The birding opportunities in the park are many, as a vast amount of bird life can be seen all around the complex. When I visited recently, it was a treat to see the Nēnē (native Hawaiian Goose and the state bird of Hawai‘i), and I also enjoyed seeing Saffron Finches, Common Mynas, Spotted and Zebra Doves, and Yellow-billed Cardinals. The park also boasts four native honeycreeper species. The most abundant is the crimson ‘Apapane that feeds on blooms of endemic ō‘hi‘a flowers, its primary food source. The bird is present year-round.
Kīlauea Rim offers the chance to watch White-tailed Tropicbirds that fly high above crater walls, where they nest close to the active lava.
With a landscape unlike any other, the park also provides a plethora of unique experiences besides birding. I hiked around the crater’s rim, which offers unique views of the caldera where the Hawaiian goddess Pele is said to have her home. I saw steam vents and hiked the Thurston Lava Tube Trail (about an hour) through a lush rainforest canopy. For an evening hike, I especially recommend seeing volcanic eruptions, burning bright red against the backdrop of an evening sky.
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Rainforest, volcanic hotspots.
Rocky, frozen lava fields, lush forests, paved roads. Easy, flat trails as well as more demanding, steep areas. Park is wheelchair accessible.
Along Crater Rim Drive: ‘Apapane, Hawaii ‘Amahiki, Hawaiian Thrush, Nēnē, ‘Io, Pacific Golden-Plover, White-tailed Tropicbird, Kalij Pheasant, Zebra and Spotted Doves, Common Myna, Japanese Bush-Warbler, Saffron Finch, Yellow-fronted Canary, Japanese White-eye, House Sparrow, House Finch, Scaly-breasted Munia. Along Mauna Loa Road: ‘Apapane, Hawaii ‘Amahiki, Hawaiian Thrush, Nēnē, ‘Io, ‘I’iwi, ‘Elepaio, Erckel’s Francolin, California Quail, Barn Owl, Northern and Yellow-billed Cardinals, Red-billed Leiothrix, Chinese Hwamei, Pacific Golden-Plover, and several other mostly non-native species.
When to go
Year-round. Best birding in mornings and afternoons.
Kīlauea Visitor Center, which has restrooms, food, and drink, open daily 9 a.m.-5 p.m., some exceptions for holidays. Bird walks conducted upon request from Friends of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. Boardwalks and platforms at the entrance of the park and by the Visitor Center for wheelchair access.
National park. Fees: $30 per personal vehicle (good for a week) or $55 Hawaii Tri-Park annual pass. Park is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week as well as all holidays.
Do not enter closed-off areas and stay on trails and designated overlooks. What to bring: drinking water, snacks, hat, rain gear, layered clothing, sunscreen, sunglasses, backpack, sturdy hiking shoes, binoculars, walking stick.
For more info
Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, (808) 985-6011. Friends of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, (808) 985-7373.