What can we do if the park isn’t open?
This is a question we have been getting a lot lately. We know for most guests the draw to stay in Volcano for a night or two was to experience Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. We get it! The park was (is, will be again…someday) an amazing place to visit! We have hiked many trails, seen many lava flows and enjoyed spending time learning about this amazing Volcano, Kilauea.
Having said that, Volcano and Hawaii are so much more than just a National Park. Hawaii has always been known for the hospitality of its people. The locals have always been very welcoming to visitors and willing to share what makes their island home special.
One of your best resources to learn about Kilauea and the island are the people here in Volcano Village. So many of the individuals who live, and work here have been here through one if not multiple eruptions in the last 35 years. Their knowledge is astounding and the stories they can tell? W.O.W! From the host at your B&B, to the cashier in the general store, vendors at the Farmers Market they all have stories to tell. My Grandparents lived here on the Big Island in Na’alehu from 1959-62 when Kilauea Iki was erupting inside the park. Mind you, I was very young when I remember them talking about their experience, but even today one of my biggest regrets is I didn’t ask them more about it when I had the chance. That little part of their history is gone. You can hear other people’s stories and make your own history just by showing up here! These are stories you will only hear if you come to Volcano and talk to the locals. When they talk story, they tell it like it is and there is no sensationalism to sell news, it’s part of their history plain and simple.
The Volcano Art Center inside the Village is an amazing place to learn about some of the local flora and fauna, not to mention, local artists. A nonprofit, educational organization founded in 1974 by a band of eclectic and energetic artists this little gem has been over shadowed for way too long. The Volcano Arts Center operates a successful fine arts gallery showcasing hand crafted artwork by over 230 local artists. They are constantly developing and offering programs for residents, keiki (children) and visitors alike.
Every Monday morning from 9:30 am to 10:30 am Volcano Art Center hosts a guided rain forest tour. Learn about rare native Hawaiian rainforests and the ecological importance of this particular one as it hosts old growth koa and ohia trees. They discuss how Hawaiian plant and animal species have closely evolved with one another and over time as the forest changes. They encourage visitors to enjoy self guided tours each day between 9 Am and 5 PM and even include downloadable learning tools such as a plant guide and trail companion. The walk is free, but donations are appreciated. It seems you have $25 sitting in your pocket you had set aside for the park entrance right, maybe give a little of that to VAC instead?
They also offer drop in style classes and workshops that include everything from stained glass to pottery, writing and making local delicacies. Once a month they host a Jazz in the Forest event for and host different classic movies on Monday nights.
Every Sunday morning there is a Farmers Market that starts at 6 AM at the Cooper Center. *Local Tip, most of the vendors are set up by 5:30 AM and a lot of locals show up early to get the best stuff! A variety of vendors offer everything from Ka’u and Kona coffee (to take home as gifts and to get your day started right if that’s your vice!) baked goods, arts and crafts and fresh fruits and veggies.
Wine tasting is just a sip away at Volcano Winery on the Big Island. $5 for a standard tasting and $8 for a premium tasting from 10 AM to 5:30 PM daily. Come taste local wines inspired by volcanic fire and fresh tropical fruits of the island. Local fruits like yellow guava and jaboticaba berry are blended with traditional wine grapes transforming the flavors into spirited creations.
Not into wine? They also grow and sell their own loose-leaf teas! For something super unique, they have added a black tea/wine infusion to their specialty wine lineup. (Honestly it is pretty good!)
On your way to the winery, as you pass the Volcano Golf course, look for Nene on the greens! Sometimes they like to hang out while the golfers aren’t there and you can catch a glimpse of them in groups!
What has been lost somewhere along the way is there are so many other amazing ways to learn about the Volcano, it’s history and our little slice of paradise here in the rain forest. Truthfully, it’s something we are rediscovering too. While I’m sad the park is closed, it has opened so many other opportunities to learn more about our island home. Come learn with us and hear our stories while making some of your own!