Unusual Tourist Sites: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Part 2

About the unusual tourist site of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, history and information.

Hawaii, Hawaiian Islands

Fortunately, this infernolike show is contained for the most part within the crater walls, with spectators ringing the crater as if it were a natural stadium. One of the things to be careful of is a change in wind, which can blow choking fumes and cinder showers toward onlookers. The trick, of course, is to keep the wind at your back.

Not unexpectedly, the aftermath of these "safe" eruptions has people rummaging through the cinder-covered slopes for "olivines" (semi-precious stones which have a lustrous greenish-brown color) or shining black pellets called "Pele's hair" (Pele is the Hawaiian volcano goddess). Shutterbugs avidly take photographs.

Other intriguing elements of the park are Crater Rim Drive, with its views of steaming vents and odor of sulfur, and the Halemaumau Fire Pit. There are some short trails worth seeing. One 15-minute walk takes you through the Thurston Lava Tube, a 450'-long tunnel through which molten lava gushed eons ago. "Devastation Trail" has a boardwalk built over cinders which goes through about half a mile of a stark forest filled with the skeletons of ohia trees. There are also trails starting from the Sulphur Banks, where steam and gases containing sulfur issue from cracks, ultimately altering the rock and soil into opal and hard clay.

Particularly poignant, perhaps, is the "Foot-prints Trail" where barefoot Hawaiians crossed the muddy ashfalls after the 1790 explosion of Kilauea. Two other points of interest are "Tree Molds," formed by molten lava congealing around tree trunks; and the Mauna Loa Strip Road, which takes you through lava-marked terrain, said to resemble the surface of the moon more closely than any other place on earth. It is also possible to hike around the rim of Mokuaweoweo, the crater of Mauna Loa, which is some 3 mi. long, 1 1/2 mi. wide, and 600' deep.

Volcano House, an inn perched on the rim of the Kilauea Crater, has overnight accommodations, a restaurant, and a cocktail lounge. Exhibits, relief models, and paintings tell the story of the park and its volcanoes at the Thomas Jagger Museum. A daily program features a talk by a park naturalist and a color film of recent eruptions.

Location: 30 mi. from Hilo and 96 mi. from Kailua-Kona on the Island of Hawaii. Admission: Both the park and museum are free. Hours: The park is open 7:30 A.M. to 5 P.M., Monday through Friday; 6 A.M. to 5 P.M., Saturday and Sunday. The museum is open daily, 9 A.M. to 5 P.M., with films shown hourly from 9 A.M. to 3 P.M.

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