ALOHA!

 

So you’re staying on the Kona coast.

And you’re headed to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park!

 

Kona to Hawaii Volcanoes national park drive scenic route. Best things to do along the way scenic drive. Big Island Hawaii travel blog

Kailua Kona to Hawaii Volcanoes national park drive scenic route. Volcano day trip from Kona road trip. or from hilo. from cruise port or from airport. Best things to do along the way scenic drive. Big Island Hawaii travel blog

 

 

So…

Can you do a day trip to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park from Kona?!

Kailua Kona to Hawaii Volcanoes national park drive. Day trip from Kona. from cruise port or from airport. Things to do along the way scenic drive. Big Island Hawaii travel blog

 

The short answer:

If you REALLY want to… yes.

You can get started early, make no stops along the way, take in the national park for a few hours, and then head back to Kona.

It’s really not ideal, but if you’re only on the Big Island once and it’s the time you’re given (or you’re giving yourself), then you can work with it!

More on what to do with just one day in the national park in a bit.

 

 

First…

What’s the drive time from Kona to Hawaii Volcanoes national park?

So this will depend on what part of the Kona coast you’re coming from.

But being in the main Kailua-Kona area, it will probably be best to think that it will take 2.5 hours if you are driving straight from Kona to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. You might be able to drive it in 2 hours. (That’s by going the speed limit.) If you’re staying in the Waikoloa resort area, then it will likely be around 2 hours.

Below focuses on taking the southern coast to drive from Kona. Depending on where along the Kona coast you’re driving from, you can expect the drive to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to take around 2-2.5 hours. From the Waikoloa area, going the southern route may take around 2.5-3 hours. But that’s without any stops! So that’s your starting point for time as you are starting to think about how much time this drive may take you by going the southern route.

 

Map of Kona to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park drive. Kona day trip. How long is the drive. Which route to get to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park from Kona. big island hawaii travel blog
Explore the map.

 

 

So when you can manage more time…

There ARE things to do on the drive to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

So if you can spare an extra day or 2, what would be more ideal could be to stay a few days near Hawaii Volcanoes National Park!

You can leave Kona, do one or 2 of these activities along the way, and then arrive in the evening to your accommodation near the national park. Then, you can spend the next day or 2 exploring the national park.

There are more ways you can make it work, but this is just to give you some ideas!

Be sure to see this 7 day Big Island itinerary that will take you around the island!

Also for more volcano adventures, be sure to see the list of where to see old lava flows on the Big Island!

 

More below for planning your drive to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park!

 

 

🌴🌋

 

 

 

Now…

You won’t be able to do ALL of these activities on a drive from Kona if you’re only giving yourself one day to get to Volcano village, but here’s a list of activities to choose from!

 

Best things to do on a drive from Kona to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

 

Kona Coast (southern part)

 

1. Captain Cook Monument Trail hike

Kona to captain cook monument trail to Volcanoes national park. Things to do along the way scenic drive. Big Island Hawaii travel blog

 

A hike down to the snorkeling bay. (Next!)

 

 

2. Kealakekua Bay snorkeling

Kona to kealakekua bay to Volcanoes national park. Things to do along the way scenic drive. Big Island Hawaii travel blog

 

One of the top snorkeling spots on the Big Island!

See more about the Kealakekua Bay hike.

 

 

3. Two Step Beach aka Honaunau Bay

Kona to two step snorkeling beach to Volcanoes national park. Things to do along the way scenic drive. Big Island Hawaii travel blog

 

Another one of the best snorkeling spots on the Kona coast.

Snorkeling at Two Step can mean a lava rock entry!

See more about Honaunau Bay.

 

 

4. Puuhonua O Honaunau National Historic Park

Kona to puuhonua o honaunau national historical park to Volcanoes national park. Things to do along the way scenic drive. Big Island Hawaii travel blog

 

To get a glimpse of the Hawaiian past with a visit to the “place of refuge.”

This is right next to the Two Step snorkeling spot.

 

 

5. Honomalino beach hike

Kona to honomalino bay beach to Volcanoes national park. Things to do along the way scenic drive. Big Island Hawaii travel blog

 

Pretty quiet beach since it requires a hike to get here. (With a short water crossing on the trail through the ocean so bring water shoes or hiking sandals to make it easier!)

