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Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Chain of Craters Road

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is one of the great natural wonders, as well the most studied volcanoes, on earth. Few places can the visitor get as many diverse climates, flora, fauna and geologic dreamlands as inside the park’s boundaries.

Continuing down the Chain of Craters Road, there are numerous turnouts with panoramas that stretch the imagination. Tour Guide adds to the excitement with all the information about what is being seen. Take a quick stop at Alanui Kahiko. The words in Hawaiian mean old road. Here you will see portions of the old Chain of Craters Road, some 12 miles worth above and below this lookout, buried under 300 feet of lava by the 1972 eruptions. This spectacle alone is testament to the awesome destructive powers of Madam Pele, the volcano’s Fire Goddess.

A few miles further down the mountain is the Pu’u Loa Petroglyph field. It can be found along the side of the Ka’u-Puna Trail, a trail used by ancient Hawaiians. This is believed to be the largest petroglyph field in Polynesia, containing more that 15,000 carvings. The path to the petroglyphs is marked from the parking lot by cairns. Tour Guide will show you where to park and explain some of the carving’s meanings at this phenomenal spot.

At about the 19 mile marker is the current End of the Road, the location where the lava cut off the road in 1983. A year ago, you could park here and trek across the barren fields to where the lava was entering the ocean. Now, however, the lava has changed course and is sometimes entering from the Puna side of the park. There is still a ranger’s station here and many placards telling about the flows and safety precautions for hiking in the desolate area. Restrooms are available.

Walking down to the ocean at the End of the Road are some beautiful formations, most notably, the Holei Sea Arch. Tour Guide will tell you how arches and stacks are formed when the waves pound against the sea cliffs and chisel into the various lava densities. The cliff around this arch is some ninety feet, so use caution as you photograph this amazing sight.

Looking back up the mountain gives one the perspective of the destruction, yet the immaculate life giving beauty, of the fire goddess Pele who is in constant battle her sister, the ocean. Each takes life, and gives it. We as humans can stand in awe at the majesty and wonder of these two great forces, respecting each on its own terms.

As you travel back up the Chain of Craters Road, don’t forget to stop at some of the vista points and take photos and videos of the landscape, the memories and the people that are like nowhere else on earth, the Island of Hawaii.

For more information on touring Hawaii in general and the Big Island in particular, please also visit and

Copyright 2009 by Frank Burgess; video copyright 2009 by Donald B. MacGowan.

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