Touring the Big Island volcano area
By Bobbie Green
Walking through the Thurston lava tube near the Volcanoes National Park in Hawaii is very different than walking thru our local lava tubes in Utah. The tube is more like a cave with interesting formations. It is huge and accommodating to claustrophobic people like me. Visitors must walk across a bridge to gain entrance to the Tube. Going through the lava tube set the stage for our visit to Volcanoes National Park. The ground in the tube/cave is very uneven; people with impaired walking may not want to go in the tube.
We then traveled the short distance to the Volcanoes National Park. Established in 1916, they are celebrating their 100th anniversary. It is hard to believe the hot steam from the boiling lava continues spouting all these years. The park is located about 30 miles from Hilo. Visitors can bike the rim, drive or take a hike across the crater. There are 150 miles of hiking trails along with guided hikes with park rangers. The park is a refuge for much wildlife and protected Hawaiian plants.
There is plenty to see at the park visitor’s center, including the Jaggar Museum located on Crater Rim Drive. Visitors can see the Halema`uma` Crater, a crater within a crater and the Sulphur banks from the Museum overlook. The view of the landscape is nothing short of dramatic. Visitors can get up close to the steam and feel its heat. The Jaggar Museum provides visitors with knowledge of the workings of a volcano and a timeline for the ones in the park along with phenomenal pictures. Kilauea and Mauna Loa are the world’s two most active volcanoes. While standing there watching all the steam coming from the ground around me, I wondered if it was safe enough for us to even be here.
We are enjoying this alterative small group tour booked through www.cruisingexcursions.com. Our Native tour guide brought his ukulele and serenaded us with a Hawaiian song, beautifully sung, at each stop. Since we were a small group 13 people, our guide took us to a local eatery for lunch. He told us to save room for desert, the best ice cream we will ever eat. Our group consensus, agreed with him. We sat outside gazing at the pretty landscape around us as we ate.
A stop at the Akatsuka Orchid Nursery gave us a pleasurable look at the many species of orchid plants grown in Hawaii.
Rainbow Falls is a popular scenic tourist stop located in a tropical rainforest. Tourist can see the falls directly from the bridges, or climb up a set of uneven rock steps and view the top of the 80 foot falls. The beautiful surroundings of the rain forest and the mango trees make you want to stay there longer. I must add getting serenaded there by our guide was really special.
Best time to see the rainbow is in the morning. Behind the falls is a cave said to be the home of HIna an ancient Hawaiian Goddess. Those so inclined can make the trek down to the cave; the path is wet and slippery. Wear suitable shoes.