Big Island – Day 5 – Part 4 (Volcano Park part 3 of 3)
We spent the day driving down Chain of Craters Road to kill time because we wanted to stay at the Volcano Park after dark to go to the Jaggar Museum Lookout after dark.
The Jaggar Museum is a small single building museum that gives you a very good overview of the volcanos in Hawaii. The highlight of the museum is the lookout. This is where you’ll see an active volcano in action. During the day, you’ll see the on-going gas eruption as nothing but smoke, but at night you’ll see a red glow of lava in the crater (if weather permits).
This is considered to be one of the most active volcanos in the world, as the crater is diameter has been growing over the years (since 1998 when its eruption started).
By the time we were on our way to the Jaggar Museum, it was already to starting to rain a little bit making me worried that we wouldn’t be able to see anything. The Jaggar Museum is located on Crater Rim Road which used go to all the way around the crater, but has since been closed because of the volcano activity etc. (I think). So the Jaggar Museum is where the road ends for now, you can’t miss it.
We stayed outside at the lookout for a while when we first arrived, and that is where you’ll see the big gaping hole. And you’ll start seeing smoke or gas coming from the hole. I guess you can’t really call it a hole, it looks for like a big canyon or officially it’s called the Halema’uma’u Crater.
And then the weather decided to not be very nice, and the whole crater was covered by overcast. But rangers are available outside to talk about the crater and answer any questions you may have.
We headed inside to the museum to explore and wait for night fall in hopes of seeing the lava glow at night.
I actually really enjoyed the little museum. It had a really collection of information about the volcanos at the Hawaii Volcano Park. Compared to the Visitors Center, the information at the Jaggar Museum felt a little more specific to the volcanos here. They also provide live volcano activity updates, which was kind of nice to see after hearing all about the volcano warnings on the radio.
As it got later, the museum was starting to fill up with more and more people. Several tour groups were arriving with tour guides explaining things inside the museum (I guess that’s convenient if you don’t want to read about everything) and of course everyone was just waiting for the weather to clear up a little bit to see the lava glow in the crater.
It was actually starting to get pretty cold outside, as the rain was getting heavier in the evening. The ranger that was outside also headed inside into the museum, but he kept an eye out for the weather and the glow. There were moments when the rain cleared up and you can see the glow, and he made sure to make an announcement to let everyone know. Rangers are only there until the museum closes at 7pm, but the lookout remains opened all night. Public bathrooms are also available here.
Unlike the earlier hours before nightfall, the outlook was quite crowded (even in the cold evening rain) with everyone trying to catch a glimpse and pictures of the lave glow. My pictures were nothing compared to the actual view in person. The darker it got, the prettier it got.
But the glow brought back memories of wild fires (we get lots of wild fires in Southern California) and with that memory, it’s a good reminder that this beautiful glow is actually quite dangerous. I’m just glad that this glow is coming from the big crater below at quite a distance and that we had the opportunity to see it in “action.”
Of course it may seem so anti-climatic with nothing but a glow from the crater, and it’s not like we’re very close but views like this don’t last forever. We’ll never know really know if the volcano behavior will change right?
This was our final evening in Hawaii before flying back home to San Diego. We called it a night after the Jaggar Museum and got up early the next morning to return our are rental (very convenient at the Hilo International Airport), and fly back to San Diego with a quick layover in Honolulu, Oahu. And that was the end of our 8 night 9 days trip to Hawaii. Check out my Oahu and Big Island Itineraries.