AAA Editor Notes
Crater Rim Drive makes an 11-mi. circuit around Kīlauea Caldera within Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park past lava flows, rain forests and craters.
The half-mile, paved Devastation Trail leads through a pumice- and spatter-covered landscape. Thurston Lava Tube was formed when the surface of a lava stream hardened and the molten rock inside flowed away, leaving a tunnel that can be explored for about 500 feet. The parking lot for the 4-mile Kīlauea Iki Trail, one of the park's most popular hikes, is a few minutes' drive southeast of Kīlauea Visitor Center.
Heading west from the visitor center (toward the Thomas A. Jaggar Museum), pull over at the Steam Vents, where rainwater that has seeped into the ground and been heated by hot volcanic rock rises as steam. Across the road, plug your nose for the rotten egg odor of the Sulphur Banks. Along a short, easy boardwalk trail (accessible from either the Steam Vents parking area or the visitor center), volcanic gases spew from the earth amid a landscape painted in colorful sulfur crystals.
Atop 4,078-foot Uwēkahuna Bluff is Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, one of several permanent volcano observatories in the United States; no visitors are allowed inside the observatory.
Note: The western section of Crater Rim Drive (4.7 miles), between the Thomas A. Jaggar Museum and the intersection for Chain of Craters Road, is closed indefinitely because of hazards related to a vent within Halema‘uma‘u Crater that opened in 2008. Visit the Kīlauea Visitor Center to check conditions before starting the drive.