Let me begin by saying that this place is insane. The ONLY disappointment we had was that we didn't see any lava...apparently it was flowing closer to the town on the other side than on the National Park side. That was my sole reason for going, but I simply couldn't keep hiking on dried up lava flow with no guarantee (no one seemed to know) that I would ever stumble upon visible lava. Otherwise, it was quite a scene once you reached the ocean and saw ALL of the old lava flow, imaging what it would've looked like.
The petroglyphs are interesting, it's about a .7 mile walk off the road to see those...many of them are in the area of the rickety little boardwalk they constructed to protect them, but there's some along the way...you'll notice them while you're trying to avoid breaking your ankle as you walk.
The Thurston Lava Tube is pretty insane as well and much, much cooler than anywhere else. It's a steep walk down, so be careful!
This was a 3 hour drive (at least) from our hotel and just a LOT for one day. A LOT. We had also done a pretty arduous hike two days prior and our legs were killing us, so that kind of soured our will to walk in the heat towards lava that we couldn't guarantee was there.
The boat tours aren't recommended because of how the lava is flowing and landing on a shelf...it's likely to cave in (it does and will) and if it does while you're on a boat, you'll be going under with it. The planes don't get low enough, but the helicopters can get down to 500 ft. If we had found one for a reasonable rate sooner, we would've taken one (our original plan was the boat tour). I think the hike is totally reasonable if you know where you're going and that you WILL come across the lava...we just couldn't get any straight answers from anyone and felt like we were just blindly walking.
The crater at night from the Jagger (sp?) House/Visitor Center thing is insane. It's just...a crater glowing with lava. I'm glad we at least saw that...don't miss it!
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.