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by Donnie MacGowan

Looking Across Kilauea Iki to Halema'uma'u Eruption; The Kilauea Iki Trail Can Be Seen Etched Across the Floor of the Crater: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Looking Across Kilauea Iki to Halema'uma'u Eruption; The Kilauea Iki Trail Can Be Seen Etched Across the Floor of the Crater: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Hawaii is, in fact, an island that is served by very few roads, that many people come to visit each year and that makes most of its wealth from the tourism industry.  Given this, it’s quite surprising how hard it can be to find useful, reliable and up-to-date information about anything from “is your favorite restaurant still in business” to “how’s the snorkeling this month?”.

A Morning Glimpse of Mauna Loa Behind Kilauea Iki Crater: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

A Morning Glimpse of Mauna Loa Behind Kilauea Iki Crater: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Road names are in the unfamiliar Hawaiian language; friendly locals give helpful directions, but in rapid-fire pigeon English using landmarks unfamiliar to the visitor and many guidebooks are either woefully out of date or flat wrong. The first time visitor to Hawaii may be overwhelmed when bombarded by advertising disguised as visitor information, overzealous salespeople from rapacious time-share resorts and racks and racks of of advertising for tours, attractions and restaurants.

Looking Down From the Rim of Kilauea Iki Crater as Hikers Cross the Floor of the Lava Lake: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Looking Down From the Rim of Kilauea Iki Crater as Hikers Cross the Floor of the Lava Lake: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Even the experienced Hawaii traveler may find it difficult to ferret out the information he needs to find a unique, secluded or unusual experience in Paradise.  Finding current, reliable information on hikes on the Big Island can be equally frustrating.

Misty View of Kilauea Iki Crater and Rainbow: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Misty View of Kilauea Iki Crater and Rainbow: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Clearly, the visitor to Hawaii can use some help finding special places in general and information about, and help getting to, the best hikes on Hawaii Island.

To help you find the more secluded, wild and exotic destinations in particular, and to help you get more out of your Hawaii vacation in general, Tour Guide Hawaii has released a brand new iPhone/iPod Touch App.  This “must have” travel app is packed with hours of informative video on the most interesting places on Hawaii; helps navigate you to all the most popular visitor destinations, the most interesting attractions, the most romantic and secluded beaches; helps you effortlessly find hikes, snorkel spots, historical and cultural landmarks, shopping and dining. And of course, our new App includes directions to, and rating of, all the public restrooms! Learn all about the App, here.

The Jumbled floor of Kilauea Iki Crater Lava Lake: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The Jumbled floor of Kilauea Iki Crater Lava Lake: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

But first, let’s talk about what is arguably the finest short hike on the Island of Hawaii.

Kilauea Iki Crater Trail

Frank Burgess Along the Kilauea Iki Trail: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Frank Burgess Along the Kilauea Iki Trail: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Perhaps the finest short day hike in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park—and one of Hawaii Island’s best hikes, this four-mile, 2-3 hour trip climbs down into, across and back out of Kilauea Iki Crater. Crossing the crater floor on this surface provides one of the most interesting hikes in the Park. Looking up from the bottom of the crater, one can see the distinctive “ring around the crater” marking the high point of the lava lake during the last eruption. The four mile loop-hike descends from the rim in two places and crosses the crater floor in about three hours hiking at a nominal pace, giving one an intimate feel for volcanoes, Hawaiian-Style.

Along the Kilauea Iki Crater Rim Trail: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Along the Kilauea Iki Crater Rim Trail: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Along one side, thick fern and ohi’a forest skirts along the rim and on the other, lush tropical rainforest crowds to the very brink of the crater; bleak volcanic desert lines the crater walls and covers the floor. The start and finish of the hike are along well marked, wide trails following the rim with handrails and stairs in some spots as you begin to descend into the crater. The remainder is an easily followed, well marked trail with stone ahu (cairns) over the crater floor.

Pu'u Pua'i From Kilauea Iki Crater Rim Trail: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Pu'u Pua'i From Kilauea Iki Crater Rim Trail: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The hiker should keep their eyes open for Pele’s Hair and Pele’s Tears (fine, thread-like and bead-like deposits of volcanic glass), gaseous vents and other marvels of the living lava mountain. Bore-hole measurements taken in 1988 indicated that roiling molten lava was lying only 230 feet beneath the skin of the caldera at that time; today it is unknown what amount of liquid may be left, but the temperature just a couple hundred feet beneath your hiking boots is in excess of 1000 degrees.

On this hike you should take plenty of water, light rain gear, suncream, a map and compass. In addition, you should wear sturdy hiking shoes or boots and be in fairly good physical condition. As always when hiking in the Park, it is wise to avoid the noonday sun, and to remember that afternoon showers are common, especially along the crater rims. Remember that the start and finish of this hike are at an elevation of over 4000 feet…take it easy and enjoy the incredible views.

Looking Straight Across Kilauea Iki Crater: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Looking Straight Across Kilauea Iki Crater: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

A video about this hike is available here.

Looking Out of the Forest Across Kilauea Iki Crater: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Looking Out of the Forest Across Kilauea Iki Crater: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

For more information on traveling to Hawaii in general, hiking the Big Island in particular, or about our new iPhone/iPod Touch App, please also visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com. For information about the author, please go here.

All media copyright 2009 by Donald B. MacGowan.  All rights reserved.

Kilaue Iki Crater and Trail from Pu'u Pua'i Overlook: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Kilauea Iki Crater and Trail from Pu'u Pua'i Overlook: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

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3 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. [...] Perhaps the finest short day hike in the park, a four-mile, 2-3 hour trip down into, across and back out of Kilauea Iki Crater gives one an intimate feel for volcanoes, Hawaiian-Style. Along one side, thick fern and ohi’a forest skirts along the rim and on the other, lush tropical rainforest crowds to the very brink of the crater; bleak volcanic desert lines the crater walls and covers the floor. The start and finish of the hike are along well marked, wide trails. The remainder is an easily followed, well marked trail with stone ahu (cairns) over the crater floor. As always when hiking in the Park, it is wise to avoid the noonday sun, and to remember that afternoon showers are common, especially near where this hike meets the crater rim. More about hiking the Kilauea Iki Trail can be found here. [...]

  2. [...] on Kilauea Iki, please go here; for information on hiking the Kilauea Iki trail, please go here; for information on the Devastation Trail area adjacent to Pu’u Pua’i, please go [...]

  3. [...] and to lush, tropical dryland forest and savanna. Hikes along Devastation Trail, through Kilauea Iki Crater and out to the caldera overlook at Waldron Ledge give fabulous insight to Kilauea Volcano and are [...]

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