 

 

Southern coast

 

6. Kula Kai Caves

Kona to kula kai caves to Volcanoes national park. Things to do along the way scenic drive. Big Island Hawaii travel blog

 

This requires a tour and booking in advance. (I imagine a day before should be fine, but better to call ahead a few days in advance to make sure you’ll get through!) The tour is usually at 11am.

You’re headed to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, and that means volcanoes interest you!

So you should very much consider this tour to increase your volcano knowledge if you know very little about the history of the Big Island and its geology.

It can provide some great background for you before you head to the national park… and as you see the lava fields around the rest of the island!

I wish I could have done the Kula Kai “crawl” cave tour to crawl through lava tubes but couldn’t since I was alone and there was a minimum requirement of 2 people. So I did the regular tour and I thought that was very worth it.

Later, I went to the Kaumana Caves near Hilo and I felt that made up for not being able to do the crawl at the Kula Kai Caves!

 

 

7. Pohue Bay beach hike

Kona to pohue bay beach to Volcanoes national park. Things to do along the way scenic drive. Big Island Hawaii travel blog

 

Quiet beach that is even less visited than Honomalino Bay.

This also requires a hike to get there – entirely through lava fields!

 

 

8. South Point

Kona to South point cliff to Volcanoes national park. Things to do along the way scenic drive. Big Island Hawaii travel blog

 

Southernmost point of the United States where you can see locals fishing along the cliffs. I saw a pod of dolphins swimming here!

 

 

9. Papakolea green sand beach hike

Kona to papakolea green sand beach to Volcanoes national park. Things to do along the way scenic drive. Big Island Hawaii travel blog

 

Another beach that requires a hike to get there.

This isn’t as quiet as the other beaches though.

Locals offer a $20 shuttle to get to the green sand beach, and the easier access likely is one of the reasons that it attracts more people to the beach.

Hike to the green sand beach!

See more about the green sand beach.

 

 

10. Punaluu black sand beach with a chance to see turtles

Kona to punaluu black sand beach to Volcanoes national park. Things to do along the way scenic drive. Big Island Hawaii travel blog

 

No guarantees, but there’s a good chance to see turtles at this black sand beach!

See more about the Punaluu black sand beach.

 

 

And now…

Top things to do at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park in one day

When you’re short on time, these are my top picks for what not to miss. (And doable in one day.)

Make your first stop the Kilauea visitor center near the national park entrance so you can get a map, as well as to get updated information on what’s open and closed.

The 2018 volcano eruption impacted some attractions at the park.

I was at the national park in September 2019, and this list is based on when I was there.

 

 

1. Chain of Craters Road

Kona to Volcanoes national park. chain of craters road drive. Best things to do in Hawaii volcanoes national park in one day. Big Island Hawaii travel blog

 

This is the main road that runs through the national park that will take you to the coast.

There are many stops and pullovers you can make to take pictures, including to see the largest field of petroglyphs in Hawaii.

At some point, consider stopping to walk across the lava fields! (Maybe on the way back so you can better judge time.)

 

 

2. Holei Sea Arch

Kona to Volcanoes national park. holei sea arch. Best things to do in Hawaii volcanoes national park in one day. Big Island Hawaii travel blog

 

This is at the end of the Chain of Craters Road and as far as you can go by car.

When you’re short on time, you may just consider driving straight through to the end.

Then, make the random stops on the way back so you can determine better how much time you have left.

 

 

3. Alanui Kahiko

Kona to Volcanoes national park. Alanui Kahiko old chain of craters road. Best things to do in Hawaii volcanoes national park in one day. Big Island Hawaii travel blog

 

This is where you can see the old Chain of Craters Road.

It’s the “old road” because it got covered by lava flows. You can still visibly see part of the road.

This can be a quick stop on your way back.

Longer if you take the time to walk across the lava fields here!

