If you only have time for one hike during your stay on the big Island of Hawaii, the Kīlauea Iki Trail is a great choice. The trail starts in the rain forest and takes you through fern trees and tropical foliage. The trail descends 400 feet through the rain forest, with native birds in the canopy, to the crater floor.
Hikers will cross the still-steaming crater floor which is pretty rough in spots. There is so much to see in this lunar landscape. It may look barren but it’s not! The steam vents, cinder and spatter cones, lava rock formations, cracks, fissures, broken upheavals, the sheer magnitude of the crater, the history, the geology of the whole are amazing!
This 4 file Kilauea Iki Trail hike is moderate to challenging. The climb back out of the crater is the only part of the hike which could be considered the least bit strenuous. But much of the trail is pretty rough and good shoes are a must. Weather can range from wet and windy to hot. The crater floor is totally exposed to the elements. Be sure to bring water, snacks, raingear and sun protection. This hike is inside the Volcanoes National Park; park fees will be required upon entering the park. If you are 62 or older, be sure to have your (Golden Eagle) senior pass. http://www.nps.gov/findapark/passes.htm.
The trail begins about 2 miles from the visitor center at the Kilauea Iki parking lot on Crater Rim Drive. You may go either way from the trailhead. Going left will take you to the Thurston Lava Tube parking lot and then down to the floor of Kīlauea Iki Crater. Going right will take hikers through the rain forest on the crater rim and down to the crater floor.
For more information, visit the National Parks website.