A visit to the Big Island of Hawaii isn’t complete without a trip to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Having the opportunity to see a real live active volcano in person was one of the main reasons in going to Hawaii for our family.
One of the highlights of our Big Island road trip was a 4 mile hike through the Kilauea volcano crater. It might sound like a long hike, but even our 4.5 year old rocked it, finishing still full of energy 2.5 hrs later (a record for us!). Ascending down into the blackened crater of Kilauea with steam vents lining the trail is an unforgettable experience.
All the guidebooks suggest that if you only have time for one hike while visiting the park that the Kilauea Iki Trail should be the one you do. We did a few hikes in the park as well as around the island, but this really was the best. It is not often that you get to walk in and across the crater floor of a volcano.
Before you head out on this hike, pick up (or print) this brochure from the visitor center to use while walking the trail. It is a great guide for the hike giving you points to direct your attention to as well as explaining the flora, fauna and structures around you. It makes it feel like you have your own personal guide leading you around!
Which Way to Go?
Since this is a loop trail, you have two options on which direction to begin. While researching the trail, I had read that the easiest way was to start on the right, going counter clockwise. Starting this direction leads you through lush tropical forest before descending down into the crater of the volcano, before leading you back up through the forest to where you started.
If you have bad knees and prefer to go downhill less, you might start on the left, going clockwise. For us with a small child, it’s often easier to go downhill on the craggy rock path. Really there is no bad way – you go down and back up either way you go. If you go clockwise, your uphill section will be a bit longer and rockier, but some people prefer going up in those conditions.
It’s a bit difficult at times to keep up with the trail once you are inside the crater. It’s clearly visible from the top, but is easy to loose sight of while down in it. As the sign says, follow the stacked rocks located at intervals along the path. Even looking out for the Ahu (stacked rocks), we still found ourselves VERY off track at one point, heading right into the hole where all of the lava spewed out. Oops! Thankfully a fellow hiker saw our mistake and showed us the correct path. Whew. We wondered how it had became so difficult all of the sudden to find even ground.
What to Bring
- Lots of water. The crater floor gets very hot, very quickly. On our visit, it was a cool overcast morning and we were still sweating by the time we made it down to the crater floor. Not to mention the steam vents coming up along the trail adding to the toastiness!
- Take snacks or even a packed lunch to eat while down inside the crater. How often can you say that you had lunch inside a volcano!
- Sun protection – a hat & sunscreen as a must. For at least a mile of the hike you are without any chance of shade and you are surrounded by black lava rock. You will be absorbing a lot of the suns rays, so it’s important to cover up.
- If you have a light weight hiking pole, it will be useful going down (or up) some of the steep steps leading into the crater. It’s not a necessity though.
Hiking the Kilauea Iki trail was truly a unique experience. It took our breaths away the moment we started the hike. From the steam vents lining our path, to the rock formations surrounding us, to the unique flora/fauna, it was an ideal Hawaiian hike!
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2 thoughts on “Hiking the Kilauea Iki Trail with Kids”
Great to know! We are headed there in May 🙂
Did you wear hiking boots/shoes? I am trying to decide if it’s worth investing in something about sturdier for all the hiking we are planning on.
My son wore his tevas. I can’t remember if I had my hiking shoes or just my water shoes! I will look back through some photos. It’s not a difficult hike so regular sneakers would be fine too.