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Explore Areas Far From the Crowds at Kīlauea Summit

July 6, 2019, 6:30 AM HST (Updated July 5, 2019, 11:20 AM)
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Avoid the traffic backup at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. PC: Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park

Summer visitation at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park is increasing, but the number of parking places at popular areas along Kīlauea Volcano’s summit are not, leading to frustration and citations for illegal parking.

Tuesdays are particularly congested at the summit, when passengers from the Pride of America cruise ship drive up from Hilo to explore attractions like Wāhinekapu (Steaming Bluff), Steam Vents, Ha‘akulamanu (Sulphur Banks), Devastation Trail, Kīlauea Iki, Pu‘u Pua‘i and Kīlauea Visitor Center.

Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park entrance. PC: HVNP

“Parking is a mess on Tuesdays, but it’s a challenge any day during the busy summer months,” said Chief of Interpretation Ben Hayes. “On Tuesdays, expect to find zero parking at the summit destinations between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. It’s not unusual for traffic to be backed out onto Highway 11 from the entrance station,” Hayes said.

A new page on the park’s website shows the parking status at popular locations throughout the day.

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The good news? Almost all of the sights along Chain of Craters Road usually have ample parking around the clock.

Mauna Ulu Fissure eruption cave. PC: Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park

Park rangers offer these tips so all visitors have a positive and memorable time in the park:

“Turn Left Tuesday.” Get into the left lane, and turn left at the entrance station to head down the 19-mile Chain of Craters Road towards the park’s dramatic lava-covered coast to avoid the crowds. Stop at the crater pullouts along the way, explore Mauna Ulu fissure eruption and Pu‘u Loa Petroglyphs, and enjoy scenic overlooks and the Hōlei Sea Arch.

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Planning to hike Kīlauea Iki Trail? This four-mile trek is one of the most scenic and popular trails in the park. Plan to hit the trail by 7 a.m., and be out by 10 a.m.

Hōlei Sea Arch at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. PC: HVNP

Mauna Loa Road is well worth exploring during peak hours, especially in good weather. Kīpukapuaulu offers an easy, forested hike, and the views and birding are excellent along the way to the Mauna Loa Overlook at 6,662 feet.

Visit Kahuku. Kahuku is free, never crowded, and is open to the public Wednesday through Sunday. Located on the mauka (inland) side of Highway 11 near mile marker 70.5 in Ka‘ū.

Sunrise at the end of Chain of Craters Road. PC Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park

Timing is Everything. Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park is open 24 hours, 365 days a year (except for Kahuku). Explore the summit attractions well before 10 a.m. or after 3 p.m.

“We want our visitors to leave with smiles, photos and memories that will last a lifetime, not a parking ticket or a negative experience. All it takes is a little planning and flexibility.” Hayes said.

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