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car travel across the big island and to volcano park

NY
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387 posts
120 reviews
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car travel across the big island and to volcano park

hello everyone.

Planning a day trip, leaving Waikoloa early, driving to Hilo just to visit and have an early lunch, and then on to Volcano Park. I realize this is almost 3 hours of driving in each direction. I have 2 questions if I may. First, we will have smallish kids with us(6 and 9) and wont be able to day major hiking, but do want to see some of Volcano park. How far do you really need to go into the park to make it worthwhile? I know we wont see everything, but we would like to see something memorable. Does it require hours of driving once arriving at the park to be worthwhile? Nextquestion is, how difficult would the drive back across be at night? Figure we would have dinner at Hilo before the drive back. Kids would probably sleep on the way back. I dont mind a lengthy nighttime drive but last time i was in hawaii(10 years ago on my honeymoon!) we got bad advice and took the back road back from Hana at night! We felt lucky we survived afterwards! Dont want to do anything dangerous! Thanks a million!

Larry

Healy, Alaska
Destination Expert
for Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska
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1. Re: car travel across the big island and to volcano park

Most folks on the BI would recommend NOT driving back at night for numerous reasons but I think traveling with kids, I would not want to make it that long of a day. There are lots of great small walks around VNP - it really is a fascinating park to enjoy, so don't short change it. I would stay one night in Volcano - I think that would be a unique and fun thing to do with your kids and alleviate lots of stress on the driving. Then you could also have the time to take the kids to the Hilo zoo - it's free and see maybe a few other sites. That is what I would do. :)

pzp
Kauai, Hawaii
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for Kauai, Kapaa
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2. Re: car travel across the big island and to volcano park

The park doesn't require hours of driving. Stop at the visitor's center first. Join a ranger-led walk if you can. Visit Thurston Lava Tube. There are short walks by steam vents and on the edge of the caldera. Jaggar Observatory has interesting exhibits. Stay until after dark if you can, to see the glow of the lava in Halema`uma`u Crater. Spend the night in Volcano.

Island of Hawaii...
Destination Expert
for Hilo, Island of Hawaii
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37,039 posts
4 reviews
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3. Re: car travel across the big island and to volcano park

It could be as bad as driving back from Hana, so don't do it.

Have you perused the NPS website's plan your visit page yet?

Island of Hawaii...
Destination Expert
for Hilo, Island of Hawaii
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37,039 posts
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4. Re: car travel across the big island and to volcano park

Here's a topic you should read as it asks the same question.

tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g143034-i1651-k580…

There are also tons of topics about day trips to VNP in this forum. It seems like there is one every day, and most of them cover much the same ground. If you could thumb through some of the topics I hope they will give you info and a good sense of the trip.

Ottawa, Canada
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1,195 posts
22 reviews
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5. Re: car travel across the big island and to volcano park

Depending on when you are planning to do this, Volcano House has re-opened the Namakanipaio cabins (sleeps 4: double + 2 bunk beds) inside VNP. The rate on offer now is super reasonable: $55 night. For one night, "camping" within four walls with real beds, would be actually quite fun for your kids! That would solve the problem of the much-too-long day, the long nighttime drive, AND give you more time to enjoy the Hilo and Volcano side of the island, IMO. The drive the next day can then be done via the black sand beach (turtles) and the Place of Refuge (killing two birds with one stone).

Big Island, Hawaii
Destination Expert
for Island of Hawaii
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25,041 posts
76 reviews
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6. Re: car travel across the big island and to volcano park

I've heard very negative reports about the newly opened Namakanipaio cabins. While I haven't seen them in person, a recent TR here posted photos and it was scary.

California
Destination Expert
for Oahu
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42,947 posts
19 reviews
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7. Re: car travel across the big island and to volcano park

Read down through the Big Island Forum (which includes the sub-forums). You'll see that there is quite a bit of dialogue about driving back to Waikoloa at night - and the bottom is ... don't do it. Way too many hazards.

Ottawa, Canada
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1,195 posts
22 reviews
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8. Re: car travel across the big island and to volcano park

SheaG, were the photos in a recent Trip Report?

I have one of these cabins booked for myself in January and the recent TA reviews were positive for stays post-renovations. The photos from 2008 (before the renos) are indeed scary, attached to some of these reviews.

I'm fine wih the "camping" part, as long as the cabins, bedding and shared facilities are clean.

Big Island, Hawaii
Destination Expert
for Island of Hawaii
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25,041 posts
76 reviews
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9. Re: car travel across the big island and to volcano park

Yes, it was recent. It was from a budget traveler too, not someone expecting much. I would post the link, but I'm out of the country and my browsing abilities are fairly limited.

Ottawa, Canada
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1,195 posts
22 reviews
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10. Re: car travel across the big island and to volcano park

Thanks SheaG, I'll hunt for it. I just discovered your TR compilations, wow and many thanks!