Great time to see Kilauea Volcano- It's active again

I just saw this post on Flicker and thought about our own trip to Hawaii to learn more about volcanoes.  We went to the big island of Hawaii in February 2012 and had hoped to see some major activity, but you know you can't predict that kind of thing.  We ended up taking a helicopter tour to see some hot lava at the abandoned Royal Gardens subdivision, but I've seen at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory page that lava is moving again.  Here are a couple of photos we took from that helicopter ride.  If you're wondering why the subdivision is abandoned, take a close look at all the black stuff.  Homes were overcome with hot lava.  For awhile there was one holdout.  A man had a home in the middle of this with no road access, since the lava had covered it.  He had to walk out about an hour to get to a road.  I'm not sure if he's still there, but it sure sounded like a lot of work to keep your home when everyone else is gone.
Hot lava in Feb 2012 at Royal Gardens subdivision
You can see the one remaining house there in the center

If you have the ability to go to Hawaii now, you will hopefully have quite a show.  We stayed for a week at  Kilauea  military camp because I'm an Air Force veteran, so it's a cheap place to stay and it's right inside the Hawaii Volcanoes Park.  There are also plenty of vacation homes for rent by owners.  If you've never tried this, you can save a bundle.  Here's the VRBO link for Hilo, but they are in many other cities.  Generally people are willing to rent out a room and often provide breakfast too, or at least some goods you can use if you don't have access to a car or stores right away.  On the big island, if you plan to see anything at all, you probably will need to rent a car to get around.  While we stayed at the military camp, they had tours you could sign up for which included the coastline, volcanic parks, and city.  You can also see the macadamia nut factories, orchid growers, and other tourist hotspots.  While we stayed there, we used their transportation, and to get to the camp we just took a taxi.  The airport to the Volcanoes park was about a $40 ride because it is quite a drive and some drivers don't like to make the drive at night.

So the active flows right now are near the water at Kalapana- another subdivision that got covered in lava.  We were there at the lava beach on a rainy day and got to see this rainbow.  It's a gorgeous setting, and would be even better if you could see the lava pouring into the water.
Rainbow at Kalapana beach

more information about Kalapana on a sign at the beach
You can also see the Halema uma u crater that is red hot, especially at night, from the Jaggar visitor center at the Hawaii Volcanoes park.  This is how it looked when we were there.  It has been active for a number of years now, but seems to be even bigger and brighter now, from what I've been reading.  You do have to be aware though that when it is active, there's a lot of sulphur in the air and sometimes this smells bad and probably isn't good for small children or people with respiratory conditions.  When we were there, it was a bit smoky at times, but nothing that bothered us too much.
Halema uma u crater at night

If you decide to go and have a car, I'd highly recommend taking a trip to Mauna Kea too.  This was the most amazing spot ever for star gazing.  The summit is at 14,000 feet.  We went to the visitor's center which is lower, but safer for kids or people prone to altitude sickness.  At night volunteers set up very large telescopes so you can see planets and stars.  When we were there, we saw Jupiter in a way I'll never forget.  You could see the rings and gas around it.  The clarity and the equipment made it all possible. Go just before sunset and you'll also get the treat of a sunset when you are above the clouds if you're lucky, and just after sunset the whole sky goes an amazing color of reds.  Unforgettable.  We loved every minute.  And don't forget that if it's warm at the beach, it will be much colder at this elevation.  Take a jacket, hat, gloves, etc.  Sometimes there can even be snow, but don't let that stop you.  Make an adventure!
Mauna Kea visitor center with free stargazing
Mauna Kea sunset

Early night sky at Mauna Kea


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