Sunday, May 11, 2014

Hiking inside Kilauea volcano on the big island Hawaii

By: Janine

Since mountain biking down a volcano was so much fun, we decided to keep on the volcano theme and hike into the active volcano Kilauea on the Big Island in Hilo the very next day.

Side Note: I should mention that our Hawaii trip was done via a cruise on Norwegian's Pride of America the week after Thanksgiving 2013, and that is how we were able to visit 4 of the main islands - Oahu, Maui, the Big Island, and Kauai, in 9 days. Now, I know cruise ships get a bad rap due to stereotypes of less than active passengers and all you can eat food, but in this case, it really was the most affordable way to see all the islands in a short period of time. We were able to be active almost every day, squeezing in gym workouts, 2 volcano trips, a snorkeling zodiac boat trip, a helicopter ride, and a surfing lesson into those 9 days. We used the cruise as a means of transportation and were off the ship almost the entire time it was docked at the various islands. Any vacation is what you make of it, right? 

Getting back to the hike...The 4 mile loop hike was billed as moderate to challenging, and was expected to take 2-3 hours. We were with a guide for the hike, and we stopped at various points for photos and for explanations on the flora and fauna that was growing along the trail. The view from the trail looking into the volcano was spectacular! It was covered in dried black lava, and had the feeling like we were about to walk onto the moon. 

Kilauea volcano viewing point
Kilauea volcano overlook
Kilauea volcano in Hilo
It looked like we were about to walk on the moon!
Hiking Kilauea on the big island hawaii
Mid hike
Since the volcano is still active, there were still areas where steam was coming up from the ground. We spent some extra time at the bottom taking more pictures, and looking at some different colored lava rocks. There were even some plants growing out of the lava! Crazy! After everyone was satisfied with our pictures, we began climbing back up the trail on the other side and out of the volcano. This was the part that we had thought would be challenging, but the trail wasn't as steep as expected and I honestly wondered where this hike got its challenging rating from as we were out in no time! (Maybe it's all the running we have been doing that made it seem easy, haha)

Kilauea volcano steam vent
One of the steam vents inside the volcano
Kilauea lava rock
One of the more colorful lava rocks
plants inside Kilauea volcano
Plant growing in the middle of the volcano, no big deal...
The tour also included a 20 minute stop at Akaka falls after the hike. There was a paved trail surrounding the falls with more stairs than most people on the tour cared to climb after our hike. But, since we’re nuts, after we snapped a few pictures from the best viewing point, we decided to jog the rest of the trail, including all the stairs! We got back to the parking area way before the rest of the crowd, and the guide asked us if we had ran the trail, which led to a good conversation about local Hawaiian races and how the next time we make it back to Hawaii we need to make it a point to sign up for one. Destination races - yes please!

akaka falls big island hawaii
Akaka falls
If you should find yourself in Hawaii on the big island, I highly recommend doing the active tour that takes you inside the volcano. There were many non-active versions of this tour available where a big Greyhound size bus drives about 50 tourists right up to the crater rim and gives you about 10 minutes to fight your way through a massive crowd to take a picture of the view, before leaving, never experiencing the lava formations at the bottom. Don't do this! You haven't experienced Kilauea unless you go that extra distance and hike inside!

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