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“You may never get out to the active lava, but still worth the drive!”

Chain of Craters Road
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$150.00*
and up
Kilauea Volcano Bike Tour
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$155.00*
and up
Small Group Guided Big Island Twilight Volcano Tour
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$585.00*
and up
Volcanoes National Park Private Tour
Certificate of Excellence
Reviewed May 3, 2013

While some of the craters along the way or just tree-filled pits, most of what you'll see are vast quarry-sized craters with smooth bottoms of now-cool lava.

Along the drive, you will see the Kiluea Iki trail, which we didn't have time for, but looked awesome; the Thurston Lava Tube, and some great views of the buildup of lava flows in the whole area and the ocean.

When you reach the bottom of the road, there are latrines (bathrooms without plumbing) and a food stand. You can get cold drinks and sandwiches/snacks here before walking up to the lava-covered road.

It's only about a half mile or less to the part where the road is covered, and there are reflectors to mark where the road runs under the cooled lava flows once you walk out on it. We went 200 yards or more out and we could see distant steam from where the lava was entering the water actively. The hike out there would have taken hours though, if not all day; so we didn't continue on.

3  Thank pointA2B
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
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133 - 137 of 227 reviews

Reviewed April 24, 2013

If it is your first time seeing a landscape transformed by lava flow (as recent as 1996), this littel drive is worth it. The road used to encircle the volcanoes, but the last eruption covered up portions of the perimeter road so you will have to drive back out the way you came. Evenso, it is a sight to see. Some of the lava flows are ancient (they are brown) and some are more recent (black). There is a stark contrast across the landscape - from brown to black lava with spots of vegetation that seemingly finds a foothold over time to tropical forest completely unaffected by the more recent eruptions.
I suggest you go ahead and drive the Crater Road (45 minutes one way due to curves) and leave plenty of time to check out marked trails, scenic overlooks and paths like the Thurston Lava Tube and the petroglyph site - and the Sea Arch. The lava tube has a well-worn path but is slightly steep in places - but there are steps and rails. The "tube" itself is well-worn and has dim lights -- really not too long. The petroglyphs are a solid 0.7 mile walk across the smoother but bumpy lava surface - but it is a fairly decent walk. You have to watch your step over the rocks but they are not ankle-turners -- just uneven, like uneven sidewalks that trip you up. Once you get to the petroglyps, there is a boardwalk that encircles the site. (PLEASE stay on the boardwalk - don't walk on the carvings or they will soon be gone!) I'd suggest maybe you take some water on this little 1.5 mile round-trip. Tennis shoes are fine - just make sure you have comfortable shoes (not sandals or flip-flops).
The Sea Arch is easy to get to - it is right off the main road right where the lava flowed over the road. I don't think a lot of people realize it is right there - where there are restroom and portable buildings with souvenirs and water and food for sale. The sign for it so small and to the side of the road. There is parking along the road and spaces for handicap parking in this area.
The park visitor center, kiosks and museum and some of the scenic overlooks are wheelchair accessibe - and you might be able to wheel over to get a view of the sea arch, otheriwse the terrain is not too friendly to wheels...
I would suggest that if arrive when the park opens, check out the visitor center rather quickly - grab maps and listen to what the ranger says is accessible or worth seeing and then drive to the Sea Arch to miss the crowds of tourists that are bused in - you will have the place to yourself almost. Then return to the the lava tube petroglyph site, museum and visitor centers on the drive back. (The museum and visitor center's crowds are steady at all times). The hike to the petroglyphs is not crowded. Seems like 1-3 visitors were trekking out about every half hour or more. (I spent a lot of time there 'cause i was photographing almost every glyph!).
The Park charges $10 per car and $5 for motorcycles (I think). It is worth it - cheaper than Six Flags on hte mainland or most attractions in the islands! Just don't forgot to bring snacks and drinks. If you forget, you can buy both at NPS visitor center, though (run by Friends of the Parks - proceeds go to the park).

6  Thank 423TPag
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 22, 2012

Definitely worth the drive. Lots of places to stop on the way to check things out, take pictures, or have a picnic lunch on a windy lookout picnic area.

3  Thank Jeanette C
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 15, 2012

The drive is beautiful, but the best part is when you get to the start of the lava flow that covers a road. You can hike all over the lava (which goes on for miles). Kids LOVED it. The lava is beautiful and makes amazing shapes. Bring water because it can be hot (and windy). We didn't hike too far out because we had been hiking all day and were worn out. Check out all the different types of lava. A must see!

4  Thank traveler11196
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.
Reviewed November 1, 2012

I have been coming to the park for over 20 years and have done this drive every time. I was sad when the lava covered the road because the spots now gone were amazing.

There are so many places to stop and see from smoking holes in the ground to petroglyphs (small hike involved). We walked though lava tubes saw smoke (lava entering the sea) from where to road dead ends. There are many signs explaining about all of the previous lava flows and eruptions. Very interesting and not boring!

Getting to the park is quite a drive when coming from Kona but is worth it. During a seven day trip we came three times. The drive is long but you go through interesting towns and see some beautiful scenery. Be sure to take a quick side trip and drive to the southern most part of the United States (follow the signs). Not a whole lot to see but you can honestly say you have been to the southern most part of the States.

2  Thank Kiyatoo
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC.

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