Not every destination can be among the most popular or most visited. And, frankly, that’s a good thing. While the most visited attractions and destinations are that way for a reason—convenience, incredible offerings, etc.—there are distinct advantages to exploring places that aren’t directly in the spotlight. In fact, in our experience, we find that if you can sacrifice a bit of convenience, the rewards you gain from visiting “off the top 10” destinations are significant.
In this year, while we are celebrating the National Park Service’s centennial and offering “recipes” for you to visit the Top 10 National Parks, we also want to provide some suggestions for incredible National Parks a bit further down the list.
In this installment, we provide seven reasons to visit the awe-inspiring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on magnificent Hawaii Island.
- Hawaii, ‘nuff said. As the name clearly states, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is in resplendent Hawaii, hands down one of the most amazing destinations on this big blue planet. So now you’ve got another reason to book a Hawaii vacation (not like you needed one)!
- Volcanoes… active freakin’ volcanoes. If you want to see an active volcano in the United States, you’ve got one place to go. As of this writing (and fingers crossed, for some time) Kilauea in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is the only volcano currently erupting.
- Red hot lava. Speaking of active volcanoes… Oftentimes you can see molten lava flowing down the slopes of Kilauea volcano and cascading into the Pacific Ocean. If you visit at a time when the lava is actively flowing (check here for current lava activity) and are able to trek out to view the flow, remember to follow all regulations and precautions. Those majestic plumes of steam are toxic, so enjoy them from a distance.
- Black, cold lava. Instead of trekking out to see lava, how about just trekking on lava? While cooled lava abounds on Hawaii Island (it’s what Hawaii is made of, after all), the National Park provides some amazing hikes that take you across beds of cooled lave. Our favorite is the diverse and exhilarating Kilauea Iki trail because it provides you with the chance to experience both lush tropical forests and walk across a cooled, but still steaming, lake of lava in the volcano’s crater.
- Pele’s House. Ancient Hawaiians believed that Kilauea is the home to Pele, the goddess of volcanoes and fire who Hawaiian lore tells created the Hawaiian Islands.
Viewfinder Tip: Exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is not walk on the beach. Wear good shoes (lave is sharp and uneven) and wear layers because it can be VERY cold above the clouds.
- Snow, in Hawaii. We know, you didn’t come to Hawaii to see snow, but maybe that’s because you didn’t know you could. Well you can, and if you are visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, you should be prepared for some inclement weather. Even when it is hot and sunny down at the beach, you can encounter harsh winter weather up on the volcanoes. So even if you aren’t seeking out some fun, dramatic weather on Hawaii, you should be prepared for it.
- Sheer size. Not only is Mauna Loa considered to be the largest volcano in the world, rising nearly 33,000 feet from the ocean’s floor, it is almost 4,000 feet taller than Mount Everest. Why bother risking your life climbing the alps when you can drive to the top of the world’s tallest mountain and return at the end of the day to a gorgeous beach-front resort?
Which lesser visited national park do you feel more people should know about?