 

 

4. Kilauea iki crater trail

Kona to Volcanoes national park. Kilauea iki crater trail hike. Best things to do in Hawaii volcanoes national park in one day. Big Island Hawaii travel blog

 

I would say that the Kilauea iki crater is a priority, but saving it for last so you can decide once you’re done with the Chain of Craters Road drive how much of Kilauea iki you want to do.

You can hike across the entire crater floor if you have time.

This would mean you would be hiking into a former lava lake!

Or if you have less time, you can just hike the trail to the bottom, and then make your way back.

If you have even less time, you can just start the trail and stop along the overlooks so you can at least see the crater from the top!

 

 

5. Crater Rim drive

Kona to Volcanoes national park. crater rim drive. Best things to do in Hawaii volcanoes national park in one day. Big Island Hawaii travel blog

 

Then if you still have time after the Kilauea iki hike, there are some quick stops you can make along Crater Rim Drive.

This is the other road in the national park, and this is close to the visitor’s center and the entrance of the park.

Some top spots on Crater Rim Drive are the sulfur banks, steam vents, and Devastation Trail.

You can also see the Halemaumau crater from the overlook, and then you can hike down a trail to see it from the bottom. (With just one day, the trail might be a bit much, though!)

You might also consider these to be a top priority based on your interests, so be sure to look into the sights on Crater Rim Drive too just in case you decide you are very interested in them.

Personally, I think you could have a great day even if you only do the Chain of Craters Road with a stop to walk across lava fields, along with the Kilauea Iki crater hike.

But stops at the sulfur banks and steam vents afterwards can be worth it too, especially since they won’t take up too much time.

So you may also consider doing these Crater Rim Drive activities at the very beginning so you don’t have to worry about running out of daylight to see these things.

 

See more stops to make as part of your drive through Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

 

 

Where to stay near Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

These are places that are like a 10 minute drive, or less, to the national park, with great atmosphere!

Links lead to partner website, and you can check for prices, photos, and reviews.

 

If you’re traveling alone, then also see Holoholo-in dorm beds on airbnb, also within a 10 minute drive. If you haven’t used airbnb before, sign up through my referral link and you can get a discount, I’ve seen up to $55.

 

 

And then…

What to do after visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park?!

 

Consider heading to the Puna coast! You will find some of the blackest black sand beaches on the Big Island (and in Hawaii!) right on the Puna coast!

 

 

1. Red Road

Kona to Volcanoes national park to Red Road. Things to do near Hawaii volcanoes national park. Big Island Hawaii travel blog

 

This is a great scenic drive along the coast.

 

 

2. Kaimu black sand beach trail

Kona to Volcanoes national park to new kaimu black sand beach trail. Things to do near Hawaii volcanoes national park. Big Island Hawaii travel blog

 

There’s a black sand trail that leads to a black sand beach.

This beach isn’t suitable for beach lazing (waves can wash up the entire beach), but it offers amazing ocean views and lava fields you can walk across.

 

Kona to Volcanoes national park to new kaimu black sand beach trail lava fields. Things to do near Hawaii volcanoes national park. Big Island Hawaii travel blog

See more about the Kaimu black sand beach.

 

 

3. Leilani Avenue

Kona to Volcanoes national park to leilani estates, to leilani avenue. Things to do near Hawaii volcanoes national park. Big Island Hawaii travel blog

 

Leilani Estates was the neighborhood hit by lava flow destruction with the 2018 volcano eruption.

Not all homes were lost, and you can drive down Leilani Avenue to the end of the road to see where the lava stopped.

Some residents don’t like tourists flocking to their subdivision so also keep this in mind if you decide to visit this area.

 

 

Stay in Puna

Kona to Volcanoes national park. airbnb in puna, pahoa, kalapana. Where to stay near Hawaii volcanoes national park. Big Island Hawaii travel blog

 

I stayed at an airbnb on the Puna coast in a cabin-type atmosphere that came with vast views of lava fields!

 

And that’s a bit about driving to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park from Kona!

 

For further trip planning:

 

HAPPY DRIVE FROM KONA TO HAWAII VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK!

 

Kailua Kona to Volcanoes national park drive scenic route. Day trip from Kona. from cruise port or from airport. Best things to do along the way scenic drive. Big Island Hawaii travel blog

 

 

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ALOHA!