So there are 2 main roads in the main part of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park:
Crater Rim Drive is a relatively short road, and this is located near the park entrance. There are some “volcano” sights along Crater Rim Drive, and the main stops can be done within an hour, although it can take longer depending on how much walking/hiking you do.
The Sulphur Banks Trail is one of these volcano-related sights that you can get to from Crater Rim Drive.
Sulphur Banks is also known as Haakulamanu.
According to the National Park Service:
At Sulphur Banks, volcanic gases seep out of the ground along with groundwater steam.
These gases are rich in carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide and hydrogen sulfide — the gas that smells like rotten eggs.
Some sulfur gases deposit pure crystals at Sulphur Banks.
Other sulfur gases form sulfuric acid which breaks down the lava to clay. This clay is stained red and brown with iron oxide.
Due to underground heat, this dramatic volcanic thermal area has very few trees.
Known as Ha’akulamanu, this unusual place, with steaming cracks and colorful mineral deposits, has been famous for birds and healing vapors.
The trail itself is an easy walk that’s about a mile round trip.
What Hawaii Volcanoes National Park says about the Sulphur Banks Trail:
Stroll through a hidden meadow.
Immerse your sense in a streaming wonderland where volcanic fumes crystallize into colorful mineral deposits.
But you can turn it into a loop by stopping by the steam vents trail and caldera/crater overlooks too.
To get you started in the national park, first you can stop by the Kilauea Visitor’s Center near the park entrance so you can get a map and an update on what’s currently open and closed. (The 2018 volcano eruption impacted many national park activities.)
Then, you can walk directly to the Sulphur Banks Trail from the visitor’s center parking lot.
There’s also another parking lot that will put you closer to the overlooks of Kilauea Caldera and Halemaumau Crater, and the Sulphur Banks trail is right near that parking lot too.
Why you should stay on the marked trail
A warning from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park:
One wrong step, and you could be scalded by steam.
Volcanic gases rising to the surface combine with groundwater to form sulfuric and hydrofluoric acids.
These highly corrosive acids eat away at rock, leaving steam-filled cavities and cracks hiding beneath dangerously thin crusts of ash.
The hole with a story!
A visitor suffered severe leg burns when he walked off the trail and broke through thin crust.
This hole shows where he stepped into 205F (96C) steam.
There was another posted story about a 10-year-old boy who went off the trail and “slipped chest deep into a steaming ground crack.” It was reported that he had burns on 10% of his body. The steam temperature at that crack was said to be around 150F (60C).
Here's some info on Hawaii trip prep!
- Best shoes for hiking in Hawaii
- The perfect type of shirt for swimming in Hawaii
- Do you need water shoes for Hawaii?
- THE top things to pack for Hawaii
The best of the Big Island:
- Things to do in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
- Where to see lava fields on the Big Island
- The big list of things to do on the Big Island
Some of what you’ll see on the Sulphur Banks Trail!
I went from the Kilauea Visitor’s Center towards the Sulphur Banks Trail, then onwards towards the steam vents trail and the caldera/crater overlooks. From there, you can then loop back around to the visitor’s center parking lot. I think you can comfortably walk this loop in 1 hour, and very possibly in less time. With more time, you can also take the Halemaumau Trail down to see the Kilauea caldera from below!
Random sulfur facts from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park:
Volcanic gases rise to the surface here through deep faults and fractures produced by the collapse of Kilauea’s summit 500 years ago.
Sulfur and other hot gases released from magma hinder plant growth and create a colorful landscape of corroded rock.
Deep faults and fractures extend down to magma and allow gases to reach the surface at Sulphur Banks.
And that’s a bit about what you’ll see on the Sulphur Banks trail!
Continue your walk to see more steam vents, and to also see the Kilauea Caldera and Halemaumau Crater… and then once you’ve finished up your walk, you can make a couple more stops along Crater Rim Drive, including THE hike to do in the national park! And then continue driving through the national park on Chain of Craters Road!
HAPPY SULPHUR BANKS TRAIL WALK!
Top things to pack for your Hawaii vacation!
The ultimate beach towel for travel?!Turkish towels are considered to be more absorbent and lightweight than your average beach towel. Be sure to check out turkish towels like these!
Possibly among the best Big Island maps for tourists!The Franko maps of Hawaii have a high level of detail for activities and it's beachproof aka waterproof. There's an "adventure" guide map and a "snorkel/dive" guide map. Plus a wall map for home to get you excited for your upcoming trip to Kona!
The cheapo way to waterproof your phoneYou can take underwater pictures with a simple waterproof phone case like this. Touch screen may not work well underwater - try the volume button to snap the pic instead!
Get your suitcase more organized!Packing cubes can make it so you're spending less time on your vacation looking for things! They are basically a form of drawers in your suitcase. Take a look at these packing cubes.
Wear less sunscreen by wearing a UPF swim shirt!Wearing a swim shirt means less skin that's exposed to the sun which means less sunscreen you need to apply! See about wearing swim shirts with UV protection like these when you're snorkeling.
Be sure to take a look at the reviews of these amazing tours on the Big Island:
- Sailing the ocean with a sail + snorkel trip
- Kona's most popular tour: Swimming in the ocean at night with manta rays (likely to sell out)
- Star gazing at Mauna Kea volcano
- Dream Hawaii helicopter flight: Circle the Big Island to see Hawaii's volcanoes from above
- Sail the ocean in the evening on the Captain Cook historical sunset dinner cruise (likely to sell out)