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Traveler type: Sightseeing, Active/Outdoors, Never been before, Repeat visitors
Appeals to: Couples/romantics, Honeymooners, Families with teenagers, Active/adventure, Tourists
1. Kilauea Crater, as seen from the Jagger Museum
EVEN WHEN THERE IS NO CURRENT LAVA FLOW, the view of the crater at night is spectacular. The glow of the lava is bright and clearly visible from the Jagger Museum: the edge of the perched lava lake rim glows a brilliant orb, lighting up even the far edge of Kilauea Crater itself. On clear nights, the lack of light pollution allows a multitude of stars to glisten across the sky, revealing far more than I have ever seen in my entire lifetime.
This is something anyone and everyone can do so long as the night sky is clear. It's so beautiful and awe-inspiring that I went on two consecutive nights.
See my review. The best parts of the Chain are (1) the ocean views / scenic overlooks, and (2) the lava "park" at the end of the road.
It's easy to be disappointed at the beginning of the drive -- I admit that I for one was not particularly interested in the road at all until we were 7 or 8 miles in -- but once you get far enough, you'll never want to leave.
Again, something anyone and everyone can enjoy. Kids will love playing around the lava and listening to the rattle of the wild plants at the end of the drive. (Seeds inside dried pods rattle as the wind blows).
Starting from the trailhead and heading counterclockwise, this trail takes you through the ohia rainforest, down steep steps, and into the bottom of the Kilauea Iki crater. It's BEAUTIFUL from down there, and strong winds keep the trek from getting too hot. Multi-colored lava, steam vents, mini chasms, and low-lying plant life all make the central portion of this hike fun, while other reviewers (namely, my guidebook) prefer the beauty of the forest portions at the start and end of the hike.
Go counterclockwise for a gentler climb at the end of the hike (but steeper descent at the start).
I've seen it listed on various sites as between 2-4 hours, but we twenty-somethings did it in just over an hour and a half with plenty of time to explore and take pictures. The best parts of the hike are probably less suited towards children and the elderly than many of the other sights in HVNP.
Make sure you bring a STRONG flashlight, and go into the undeveloped part of the lava tube. Once in a lifetime walk through pitch darkness. Just less than a quarter mile, but feels like much longer until you become familiar with the path.
Not for the faint of heart or for those who may need assistance navigating dark, unpaved lava paths.