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Hilo or Volcano for 2 nights?

Level Contributor
14 posts
4 reviews
Hilo or Volcano for 2 nights?

Staying for 7 nights in Mid-April 2018 with my girlfriend (we are mid-30s and pretty low-key for our age FYI). We are flying into Kona & staying 1-2 nights in Kona then deciding whether to head to Volcano or Hilo for 2 nights - main goal would be to see basics of Volcano national park (dont think im gonna get the lady into the backcountry). With that being said, a few questions (below)....

1) is 1 or 2 days Needed orrequired to see the park..? I saw somebody say that the basic sights of Volcano national park can be done in a single day, however I really do want to see the lava flows at twlight or night so factor that in.

2) does it make sense to stay in Volcano or Hilo (which seems to offer more options)?

3) seems that many tours will offer to pick you up at hotel in Hilo/Kona - if we have to do a tour for nighttime viewing anyways - does it even make sense to pay for a shuttle that would not be leveraged?

4) is Mauna kea summit close by volcano or would that be closer to Kohala coast?

5) also wanna do the waterfalls and scenic drive around northside of island from Hilo to Kohala coast After the days @ Volcano (for whatever that is worth)

really trying to decide if we do 2x nights in Hilo or in Volcano considering the info above & would love any advice or input from the local experts or those with previous experience!!

Thanks everyone!!

Travis

8 replies to this topic
Big Island, Hawaii
Level Contributor
31,164 posts
1. Re: Hilo or Volcano for 2 nights?

Hi. I don’t really understand your question about tours. Are you talking about VNP tours? You don’t need one. You don’t have to have a tour for “nighttime viewing”. You DO need a guide for the lava hike, but that’s different from what I think you’re referring to.

Mauna Kea should be done from the west side. The summit basically requires a tour, and all of the recommended ones leave from the west. I would recommend, especially that time of year, skipping the expensive tour and just going to the ViS during one of their four nights per week that they do the free stargazing program instead of prioritizing the summit.

I wouldn’t stay more than one night in Kailua Kona.

I’m not clear from your question if it’s the lava hike you want to do. It’s the only way to see surface lava flows, you need a guide, and it’s a fairly difficult 5-6 hours right now. If you do you want to do that, hike you’re probably going to want two nights on the east side, although it’s doable with one, it would limit either your time in the Park or make the drive back to the west side less leisurely. So I’d drive to the Park via the southern route early in the morning. Quick stop at Punaluu beach (keep your car in sight) then spend the rest of the day and evening in the Park. Stay in Volcano.

Second day finish up anything you missed the first day, then drive to Kalapana to meet your guide for the lava hike. If you have some time you can get there early and drive the Kalapana Kapoho (“Red Road”) road and check out Pahoa. Spend night back in Volcano (it’s a bit of backtracking to stay the second night in Volcano, but I wouldn’t switch lodgings and this will give you an opportunity to see Halemaumau on two nights in case the weather is poor one night).

Then the next day drive via the Hamakua Coast to the Kohala Coast (I’m assuming that’s where you’re ending). You can stop at Rainbow Falls (keep car in sight), Hilo (bayfront, Queen Liliuokalani gardens), Akaka Falls, the Waipio overlook and Honokaa. During these stops your luggage will be fine secured in your trunk but I would carry valuables like phones, wallets, cameras, with you.

If you don’t intend to do the lava hike, then one night in Volcano is enough.

Volcano actually has more lodging options than Hilo, but mostly vacation rentals.

Level Contributor
14 posts
4 reviews
2. Re: Hilo or Volcano for 2 nights?

Thanks for the detailed response SheaG! I appreciate it :-)

I would think that I would want to see the lava flows unless you suggest that the rest of the park is really the best & that it is often underwhelming compared to peaks and other parts. If so, we could just spend one night in volcano - leave Kona early & make our way to Volcano for half day & full next day to do most of it.

Ive noticed you mention theft from vehicle quite often - is that all over? or mostly in certain areas?

If we decided to stay in Hilo - what would you recommend to do there (besides what you have mentioned above)..??

Thanks again!

Travis

Bellingham...
Level Contributor
5,671 posts
109 reviews
3. Re: Hilo or Volcano for 2 nights?

When you originally asked about this trip, Shea suggested you fly into one side of the island & out the other. She also advised you not to split your west side stay between the Kona and Kohala Coasts. Sounds like you're anyway flying in & out of KOA, and divvying up the nights west...?

I'd stay one night in VNP, two if hiking out to the lava at Kalapana. Btw, when you mention "the peaks" at VNP, it makes me wonder if you have a misconception of what you'll see there.

~ Colleen

Edited: 12 March 2018, 12:30
Bellingham...
Level Contributor
5,671 posts
109 reviews
4. Re: Hilo or Volcano for 2 nights?

Sorry, messed up in editing. I'd stay one night in *Volcano*, two if hiking out to the lava.

~ Colleen

Big Island, Hawaii
Level Contributor
31,164 posts
5. Re: Hilo or Volcano for 2 nights?

Yeah...there aren't any "peaks". It's a shield volcano. You can't even really tell you're on it (other than the obvious). It's not like a typical Hollywood looking conical volcano.

I think VNP is really cool, regardless of the lava situation. But I've also hiked out to the lava flows and those are cool too. As is the glow from Halemaumau. Ideally you'd do both, I don't think it's really a question of one or the other, it seems like you have sufficient time to do both if that's what you want to do.

There's nothing in Hilo I'd recommend beyond what I already have with such a short stay.

Re car breakins/ thefts, I don't think it is a bigger problem here than in any other popular tourist destination. Some places on the island are more prone than others, particularly common tourist spots that don't have security, like Punaluu, and while parked in public lots or side streets and away from your vehicle, which are always clearly identifiable as tourist rental cars, especially now that the agencies helpfully put bar code stickers on them. lol. In VNP it's not an issue. It is at Kalapana. Lower Puna in general has more drug activity and thus more crime.

Princeton, New...
Level Contributor
267 posts
1 review
6. Re: Hilo or Volcano for 2 nights?

When it was said "the glow from Halemaumau", is that an area you can get close to or that you see from a distance? And if it's from a distance, where would you see it?

Oahu, Hawaii
Level Contributor
3,025 posts
175 reviews
7. Re: Hilo or Volcano for 2 nights?

There is a lookout over the crater at Jaggar Museum. It's easy to find.

Big Island, Hawaii
Level Contributor
31,164 posts
8. Re: Hilo or Volcano for 2 nights?

The Jaggar Museum overlook is the closest access, it’s about a mile from the crater I think.

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