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Frank’s Big Island Travel Hints #11:  Exploring Deeper Into Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Big Island, Hawaii
by Frank Burgess, brought to you by Tour Guide Hawaii

Frank Burgess Filming the Wiley Wild Petroglyphs at Pu'u Loa in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Frank Burgess Filming the Wiley Wild Petroglyphs at Pu'u Loa in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Tour Guide Hawaii is proud to announce the release of their new iPhone and iPod Touch App available at iTunes…this App will help you plan your trip to Hawaii, help you decide what you want to see, how you want to see it and help you get there with GPS, interactive maps and on-board driving instructions.  The Tour Guide App presents hours of interesting videos and information about places of historical, cultural and recreational interest, giving you a sense of the people, the natural history and the unique specialness of each destination.  The information is so comprehensive and complete they even tell you where all the public restrooms are!  What else will Tour Guide help you find?  Let’s look at a trip around the upper Crater Rim Road in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park…Tour Guide will not only help you find many amazing sights along the way, it will tell you all about them, what to take and what to expect.

Today’s hints cover the area along the very top of Crater Rim Drive in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Driving through The Park  there several fantastic places to stop and explore, but there is also a lot of lovely, open countryside for several miles, so enjoy the panoramic views. Your Tour Guide download from iTunes will give you more detailed information about this area.

As you continue around the Crater Rim Drive, at Volcanoes National Park, there are dozens of great sights. A more recent crater, erupting with fire curtains in 1974, is Keanakako’i Crater. The pebbles around the rim were formed by froth from the lava as it was blasted into the air and cooled as they fell to the ground. This crater is a bit off-the-beaten-path, but Tour Guide shows the way.

Right along the Crater Rim Drive is the Devastation Trail (video here) formed by Kilauea Iki. When the Pu’u Pai vent erupted in 1959 it spewed pumice cinder and scalding ash burying the rainforest some ten feet deep. This caused the forested area to die leaving a barren wasteland where little has grown since. Tour Guide will take you on the three quarter mile paved hike, along the edge of this moonscaped region, and give more historical information as well.

At the end of the Devastation Trail is the Pu’u Pai overlook. This spot affords a view of Pu’u Pai (gushing hill) and Kilauea Iki (little Kilauea) (video here and here) and skirts the edge of the desert and rainforest as if some drew a line separating the two. Tour Guide gives the fascinating stories of 1900 foot lava fountains during this episode.

Super Tip: Bring plenty of water. I can’t stress this enough. There are few facilities available on the drives and hikes around the park, so make sure you stock up before leaving the Visitor’s Center. Besides, good hydration will keep you energized for all your fun activities. To your health.

On the east side of Crater Rim Drive is a delightful stop not to be missed, Thurston Lava Tube (video here). Tour Guide will tell you how lava tubes are formed when magma flows underground. It eventually empties leaving cave-like formations. Most lava tubes are very small; however Thurston Lava Tube is quite large. The National Park Service has paved a pathway through the tube, and installed lighting, to make this a 300 yard spelunking adventure for everyone to enjoy. The cave circles so that the entrance and exit end at the parking area. The giant ferns here invited the songs of exotic birds, many of which are found nowhere else in the world. This is one of the few locations where restrooms are available.

One of the best hiking and biking routes is the Escape Road (video here). Built for just what its name implies an alternate road for when the lava will inevitably cut the Chain of Crater Road, it makes a lovely down hill walk or bike ride. Tour Guide will show where to start at the Thurston Lava Tube parking area and end at the Mauna Ulu parking lot. This road meanders through some of the most cool and pristine rainforest to be found.

At the other end of the Escape Road is Mauna Ulu (video here), also accessible from Chain of Craters Road. This spot was formed by numerous eruptions between 1969 and 1974. A few yards down the road, you see the different types of lava formations left from these flows. Tour Guide will explain these types of lava in great detail. Across the expanse lies Pu’u Huluhulu, or shaggy hill. For those that are ready hike, there is a tree mile round trip hike to the top of Pu’u Huluhulu marked by cairns. From the summit, the views of the lava flows and coastline are indescribable.

To see the new iPhone/iPod Touch App, please visit  The best of Tour Guide Hawaii’s free content about traveling to, and exploring, the Big island, can be found here.  For more information on traveling to Hawaii in general and on touring the Big Island in particular, please also visit and

Copyright 2009
by Frank Burgess; photography copyright 2009 by Donald B. MacGowan. All rights reserved.


  1. Great info, Thank You 🙂

  2. Thanks for the informative post, Happy New Year 2010, cheers.

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