The next leg of our trip takes us out of Hilo and down to Volcano Village to explore Kilauea.
We all got up super early to catch the sunrise at Liliuokalani Gardens and Coconut Island Park. It was really beautiful. This area (and Volcano Village) are more tropical than the west side of the island which meant for more clouds and occasional rain, but this made for a beautiful sunrise complete with rainbow.
Since it was super early, we decided to stop in at Ken’s House of Pancakes for some of their famous mac nut pancakes. It was fun seeing the breakfast usuals, who I’m sure come to Ken’s every Tuesday at 7a to meet their buddies. Old people are awesome like that.
After a yummy breakfast and a quick nap at the hotel, we packed up and hit the road. We made one stop into Bear’s Coffee before we said goodbye to Hilo. The owner was a hilarious man who actually used to own Akbar in LA. I’ve attended Craft Night at Akbar in the past and was facinated to hear what he had to say. He sold it to the now owners of Akbar and eventually moved to Hilo to open Bear’s Coffee. Such a character, he was.
After chatting and caffeinating, we left town to head south west (45 min drive) to Volcano Village. This was our day to spend in Volcano National Park so we went straight in to their visitors center. It was here where we learned what was worth doing for our one day in the park. The volcano also changes frequently because it is active, so for example, the road leading around the southern side of the volcano was completely closed down due to poisonous gasses. If you are visiting the park, start here because they will plan your day for you.
We followed the rangers instruction and then moved to the most west spot open to the public, the Jaggar Museum, which is full of information about the history of the volcano. It is also the best lookout point for the active caldera.
We then headed east stopping at each of the sights. Here was saw the steam vents and sulfur banks.
We did a hike around devastation trail and a few others that were short (around a mile long) before we had to take a break for lunch. There were no places to get food within the park, so we followed the rangers suggestion and went into Volcano Village (the closest town) for a bite to eat at Volcano Garden Arts’ Cafe Ono. This all vegetarian place looked like a home that was converted to an art shop and cafe. The food was so delicious and the price included soup and a salad. We all really enjoyed the meal and indulged in a brownie with homemade ice cream.
Did I mention they have a goat named Ernest? We played with him after lunch.
We drove back into the park to have more volcano fun. We went to the Thurston Lava Tube, which is now hollowed out, but used to be filled with lava. I’m glad I packed my headlamp. You know me, always be prepared!
Across from the entrance to the lava tube is the start of a 4 mile hiking loop that takes you through the volcano crater. So cool. Do this hike. It’s not too challenging, but wear closed toed shoes. This is the closest I will ever be to walking on the moon (which is what this hike feels like). There are even still steam pockets along the hike. It makes you feel like if you took one wrong turn you could fall through. A little scary, but what an awesome experience. If you only have time to do one thing in the park, make it this.
We continued to the end of Chain of Craters Rd. The road ends where lava actually took out the road back in 2003. It wasn’t even that long ago. The road even looks newly paved, with solid lava seeping out into it. I love the shot of the “road closed” sign. This was a windy ride with steep drops, but it was worth it. This is also where the lava meets the ocean, so it’s a very different sight than the rest of the park.
At this point the sun was setting and we wanted to see the volcano at night (from the Jaggar Museum lookout) so we had to drive the hour back north to the first place we started. It was worth the drive to see this clearly active volcano glowing. The moon and venus were also out. It was a beautiful night.
Once we had our fill of photo taking, it was 8:15p and we needed dinner. Most everything closes early in Hawaii, so we raced into town to get to the only dinner restaurant we knew of, Kiawe Kitchen. We got there just as they put out their closed sign (they closed at 8:30p) but still let us sit and eat. Thank goodness because there weren’t many options to go anywhere else. The meal was fabulous. We split asparagus, pizza, and a veggie pasta dish. The three of us were stuffed and so impressed with the food we had in Volcano Village. Coincidentally our hotel was right next door.
We had a great stay at Aloha Junction B+B in Volcano Village. We were so nervous about booking it because it had lots of availability and was significantly cheaper than all the other options. Suspiciously cheaper. But we wanted to save money and figured it was one night, how bad could it be? It was awesome. Why it was so cheap? I have no clue. The room was adorable and full of amenities. Since it was a B+B, it was a large home with additions put on to it. We had a room in the back with a large deck around it. Such a cute place, and then the next morning the owner had made us a giant feast! He made mac nut pancakes with fruit picked from the garden. Each of our plates had a fresh papaya with more fruit. He provided bacon for the meat eaters and tons of juices and coffees. We were spoiled rotten. This was also one of our top meals of the trip. I normally don’t love pancakes and I had three they were so good! If you stay in Volcano Village, spend the night here. You will be so glad you did.