When the mid-winter blues set in come February, book yourself a ticket to the big island and head to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. Never heard of this island icon? You’re not alone. It was one of the least visited national parks last year. HVNP is equal parts oasis and wasteland, overgrown rainforests and barren desert. It plays host to a staggering number of endemic species and happens to be situated just a quick 80-mile jaunt from Kona (and some of the best beaches on earth).
Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is made up of two active volcanoes. Kīlauea, the smaller sister to Mauna Loa, is an active shield volcano with a hot eruptive history — its name alone means “spewing” or “much spreading” in the Hawaiian language, referring to its frequent outpouring of lava. Spend a day (or several) winding Kīlauea’s spine and you’ll experience seven ecological life zones including seacoast, lowland, mid-
elevation woodland, rain forest, upland forest and woodland, subalpine and aeolian.
Apart from the space-like lava fields, stunning landscapes, and the ability to get up close and personal with liquid magma, HVNP holds its gravity in the nuance. On the mainland, national parks have big, look-at-me wonders — Yosemite has Half Dome, the Grand Canyon has Horseshoe Bend, Grand Teton National Park has the Grand. The overwhelming beauty of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is just underfoot. It’s a humbling thing to stand on weeks-old ground.
Where earth creates earth, you are reminded of your smallness in a way that’s somehow different than pitching a tent in the Rockies or Smokies.
Tips for Travel