National Parks,  Travel

Photographing Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park

Hawaiian Volcanoes National Park on the southern part of the Big Island of Hawaii houses an active volcano. The Kilauea Caldera can be seen smoking and fiery lava can be seen at night.  The Hawaiians call this smoke vog vs. fog.

Kilauea Caldera, Volcanos National Park

Kilauea Caldera, Volcanos National Park

There were no active lava flowing in to the sea when we visited Volcanoes National Park.

We were staying in Kaiula-Kona which is a 2 hour and 20 minute drive from Volcanoes National Park.  It’s much closer to Hilo, only about an 40 minute drive.  If I had it to do over, I would spend a night in the park and photograph the volcano at night from the Jagger Museum

The entrance fee for Volcanos National Park was a nominal $15 per car which is good for 7 days.

Ohia Lehua Flower, Volcanos National park

Ohia Lehua Flower

What to Photograph at Hawaiian Volcanos National Park

Below are the few photography highlights of the park.

Steam Vents

Several areas with steam rising and a view of the steaming Kilauea Caldera.  There are compositions of the smoking Kilauea Caldera but the better shots are from the Jagger Museum overlook.  This area is also good for macro photography with wild orchids and Ohia Lehua Flowers.

Jagger Museum

The best compositions of the smoking Kilauea Caldera are here.  This is the place to photograph the volcano at night.  On my next trip I will stay in the park and photograph the volcano at night.

Thurston Lava Tube

The Thurston Lava Tube is a 500 year old lava cave.  Not a lot of great photo ops here.  You can get some shots from within the lava tube but you’ll need to use a high ISO.  If you exit out of the far end of the lava tube you can walk back to the parking area through a tropical rain forest.  Get out your macro lens for shots of foliage and flowers.

Waves Crashing in to the Holei Sea Arch, Volcanoes National Park

Waves Crashing in to the Holei Sea Arch

Chain of Craters Road

We drove the 20 mile long Chain of Craters Road. The highlight of the drive was the Holei Sea Arch at the end of the road.   From a tall cliff over the Pacific Ocean you can photograph the Holei Sea Arch with the waves crashing against it.  To the left there are tall cliffs also with crashing waves that make good compositions.

On the way to the sea arch, look for some compositions of the fields of lava.  I like wide angle shots of a mountain of lava rising up to the sky.  There are also a couple nice overlooks along the road.

Bird Photography at Hawaiian Volcanos National Park

Look for the NeNe (Hawaiian Goose) by the Thurston Lava Tube and near the Sea Arch.  There is also a 1 mile long birding trail heading up the road to Mauna Loa.  The Kipukapuaulu bird trail is about 1.5 miles up Mauna Loa Road at a turnaround.  We saw and heard lots of birds including a Kalij pheasant, but no really good shots.  The brush and trees were fairly tight along the trail making it somewhat difficult to get good photos of the birds.

Mauna Loa Road and Trail

Just past the birding trail is a gate.  Drive through the gate and follow the road 10 miles to the Mauna Loa trailhead.  It became cloudy in the afternoon so we decided not to drive the road to Mauna Loa as the view would be obstructed.  On a clear day there are supposed to be beautiful views of Kilauea Caldera and Volcanoes National Park.

We ate lunch at the Volcano House which is the only restaurant in the park. The food was average and a bit pricey.  However, the view of the steaming Kilauea Caldera while eating lunch was stunning.

Written by Martin Belan

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