Summer visitors encouraged to explore areas away from the crowds at Kilauea summit

  • Mauna Ulu is another less-crowded destination on the Chain of Craters Road.

  • JANICE WEI/National Park Service photo Beat the crowds at the Kilauea summit in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and enjoy a beautiful sunrise at the end of Chain of Craters Road.

Summer visitation at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park has increased but the number of parking places at popular areas along Kilauea volcano’s summit have not, leading to frustration and citations for illegal parking.

Tuesdays are particularly congested at the summit, when passengers from the Pride of America cruise ship drive from Hilo to explore attractions such as Wahinekapu (Steaming Bluff), Steam Vents, Ha‘akulamanu (Sulphur Banks), Devastation Trail, Kilauea Iki, Pu‘u Pua‘i and Kilauea Visitor Center.

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“Parking is a mess on Tuesdays, but it’s a challenge any day during the busy summer months,” said the park’s chief of interpretation Ben Hayes. “On Tuesdays, expect to find zero parking at the summit destinations between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. It’s not unusual for traffic to be backed out onto Highway 11 from the entrance station.”

A new page on the park’s website (https://www.nps.gov/havo/planyourvisit/parking.htm) shows the parking status at popular locations throughout the day.

The good news?

Almost all of the sights along Chain of Craters Road usually have ample parking around the clock.

“We want our visitors to leave with smiles, photos and memories that will last a lifetime, not a parking ticket or a negative experience,” Hayes said. “All it takes is a little planning and flexibility.”

Park rangers offer these tips so all visitors have a positive and memorable time in the park.

“Turn Left Tuesday”

Get into the left lane, and turn left at the entrance station to head down the 19-mile Chain of Craters Road toward the park’s dramatic lava-covered coast to avoid the crowds.

Stop at the crater pullouts along the way, explore Mauna Ulu fissure eruption and Pu‘u Loa petroglyphs, and enjoy scenic overlooks and the Holei Sea Arch.

Planning to hike Kilauea Iki Trail?

This 4-mile trek is one of the most scenic and popular trails in the park. Plan to hit the trail by 7 a.m. and be out by 10 a.m.

Mauna Loa Road

Mauna Loa Road is well worth exploring during peak hours, especially in good weather.

Kipukapuaulu offers an easy, forested hike, and the views and birding are excellent along the way to the Mauna Loa Overlook at 6,662 feet.

Visit Kahuku

Kahuku is free, never crowded and open to the public Wednesday through Sunday. Located on the mauka (inland) side of Highway 11 near mile marker 70.5 in Ka‘u.

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Timing is Everything

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is open 24 hours, 365 days a year (except for Kahuku). Explore the summit attractions well before 10 a.m. or after 3 p.m.

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