kīlauea, which means “spewing” or “much spreading” in the Hawaiian language, has earned a reputation as the world’s most active volcano for its non-stop outpouring of lava. One of its vents, the Puu Ōō, has been continuously erupting in the eastern rift zone since 1983, making it the longest rift-zone eruption of the last 200 years. Kīlauea’s tame and non-violent eruptions also gives volcanologists the opportunity to study the volcano up close in less danger compared to others that exhibit violent and dangerous explosions.
The Mauna Loa volcano holds the distinction of being the world’s largest volcano in terms of volume and area covered. Because lava from Mauna Loa contains little silica, it flows very fluidly and only creates shallow slopes.
Hikes and guided tours of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park are available for tourists who want to explore the steam vents, lava tubes, old lava flows and stunning landscapes created by the volcanoes. For the more adventurous, a helicopter tour of the park gives visitors an up close and unique experience of the glowing lava flows.