Megan Shute for Only In Hawaii on volcanic craters you can visit in Hawaii. Join us on one of our four volcano tours to see an active volcano. Sit back and relax and enjoy first-hand the beautiful forces of nature on the Big Island of Hawaii.
The Hawaiian archipelago was created millions of years ago when underwater volcanoes emerged from the ocean’s surface. With approximately 20 volcanoes ranging in age from 400,000 years to 5.1 million years, the Hawaiian archipelago is the youngest section of the Hawaiian-Emperor seamount chain of volcanoes and seamounts extending across the Pacific Ocean. From the beautiful black sand beaches of the Big Island to the Big Island’s active Kilauea, Hawaii’s volcanoes make the islands incredibly unique, but it’s the volcanic craters and formations we can’t get enough of. Here are a few of the best volcanic craters in Hawaii that you can visit for yourself:
1. Kilauea Iki Crater
Within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is Kilauea, the fiery home of one of Hawaii’s most revered gods: Pele. Kilauea is both Hawaii’s youngest shield volcano on land, as well as the most active. One of the best craters is the unparalleled Kilauea Iki, which you can walk through on an epic, unforgettable four-mile hike. It doesn’t get much more incredible than meandering through lush rainforest to the floor of this lava lake formed in 1959.
2. Diamond Head Crater
Dubbed Diamond Head by sailors who were entranced by the volcano’s glittering peak, the mountain’s summit is littered with calcite crystals – but the name stuck. This volcanic tuff cone is perhaps the most well-known landmark on Oahu. The view of Diamond Head via airplane is iconic, the hike to the summit is mentioned in every guidebook, and you can even see the crater from the famous beaches of Waikiki. The crater is more than 3,500 feet in diameter and has been dormant for more than 150,000 years.
3. Hualalai Craters
The westernmost, third-youngest and the third-most active of Hawaii Island’s five volcanoes, Hualalai measures in at approximately 8,271 feet above sea level. Despite experiencing low levels of activity since its last eruption in 1801 — and being unusually inactive for the last two thousand years — Hualalai is still considered active and is expected to erupt again sometime within the next century. The volcano is home to countless craters, many of which can be witnessed on a tour with Hawaii Forest and Trail.
4. Haleakala Crater
Just 27 square miles short of equaling the entire size of Oahu, Mount Haleakala is a gentle giant – a dormant volcano that has inspired those who make the journey to its summit for centuries. Translating to “House of the Sun,” Haleakala rises more than 10,000 feet above sea level, comprises 75 percent of Maui Island, and is home to desert-like conditions, rainforests, and everything in between. The Haleakala Crater is nearly seven miles across, two miles wide, and approximately 2,600 feet deep — large enough to fit the entire island of Manhattan inside. Experience it for yourself with a visit to Haleakala National Park for lots of hiking.
5. Mauna Loa Summit Craters
One of the five volcanoes that makes up the Island of Hawaii, Mauna Loa has historically been considered the largest volcano on earth, measuring in at a volume of more than 18,000 cubic miles, and dwarfed only by Tamu Massif. This active volcano last erupted in 1984, and its summit is home to three overlapping pit craters arranged northeast-southwest. Together, these three craters make up the 3.9 by 1.6-mile summit caldera Moku’aweoweo.
6. Koko Crater
Found on Oahu’s southeastern shore is the 200-acre Koko Head Crater, an ancient tuff cone that last erupted was 30,000 to 35,000 years ago. On the outside of this tuft cone is the popular Koko Head Stairs, while on the inside, you will find horse stables and the Koko Crater Botanical Garden, which houses an extensive collection of cacti and succulents.
7. Halemaumau Crater
Located within the much larger summit caldera of Kilauea in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the circular crater was 770 by 900 meters prior to the collapses that nearly doubled the size of the crater after May 3, 2018. Until recently, the crater contained an active lava lake, but is now accessible via a 1.8-mile round trip hike to stop 10, after which the trail is closed due to the active eruptive vent in Halema‘uma‘u Crater.