Only people that have visited Hawaii previously would know about the gem inside Hawaii's heart, Volcano Village. As soon as we booked our trip to Hawaii, we started off by researching the islands, where to stay and how to best experience all that this stunning archipelago has to offer.
We must admit, we had no idea about Volcano Village's secrets and all the dramatic climates and romantic aura this place actually has to offer. We knew there is volcano and it has always bee
n a life
time goal to see and hear crackling lava flowing from our earth. Being huge fans of the song "Lava" certainly set the tone for us, so we got to planning our two night stay at Volcano Village Estates.
Read along as we shine some light on your path to Volcano, Hawaii, and its unmatched beauty. Let's get right into it!
The photo below is taken on my humble iPhone of the sky in the Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. Just imagine where your mind can wander as your eyes gaze into this unobstructed view from our galaxy in person. Leaving New York City's light pollution to this was pure bliss. We highly suggest downloading SkyView from the app store as the reception can be quite unpredictable on the Volcano, which we found was a blessing in disguise!
The Big Island of Hawaii developed some years ages (30 million years ago to be precise) from five main volcanoes: Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, Hualalai, Kohala and Kilauea. Some are bunched together and some of are standalone.
When we visited in Feb 2022, it was just our luck that Kilauea happened to be erupting! For the past 200 years, Mauna Loa and Kilauea have tended to erupt on average every two or three years, placing them among the most frequently active volcanoes of the world. We highly suggest planning your trip during an active eruption. Given nature, well being 'natural', it is never known 'where' or 'when' the eruption points will take place so keeping up to date with Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park is key with timing your visit if your ultimate goal is to see lava flow. The point of entrance of the Volcano National Park, from the volcano Village, side is just a few minute drive from Volcano Village Estates.
We do highly suggest hiring a car if you are visiting this area. Despite many fabulous hiking trails, a car is key to get around this massive national park. It is also a wonderful form of shelter whilst making your way around the area which consists of many climate zones! Following Köppen climate classification scheme Hawaii has 4 out of the 5 major climate zones in the world and 8 out of 13 of the sub-zones.
As always, our priority for trip planning and general life is to MAXIMIZE TIME! In order to do so, we decided to stay somewhere quite and quaint while close to the National Park and decided to go with Volcano village Estate. Not only is this please absolutely tranquil and picture perfect, it's only a few minutes drive to the National Park and all that Volcano has to offer! We had the pleasure of staying at the Pineapple Oahana bungalow, a beautifully designed split floor gem in the heart of the tropical garden.
Stepping in, you will find everything could imagine and beyond. The tropical bungalow's highlights include a fireplace (which certainly comes in handy during the cool evenings which drop below 52°F), a bathtub overlooking the private lush garden on the Estate and breakfast ready for the next day! Shortly after settling in, our lovely host dropped by to take down our good preference for the next day's picnic lunch. We did not know how important and thoughtful this was until the time came next day... no spoilers! You have to tag along with the journey!
Our first night was magical, we made a reservation at the Rim Restaurant and then stopped by Volcanoes National Park visitor Centre to get the most up-to-date information on what is happening in the park and which viewing points are open for checking out the lava flow.
For entering the Volcanoes National Park (and the Rim Restaurant which lies within the park) there is an entrance fee. The fee for one vehicle to visit one time is $30 and a Tri Park annual pass is $55(costs from Feb 2022). We do suggest that if you are visiting any other Hawaiian National Parks (e.g. Maui's Road to Hana) or planning to come back to the national park multiple times through your stay, just save yourself some hustle and cash here. Fun fact, we ended up entering and exiting the Volcanoes National Park 8 times over the course of 3 days and 2 nights spent there!
Our first night's encounter with Mama Volcano, Miss Kilauea, was surreal. The vibrant red glow could be seen from kilometers away.
The view point we checked out was Keanakako'i Overlook. Be aware that there is a bit of a walk on a paved road (roughly 2m each way) in the dark from the parking area to the view point. We highly suggest to bring;
comfy walking shoes
long exposure camera (iPhone does have this feature!)
some warmer gear if you tend to be on the colder side like us - long pants, jumpers and jackets are recommended!
binoculars are a must!
When you finally complete your 2km walk down to the view point, the majestic flow is awaiting your gasp... A common courtesy at the view point is to keep your talking to a minimum, turn off flash lights and avoid flash photography. Please be mindful of how spiritual this phenomena is to some and respect the space as if it were a library - respect and silence! There will be a fair share of high exposure professional photographers there and the bright lights will ruin their perfect shot.
