The Kilauea Caldera Area:
This road essentially circles what was once an even more amazing site than it is today. During most of the 1800's, part of the the caldera was a lake of lava, visited and marveled at by such luminaries as Mark Twain. Today it is a vast bowl dotted with steaming vents, sheltering underground the vast magma reservoir that fuels Kilauea's more spectacular activity miles away.
Here are two views of the big caldera from the "Steam Vents" turnout on the Drive, which was our first scenic stop:
And here we are looking at one of the vents:
Henry liked the blowing grasses that framed some of our views of the crater from this viewpoint, as you can see here:
Here is a panoramic view of the main Kilauea caldera from a distance. The depression in the foreground is one side of Kilauea Iki, a smaller crater that we hiked across the next day:
Around on the other side of the large crater from the Steam Vents, you'll find one of Kilauea's sub-craters—Halema'uma'u—spectacularly viewable from an overlook. On the right is a close-up view of one side of this crater, complete with sulphur deposits and a hint of steam.
On the way out of the park our first day, we stopped to walk through the Thurston Lava Tube, an amazing cave that is a remnant of lava flowing out from the main Kilaueau crater. The lava on the outside of the flow cools and solidifies first, leaving lava flowing inside the tube to scour it out. When the flow stops, you're left with a cave.
Here is an explanatory sign from the trail, and Kathy and Sally at the entrance:
Here we are again, inside the cave, and a shot of the stairs leading up and out:
You can tell that the Lava Tube was volcanically active a LONG time ago because of all the vegetation around it. Here's a view looking straight up on the trail outside the cave:
A major attraction on the Crater Rim Drive is the Kilauea Visitor Center, with interesting exhibits and helpful rangers and volunteers. And right across the street is Volcano House, a hotel whose restaurant offers great views of the crater, along with a scrumptious buffet that tastes extra good after a strenuous hike through, and from, Kilauea Iki (which is when we splurged on it):
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