Where We Be
This is as close as you can get to Halemaumau Crater at Volcanoes National Park.
Lava bubbles a thousand feet below but isn't visible from here (more's the pity).
Big Island -- Hilo & Volcanoes Nat'l Park
Our final stop on this busy day was at the impressive statue of King Kamehameha (we happened upon this one just by chance)
Today I set foot on Hawaii for the first time. And
not just any Hawaiian island but the Big Island --
bigger than all the other Hawaiian islands
combined. Our cruise ship visits both sides of
the Big Island -- Hilo on the eastern side today
then Kona on the western side tomorrow.

The Big Island is the most volcanically active  
of the six major islands in the chain so this is
definitely the place to explore your inner
volcano geek. A visit to Volcanoes National
Park is just the ticket. You might get lucky and
see active lava flows, but at the least you'll see
steaming vents and gaping volcanic craters
and learn how the Hawaiian islands were (and
continue to be) formed. The park is 30 miles
southwest of Hilo. We rented a car and made
the easy drive ourselves, saving a bundle over
shore excursion prices. The highlight of our
visit was getting steamed by the Steam Vents
and seeing the active Halemaumau Crater
(shown at left). The crater is over 1,000 feet
deep -- too deep to see the lava bubbling at
the bottom but it's there. A helicopter ride
would allow you to see it, of course, but we're
saving our helicopter splurge for Kauai.

As our cruise ship rounded the Big Island that
night we stood on deck to see if we could see
any lava flows from Kilauea Crater. We could
indeed see a red glow on the horizon but were
too far away to see much else. Conditions at
the park change constantly so you may be
luckier and witness lava flows on your visit.
We liked these huge "Jurassic Park" leaves at the entrance to Rainbow Falls
Back in Hilo we visited Banyan Drive, where we stopped near the banyan tree planted in honor of Babe Ruth (in front of the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel)
On our way back to Hilo we stopped at the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Factory (8 miles southeast of Hilo). At the visitor center you can taste free
samples of different varieties of macadamia nut. My favorite was the milk chocolate toffee. As you can see we bought a few containers to tide us over!
Robin holds up a macadamia nut in its natural state. Those are macadamia orchards just behind her, stretching for more than three miles.
We survived the lava tube and are all smiles as we enjoy the rainforest and birdsong just outside
These unnamed steam vents make it appear as if the whole forest is about to go up in flames
This true-color satellite image of the Hawaiian Islands shows the names
of the four biggest (Molokai and Lanai are just to the west of Maui)
Depiction at the visitor center of what early Polynesian settlers might have seen (I think I'd turn the boat around about now!)
Here's your volcano lesson for the day: Note how the "Hot Spot Plume" stays relatively stationary as the techtonic plate moves above it,
thus forming each Hawaiian island in turn. As you can see, Kauai is the oldest and the Big Island the newest of the major Hawaiian islands.
Another fun adventure at Volcanoes National Park is entering Thurston Lava Tube (that scary black hole behind us)
This massive 500-year-old lava tube formed when molten lava hardened first on the outer edges. The lava kept flowing within and eventually emptied out.
From the Hilo Hawaiian Hotel Robin and I walked to nearby Coconut Island for a view looking back at Hilo
Lots of Hawaiian families were spending the day swimming and relaxing in this pretty island oasis
We also visited Rainbow Falls but were underwhelmed by its meager supply of water in late October
Next we visited the Naha Stone in front of Hilo Public Library. Legend has it King Kamehameha as a boy of 14 lifted this 2½ ton
stone as a test of royal strength and as proof of his right to conquer and unite the islands. It's not quite happening for me!
This seismograph shows strong seismic activity at Halemaumau Crater
Halemaumau Crater is a half-mile wide and is particularly active at present. It sits inside the much larger Kilauea Caldera.
The Steam Vents are a fun stop on your tour of Volcanoes National Park. They smell like sulphur and are quite warm -- I only lasted a few seconds!
Robin and my mom take their turn getting steamed
This map of the Big Island shows the towns of Hilo to the east and Kona
to the west, with Volcanoes National Park 30 miles southwest of Hilo
Cool depiction of volcano goddess Pele with her lava-flow hair (visitor center)
How it's "supposed" to look [Not my photo]