We highly suggest bringing a set of binocular to witness every bit of lava oozing, bubbling and flowing out of our very own Earth. My oh my ... Isn't she lovely? Isn't she wonderful? Isn't she precious?
After an unforgettable night of stargazing and volcano admiring, we woke up in paradise with countless Mynah birds chirping and reminding us that we are living a dream!
We started our morning with local Volcano fresh ground coffee, seasonal fruits and an omelette served with extra care. We also got our picnic lunch delivered right at 9am.
After kicking off the day with an exquisite breakfast on Pineapple Oahana's porch and our tummies full we were ready for an eventful day, so we packed up the car and were on our way to Volcanoes National Park.
1st stop: Hōlei Sea Arch
As we mentioned earlier, Hawaii has 4 out of the 5 major climate zones, and being on a volcano you literally get to experience all of them, just hours apart. When you're driving on Chain of Craters Road, take it all in. The constant change in weather conditions is something quite unique! We joked at the end of the day that one day on the volcano felt like a week because you truly to feel like your spending time in different places through the drastic climate shifts.
It is good to take note that you'll be driving 1,150 meters (3,750 feet) up and down Mama Volcano, Miss Kilauea. So for those who enjoy scuba diving as much as we do, keep the elevation in mind! In the span of minutes as you drive down the volcano, expect to be rained on (and we mean torrential downpour), blazed by the sun (don't forget your sunscreen), then rained on again, then possibly hit with a mystical fog/haze, until you finally hit the sunny bottom. Now you're in Hawaii, so get your shades, caps and sunscreen out!
There are many scenic view points and pit stops on the way to the arches! Depending on how much time and energy you have, you can allocate your time accordingly, but this is definitely a whole day full of excitement and that is where that packed picnic lunch comes handy. We highlighted our favorite stops for you to check ou! The park is only you, volcanic rock and NĒNĒ so don't keep your hopes up for a little snack stop or re-fuel. This is a truly off-the-grid kind of adventure so be prepared.
Here is a checklist of what to bring on this adventure:
water - lots of water
change of socks/shoes in case in rains!
change of clothes as appropriate for cold and warm weather, we promise you will see and feel all the different temperatures
sunglasses (aka sunnies for the 'mates' our there)
full tank of gas!
2nd stop: Pu'u Loa Petroglyphs
This is an rheological site with 23,000 petroglyph images in hardened lava, reached via a short, rugged hike. be mindful of the temperature while visiting the site as it can get quite hot, take some water with you if it's sunny.
The entire path is covered with the most amazing formations of hardened lava and volcanic rock stacking. There is a lot of mixed information and reviews on the origin of rock stacking, so I'm just going to stick with the information about its existence on Pu‘u Loa Petroglyphs.
Petroglyphs are often enigmatic and mysterious and are not easy for historians to understand. but it is said that these signs used to be in forms of tattoos and markings as well. Many believed some of them were personal signs or signatures.
Driving along another 15 minutes, you'd see the end of the road and a parking area. Congratulations, you are officially at the Hōlei Sea Arch. Described as Windswept, 90-foot arched rock formation in a volcanic cliff, this sight has some unique sea views.
Sea arches are remanent of once-continues sea cliff, however the moment lava cools, they start to erode. The power of wind and water pound make them into caves and then later sea arches. Given enough time, the eroding factors make sea stack, out of the arches. So behold, what you see here might not exist next time you visit! After this stop, we started our drive back to the top of the Volcano! We were hoping to set up a proper picnic with the view of the lava cooled on the way to the sea (scroll up to nene - yes, that is the once flown lava!). However the weather had other plans for us and we ended up with the picnic in our car. And Maggie here is demonstrating how good those sandwiches were!
We checked out a few other viewing point, craters and caves on our way back up and we ended up on the Volcano Winery .
Known as the southern most winery in the US, this place was on top of my list to check out!
We did the wine tasting, they have 6 wines and meads and the tasting price is $20. If you are a sweet wine lover, you'd like their selection. They don't serve food here though, so if you are looking for that traditional winery experience, look elsewhere.
After a quick change of clothes, we went back to our favorite spot, the flowing lava and starry night.
This time, there was not much glow, which showed off the many little lanterns in the sky. But we did witness more flow in a few different spots. So we noticed, every-time you go, you see something significantly different! How cool is that!
Finally comes our last day here in the magical tropics. We checked out at around 9 am and went to see the lava one last time and say goodbye.
This was a truly magical experience and I have to say, our favorite one after 2 weeks of traveling in Hawaii. The uniqueness of the space, the constant wonders and most importantly, the hospitality of everyone at Volcano Village Estate made this stay beyond expectations.