Searing-hot gases rise from a giant volcanic crater called a caldera on Hawaii’s Big Island. Beneath the caldera’s rim, a lake of lava bubbles and steams. This is Kīlauea, one of two active volcanoes at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. The other is called Mauna Loa. These lava-spewing formations help make the park the perfect spot for visitors who have, um, a burning desire to see cool geological activity.
The park was founded in 1916, and today more than 1.5 million tourists arrive each year to check out two of the most active volcanoes on Earth (Kīlauea has been continuously erupting since 1983!) Tourists can watch the volcanic activity from a safe lookout point on a bluff about 400 feet above the Kīlauea’s caldera.
But the park has another purpose: protecting traditional Hawaiian culture. That’s because the park’s landscape and the plants and animals that live there are all sacred to Native Hawaiian people, who have lived on the islands for about 1,600 years. So protecting the parks also helps preserve traditional practices and beliefs.
Volcanoes aren’t the only things that make a visit to this park a total blast. The area is home to animals such as the nene goose, carnivorous caterpillars, and the happy face spider—an arachnid with a pattern on its abdomen that resembles a smiley face. Sounds like there are a lot of things to grin about at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park!