Volcanoes National Park, 30 miles south of Hilo, is the location of two of the world’s most active volcanoes, Kilauea and Maunalua. This approximately 300,000 acre park, features a diverse environment of terrain– from dense rain forest to dry, arid desert dotted with strange flora that is uniquely distinctive to this natural habit. It has been classified as both, a “Biosphere Site” and “World Heritage Site” by UNESCO.
We started with a quick trip though the 500 year-old Thurston Lava Tube, walking down a narrow wooden bridge into a dimly lit tunnel of hardened lava, then exiting out into a dense, moist rainforest of ohia and colossal and fantastic Hapu’u ferns which I had never seen before.
Later we went to the area surrounding the Kilauea Caldera, the home of the volcano Goddess Pele who lives on the site. She “governs the flows of lava” and is the “goddess of fire, lightning, dance, volcanoes and violence” (1) and figures prominently in Hawaiin mythology. I really admired the enchanting murals narrating the history of the Islands and the goddess Pele on view at the Kilauea Overlook center.
Plumes of steam wafted up from the wide, increasingly large crater which contents glow at night. The most recent eruption was in March of 2008 and since then periodic lava flows have streamed down Kilauea’s southeastern shore, covering acres of land with slag and destroying many structures and roads in its path.
After walking among the peculiar landscape taking pictures and amusing ourselves in the chilly wind, we raced off—making it to Big Island Candies just before they closed! This heavenly fragrant chocolate factory creates thousands of delicacies in countless varieties: chocolate macadamia nut cookies, brownies, chocolates made with locally grown macadamia nuts, Hawaiian Ginger, guava and Kona coffee. Everything comes wrapped in cheerfully colored boxes. Each and everyone of us left with huge bags filled with gifts that would soon be ravished by friends and family back home.