Depending on whether you cruise past by day or night, your experience of Kilauea’s Puu Oo vent—the most active fissure in Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, which sends molten lava toward the coast and into the sea—will be quite different. During daylight, you’ll see plumes of acrid white steam as the 1,150°C (2,100°F) lava hits the water, and on a clear day you may see the crimson streams themselves; after sunset, the drama intensifies as the sea cliffs sometimes appear to be laced with fiery red-orange lava waterfalls.
Two of the world's most active and accessible volcanoes dominate this national park and UNESCO World Heritage Site, which swoops down to the sea from Mauna Loa's summit at 4,170 meters (13,681 feet). A wilderness area stretches beyond the road's end, filled with cinder cones and rough lava trails that attract serious backpackers. Day-trippers usually hit the slopes of Kilauea (1,250 meters, or 4,101 feet) instead. Its name means "spreading" or "much spewing"—and the mountain delivers with lava flows through lush rain forests. Since its 1983 eruption, Kilauea's east rift zone has continued oozing liquid rock, sometimes as much as 5,000 liters (1,321 gallons) per second, and adding 202 hectares (499 acres) of land to the Big Island.
The ire of Mount Kilauea reforges the world before visitors' eyes. Nicknamed "the world's only drive-in volcano," it’s produced serious lava every day since 1983 with no signs of stopping. Pele—the fire goddess who lives here, according to Hawaiian lore—is on a roll. Occasionally, like in summer 2016, the lava flows spill into the sea, making the Big Island even bigger and releasing stunning plumes of steam. Don't miss the petroglyphs, lava tube and 241 kilometers (150 miles) of trails at the Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park.