Hawaii Volcano Park – Part 2 – Drive Chain of Craters Road

Big Island – Day 5 – Part 3 (Volcano Park part 2 of 3)

Map of Chain of Craters Road. source

Driving down the the Chain of Craters Road was not really on our original plan, but we had time to kill at the Hawaii Volcano Park. The Chain of Craters Road was highly recommended by the rangers at the Visitors Center.

During our time in Hawaii, there were a few volcano warnings and according to the Volcano Park website, there is continuous activity just outside of the Volcano Park area. Although the area is not easily accessibly, there have been road closures and warnings in the area. That is a good reminder that we are standing at an active volcano. The Chain of Craters Road does not go anywhere near the the current areas with lava flow, but it is interesting to drive through an area that was once hit by lava (and all in relatively recent times). I like that the nps.gov has simple updates mainly presented for visitors.

The Chain of Craters Road is a 20 mile (approximately) scenic drive that takes you past a couple different volcano craters, several different areas where you’ll see where lava once flowed through this area, a few lookouts along the coast, and a few different hikes and trails. The park ranger told us to check out the stops along the way, we had to stop to see the Sea Arch, and the end of the road. So that’s exactly what we did.

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Mauna Ulu

We started out by seeing cars just pull over and walking on the black rocks, so we pulled over to take in the view of the area. I made sure to take a picture of the sign, “Mauna Ulu.” Mauna Ulu is a volcano that erupted in 1969-1974. The lava from that eruption crossed over the lush forest that was once here long the Chain of Craters Road and the road itself. And as you can tell, the road has been rebuilt.

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I didn’t really know what we were originally standing on, but the vast area that is now nothing but old lava flow is pretty fascinating. We stopped at this particular spot because there weren’t any other cars that stopped, and gave us the perfect opportunity to each take an individual jumping picture.
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There is also a little lookout just down the road that gives you another view of the big lava field.

Kealakomo Overlook

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We came across a bigger overlook next, and decided to check it out. The Kealakomo Overlook has a picnic area (with no shade) and gives your a panoramic view of the ocean and the lava fields nearby. This is were you can really see the differences in the landscaping over the years.

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There was once a village where we were standing, but it was destroyed by a tsunami in 1868 and then covered by lava in the 1969-1974 eruption. I guess those are the dangers of sharing your home with an active volcano. Even today, there are homes that located in danger zones and they are simply not covered by any home insurance (and I hear you can buy those homes for relatively low prices…).

140902e_VolcanoChainOfCratersRd3650Hōlei Sea Arch

You’ll know you’ve reached the end of Chain of Craters Road when you see lots of cars parked on the side of the road (and I guess it’s a small parking area) and of course when you’re forced to make a u-turn. We parked our car and made our way over to the coast to see the Hōlei Sea Arch. The Hōlei Sea Arch is composed of ancient lava flow that has eroded over time and because of the different hardness of the lava, the arch is formed. This specific one will eventually crumble over time, but others will most likely form as well.

In order to see the Hōlei Sea Arch, you kind of have to lean over toward the ocean and/or old your camera a little bit. But it was fun watching the ocean crash into the coast cliffy coast line. There are no beaches, just cliffs formed by lava.

There are bathrooms, concessions, and a picnic table here making a good pit stop before either heading back up the Chain of Craters Road or for a little walk to the end of the Chain of the Craters Road.140902e_VolcanoChainOfCraters3805

End of Chain of Craters Road

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From the Hōlei Sea Arch, it is 0.5 mile walk to what they call the end of the Chain of Craters Road. It was a nice little walk long an abandoned quiet road when the road just ended because of lava flow that now covers this road. By now we’d seen quite a bit of lava flow, but it sure was interesting to really see how the volcanos on the Big Island really have affected the area.

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There were quite a few people exploring the end of the road, and when we first got to the end of the road we just stood there from a far to just look and wait for people to clear up the spot where you can see the lava meet the road to take pictures. There was a couple right there, and when they saw us waiting the guy started walking away but the girl wouldn’t move. She started speaking in Chinese telling her boyfriend (husband?) that she wouldn’t move until she she got the exact picture she wanted. She didn’t want anyone else taking a picture there. It was just an odd moment, I wonder if she just assumed that we wouldn’t understand what she was saying or think it was weird that she was obviously whining and somewhat throwing a fit right there.

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If you wander around this lava field you may spot a road sign popping up from the lava. I couldn’t get a good picture of it because there was a big group of people hanging out around that sign. And with your back to the coast you can see the path the lava took as it flowed down the mountain.

I’m not sure if you can really see the end of Chain of Craters Road anymore though, because as of October 2014 (we were there September 2014) construction has started to reopen the Chain of Craters Road as an emergency access. All this because of the current lava flow activity in the area.

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After walking back to our car, we drove all the the way back up Chain of Craters Road, past Thurston Lava Tube and the Visitors Center, to the Jagar Museum.

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