Volcanoes in Hawaii: Six of the most spectacular

HALEAKALA, MAUI

Towering 3055 metres above sea level this shield volcano makes up three-quarters of Maui's land mass. Meaning "House of the Sun", Haleakala is the perfect spot to take in one of the most spectacular sunrises on earth. From the summit, the lunar landscape blushes from pastel pink to rouge red as sunbeams streak across a blanket of clouds. Be warned, while Mark Twain described it as "the most sublime spectacle I have ever witnessed", it is also one of the coldest. So cold, that thermals and ski jackets are the preferred fashion for in-the-know locals. Afterwards, take the challenging Sliding Sands Trail to the crater floor. Note: parking reservations for sunrise viewings are required.

Status: dormant; see gohawaii.com

KILAUEA, ISLAND OF HAWAII

With a name that means "spewing" or "much spreading", it's easy to see why Kilauea is known as the big kahuna of volcanoes. After throwing a hissy fit in early 2018, an event known as the lower Puna eruption, which destroyed homes, forced the evacuation of residents and sent lava into the ocean, Kilauea has been remarkably well behaved. But with its eruptive history going back tens of thousands of years, seismologists continue to monitor it and report regularly. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park has resumed normal operations and reopened the Chain of Craters road (but check the website for closures).?

Status: active; see gohawaii.com; nps.gov

MAUNA KEA, ISLAND OF HAWAII

At 4207 metres, the peak of Mauna Kea is the highest point in the state of Hawaii (pedants will also claim it is the tallest mountain in the world – at 10,000 metres when measured from its oceanic base). Either way, scientists all agree that its high, dry and stable environment makes it one of the most outstanding sites on earth for astronomical observation. Organised tours are the best way to learn?not only about the night sky, but also the geography, culture and natural history of the volcano. If you are concerned about altitude sickness at the summit (a high possibility), the visitor centre at 2804 metres is a good alternative (check website for closures).

Status: dormant; see ifa.hawaii.edu

LEAHI (DIAMOND HEAD), OAHU

This volcanic tuff crater is Waikiki's, if not Hawaii's, most famous landmark, celebrated in art, song and fridge magnets. Known as the "brow of the tuna" in Hawaiian, the crater (not strictly a volcano) was formed as part of the "Honolulu volcanic series", a set of events that began about 800,000 years ago. The start of the summit trail is within the Diamond Head State Monument, an easy 20-minute drive from Waikiki. The moderate, 2.5-kilometre hike includes two sets of stairs, underground tunnels and a military bunker, all worth it for the views across Waikiki and the south shore. Open daily from 6am – 6pm.

Status: extinct; see dlnr.hawaii.gov

MAUNA LOA, ISLAND OF HAWAII

Known to the early Hawaiians as the "long mountain", this massive shield volcano has been having a nap for the past 35 years. Before going into hibernation,?Mauna Loa had?erupted 33 times since 1843, making it one of the most active volcanoes on the planet. Today it looks long and lazy, like a sleeping giant stretched out in green pastures. Together with Kilauea it makes up Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Unlike Kilauea, Mauna Loa's summit is difficult to access and can only be reached by a challenging backcountry hike. If this is all too much, you can drive the Kau Scenic Byway around the base or take a helicopter tour.

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Status: active; see gohawaii.com; bluehawaiian.com

HUALALAI, ISLAND OF HAWAII

The westernmost of the five volcanoes that make up the island of Hawaii, Hualalai is still considered active even though it hasn't erupted since 1801. The big question is not if, but when, Hualalai will throw its next tantrum. Often overlooked by visitors in their rush to tick off Kilauea, Hualalai is for those who seek soft adventure away from the crowds. Flanked with dense rainforests, speckled with more than 100 volcanic cinder cones and crowned with cloud forests, a hike up Hualalai is like nowhere else. The best way to appreciate this lesser-known sibling is on a full day "Hidden Craters Hike" tour with Hawaii Forest & Trail.

Status: active; see hawaii-forest.com

Kerry van der Jagt was a guest of Hawaii Tourism Oceania.

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