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Halemaʻumaʻu Crater

Suitable for:
Insider tip or tourist spot?
Known and much going on
TouriSpot
Insider Tip
Allow time:
6 Hours
Optimal arrival time:
08:30 Clock
Cost:
ok
Suitable for:
Insider tip or tourist spot?
Known and much going on
TouriSpot
Insider Tip
Allow time:
6 Hours
Optimal arrival time:
08:30 Clock
Cost:
ok

Halemaʻumaʻu Crater - Description

Halemaumau Crater is the heart of Big Island and a MUST when visiting the largest of the Hawaiian Islands.
The name is derived from the word for house (hale) and the Hawaiian name of the Sadleria fern, meaning fern house.
In Hawaiian religion, Halemaumau is considered the home of the volcano goddess Pele and therefore especially sacred. Hawaiians often place colorful flower necklaces (lei) or a bottle of gin at the crater rim to appease Pele.

In Hawaii Volcanoes National Park you will witness a fascinating wonder that nature has in store for us. Located 48 km southwest of Hilo, this park is home to two volcanoes, including Kilauea, one of the most active volcanoes in the world. The unique spectacle of destruction and re-creation makes the park not only a sacred place, but also one of Hawaii's most popular visitor attractions.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park covers an area of 135 hectares from the summit of Mauna Loa to the sea. A 240-km network of trails invites visitors to hike extensively through volcanic craters, desert lava fields, and rainforests, passing a museum, petroglyphs, a walk-through lava tube, and two active volcanoes: Mauna Loa, which erupted for the last time in 1984, and Kilauea, which has been continuously active since January 3, 1983.

Until 1924, there was an active lava lake in Halemaumau, but it cooled before a major eruption of Kīlauea. In March 2008, the cooled lava erupted again after 84 years, and since then a lava lake in the crater floor of Halemaumau was continuously active until May 2018.
For safety reasons, it was not possible to enter the Kīlauea caldera for a long time and the Halemaumau could only be observed from some distance from the rim of the Kīlauea crater. The activity of the lava lake could be observed for several years through public webcams. The lava lake (about 250 m long and 180 m wide) had sunk into the floor of Halemaumau crater with nearly vertical walls. The distance of the surface of the lava lake from the floor of Halemaumau crater fluctuated between 60 m to 150 m in recent years as the lava lake rose and fell.
After several weeks of volcanic activity and subsidence of the lava lake, a large ash cloud formed over Halemaumau on May 15-17, 2018, partly after explosions. Subsequently, subsidence of the caldera around the crater of Halemaumau enlarged it by several times its previous size. After a green lake had formed at the bottom of the crater from 2018 to the end of 2020, a lava lake has been visible again since the beginning of 2021. The extent to which the crater is accessible, or whether the glow of the lava lake can be observed from the Jagger Museum, is left to the whims of the fire goddess. At the moment the national park is closed, but will surely reopen as soon as the situation has calmed down.

Kilauea is sometimes referred to as "the world's only drive-in volcano". In active times, the volcano produces about 200,000-500,000 m³ of lava per day. This volume would be enough to resurface a 32 km long, two-lane road every day.
Since January 1994, lava has created 200 hectares of new land on Big Island. Scientists can only make vague guesses about the future of volcanic activity - the current eruption could last another 100 years or be over tomorrow. According to many locals, the strong fluctuations of the volcanoes are subject to the mood of Pele, the goddess of fire who lives here. If during your visit the lava of Kilauea meets the sea, you should not miss this unique natural spectacle.

The park was awarded for its unique landscape and diverse nature by UNESCO in 1980 as a World Biosphere (Biosphere Reserve ) and in 1987 as a World Heritage Site.

The entrance fee for the park is 30$ and is valid for 7 days. Those interested in volcanoes are recommended to stay in Volcano Village for a few days. To explore the national park in all its facets (and also to hike), you can easily spend 2 or 3 days here. The accommodations in the rainforest on the volcano alone are an experience in themselves.

Kilauea Visitor Center

Open daily: From 7:45 to 17:00.

Pay a visit to the Kilauea Visitor Center at the beginning of your exploration to see the introductory film about the park, which is shown every hour from 9 am to 4 pm. In addition, there is an opportunity to speak with one of the rangers and book a guided tour with a ranger. Here you can also get maps to take home, interesting facts about the trails in the park and the latest information about current eruptions.

Sulphur Banks

The sulfur banks are on the other side of the road. It only takes 5-10 minutes and the path is beautiful, a recommendation to stretch your legs and have your first experience with the activity of the volcano.

Crater Rim Drive

The Crater Rim Drive is a 17 km long road that leads around the crater area of Kilauea Caldera. Following this ring road will take you directly to the main attractions of the park: the Kilauea Overlook, Jaggar Museum, Halemaumau Crater, Devastation Trail, Kilauea Iki Crater Overlook and the Thurston Lava Tube.

Thomas A. Jaggar Museum

Open daily: From 08:30 to 17:00

Thomas A. Jaggar pioneered volcano research on Kilauea. Here you will find geological exhibits, maps and videos of scientific studies of volcanoes. At night, there is an impressive view of the smoking vent of Halemaumau crater.

Halemaumau Crater

Steam and smoke rise from this massive crater, home to the fire goddess Pele according to legend. Especially at night, the glowing lava coming out of the crater is an awe-inspiring sight. There is also a great viewpoint at the Jaggar Museum. In the mid-19th century, this crater was still filled with lava, but it gradually drained away. Today, the lava lake in the bottom of the crater is continuously active again. This place is considered a sacred site, so you should treat it with respect. Also note that temperatures can drop relatively quickly with increasing altitude. If you want to visit the crater after the beach and are only wearing shorts and a t-shirt, be sure to pack a light jacket as well.

Thurston Lava Tube (Nahuku)

Walk through a 500 year old lava cave. These lava tunnels are created by the outer areas of a lava river cooling faster, and over time this causes a crust to form on the edges of the river. At the end of the tunnel, a tropical rainforest awaits.

Chain of Craters Road

The Chain of Craters Road branches off to the south from Crater Rim Drive. The end point of the 1 km long road is finally the place where the lava ran over the road.

Volcano House

Built in 1846 as a grass hut, the Volcano House Hotel has been in operation ever since, offering magnificent views of Halemaumau Crater. At the time, no less a person than Mark Twain stayed here during his visit to Hawaii.

What we say

Florian
For me as a volcano-interested person, the national park is a MUST on every Hawaii trip. Also because the conditions change again and again. If one could still drive by car around the crater in 2007, I had the luck to observe the glowing lava lake from the Jagger Museum a few years later. Also at night one may and should drive into the park. On starry nights, when the Milky Way can be seen above the crater and shooting stars seem to fall into the crater, it is an unforgettable experience. Then in 2016, I ventured on a forbidden adventure and approached the active lava lake to get a glimpse of Pele's bubbling cauldron directly from the rim of the crater. This will probably remain my most exciting experience at Kilauea.
Our checklist & tips:
  • Enough liquid (at least 2-3 liters)
  • Sturdy shoes for hikes around the volcano
  • Possibly hiking poles
  • Sunscreen
  • Rainwear/warm jacket
  • Early start recommended
  • Overnight stay possible in Volcano Village

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Map and contact data

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, HI 96718
Longitude: -155.25880514511536
Latitude: 19.431273838796166

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