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Kilauea volcano's lava continues to flow from the remote cindercone Pu'u 'Oo
toward the sea through a network of lava tubes, sometimes reaching the surface,
much to the delight of visitors, residents and scientists. Meanwhile, the steaming,
glowing summit crater continues to hold observers in awe. Halema'uma'u crater is
the traditional home of Pele, the volcano goddess, who seems so present in the
voluptuous plumes of steam arising like a potent hula.
Rare native flora and fauna fill the sprawling wilderness. Some endemic tree ferns,
mosses, insects and birds are found only in Hawai‘i and others, like hau kuahiwi, a
flowering tree, are found ONLY in the park, and nowhere else on Earth!
Thomas A. Jaggar Museum at Halema'uma'u crater honors the scientist who
developed the early principles and techniques of volcanology. His work lives here
where you can see real-time seismograph readings of our living planet that is still
giving birth. And right outside the museum, the overlook gives visitors an incredible
view of the steaming crater. If you visit after dark, bring a flashlight.
Hiking hounds can spend an hour, a day or a month exploring the park's 150-plus
miles of trails that curve through lush forests, rocky deserts, remote seashores and
even up to the icy 13,677-foot summit of Maunaloa. Trails range from short, easy
strolls to demanding back-country treks.
Recommended: At Nahuku (Thurston) lava tube, bring a good flashlight (and a little
courage) to explore the unlit segment.
The system of kapu (sacred laws) was of utmost importance in Hawaiian culture.
Breaking kapu could mean death - unless the wrong-doer could evade pursuers and
make it to a pu'uhonua, (sacred place of refuge). Once there, a ceremony of
absolution would take place, and the law-breaker would be able to return to society.
Hōnaunau is the only surviving refuge since the kapu system was abolished in 1819.
The Royal Grounds were the sacred site of visiting ali'i (chiefs) by Keone'ele Cove,
the royal canoe landing, the halau (thatched work houses) and royal fishponds. This
sacred place gives visitors a powerful glimpse of early Hawaiian culture.
Recommended: Hike the two-mile round-trip 1871 Trail to Ki'ilae Village, where
inhabitants lived traditionally from the sea until the 1930s.
Heiau (sacred temple) ruins give silent testament to the rich spiritual life that was so
closely aligned with natural forces.
Petroglyphs carved into the lava rock give hard evidence of life long ago with
images of canoes, turtles, family, and symbols of birth.
Fishponds and Fishtraps show how the people here corralled and farmed the sea
without taking more than they needed - and how Hawaiians today still do.
Wildlife that visitors often see includes honu (Hawaiian green sea turtles), native
shore birds and sometimes a Hawaiian monk seal sunning on the shore.
Recommended: Walk the Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail from Kaloko fishpond
to 'Aiopio fishtrap, about two miles of coastal and cultural splendor.
Lava rocks used to build the massive structure are said to have been passed hand-byhand
in a human chain all the way from Pololu Valley, some 25 miles away.
A new Visitor Center features a non-profit bookstore, videos, fascinating exhibits
and a small museum.
Pu'ukohola ("hill of the whale"), is also a scenic spot to look for humpback whales
during winter and spring.
A walking tour of the 86-acre park reveals more historic spots: the ruins of Mailekini
Heiau (built in the 1500s), Hale o Kapuni (a submerged heiau dedicated to the shark
gods) and the homestead of John Young, a British sailor who became a valuable aid
to King Kamehameha the Great.
Recommended: From the shoreline at Pelekane, see if you can spy the blacktip reef
sharks that are often sighted first thing in the morning.
This historic 175-mile trail, which runs through
each of Hawai'i Island's four national parks and through part of the state Na Ala Hele Trail
System, is a "living trail" that remains in use and is cared for today by its descendants.
Connecting, reconnecting and enhancing connections of families and communities with ancient
and historic ties to the trail is necessary for successful community stewardship and authentic
visitor experiences of the trail.
Ancient Hawaiian settlement sites, fishpond remnants and stone fishing shrines are
visible along segments of the trail.
Petroglyphs of iconic canoes, turtles, people and symbols of birth are carved into the
smooth pāhoehoe lava rock.
Natural wonders include anchialine (brackish water) ponds, near-shore reefs
teeming with sealife, dramatic pali (cliffs), native sea turtles, migratory birds and
endangered endemic species of plants and animals.
Recommended: Find the trail at each of the four national parks on the island. It runs
through them all!