Hawaii has so much to offer visitors that it’s difficult to narrow it down to where you should go. Luxury travelers tend to go to Maui or Oahu, where they can lounge on the beach, but Hawaii, also known as the Big Island, has a rugged landscape that attracts more adventurous travelers.
One of the most spectacular sites on its shores is the Kilauea Volcano. Kilauea Volcano is one of the most popular tourist attractions on the Big Island, and it’s easy to see why.
About 1.58 million people visit Volcanoes National Park, the park where Kilauea is located, each year. This reliably active shield volcano is one of the best places on Earth to come and see a volcanic eruption (from a safe distance, of course).
But while there’s much to see and do here, when is the best time to visit visit Kilauea? Here’s our take, along with the least busy, cheapest, and worst times to go.
The Best Time to Visit Kilauea in 2024
The best time to visit Kilauea is during the dawn or dusk in late summer. This timing allows you to make the most of your trip to Kilauea by seeing the lava flow in the best light and having the best weather for your trip.
Late summer, August and September, is generally advised as the best time of year to visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and the rest of the Big Island.
The national park is located in a temperate climate, which has continuously warm, wet conditions. However, the elevation of many popular areas in the park, including Kilauea, means that the summer heat doesn’t get as hot as you explore.
Hawaii’s Big Island is very rainy, especially this part of the shore around Volcanoes National Park. No matter what time of year you visit, you can expect plenty of rain, so be sure to pack your waterproof jackets.
During the late summer, you have the highest likelihood of timing your visit to coincide with a sunny day. Autumn often brings heavy rain, which the National Park Service warns can flood out the park.
Keep in mind that summer is one of the peak seasons in terms of visitor arrivals to Volcanoes National Park (the winter months are also popular).
Coming in late summer, such as late August or September, allows you to avoid most of the crowds since they start to thin as school summer vacations throughout the country end and package tours end their peak season.
Another tip to beat the crowds is to visit Kilauea during the dawn or at sunset. Although the visitor centers have strict opening hours, the park itself is actually open 24 hours a day.
The National Park Service itself recommends visitors arrive at dawn or dusk, especially during peak season, such as summer, to beat the crowds. There are other benefits to arriving early in the morning or late in the evening besides having Kilauea all to yourself.
In the very early morning, the trade winds are the calmest, so views of Kilauea and from the volcano’s summit are the clearest. The dawn is also the peak time for bird watching along the trails around Kilauea.
Dusk is another great time of day to visit Kilauea. As the sun sets, the colors along the volcano become spectacular. The lava flows also stand out particularly well at night. As you head back to your car, you can see the stars above the lava, a sight that is truly like no other.
The Cheapest Time to Visit Kilauea
The least expensive time to visit Kilauea is during the shoulder seasons, which run from April to May and from September to November. These gaps between tourist seasons also see a dip in hotel room prices in Volcano, the town closest to Kilauea.
One of the problems with a trip to Kilauea is that it can get quite expensive, like visiting any other part of Hawaii. Timing your visit properly can go a long way toward decreasing the amount of money you spend on your visit.
The problem with visiting Kilauea is that it has two peak tourist seasons. The largest number of visitors come during the winter, between December and March, in search of warm weather they can’t find in the continental United States.
The busiest month for Volcanoes National Park is actually December. The summer also sees a lot of visitors as people take advantage of school breaks and better package deals for visiting the Big Island. That means that the price of visiting Kilauea is a bit higher around this time.
The windows of time between the two peak tourist seasons are, therefore, the most affordable. Not as many people visit during April and May or between September and November, which means that hotels keep the prices of their rooms lower.
In general, hotel rooms on the Big Island are more affordable than in other parts of Hawaii. There are a few times during the shoulder season when prices tend to spike, which you should avoid if you are looking to save money.
Avoid late May, especially around Memorial Day Weekend, as prices tend to spike in response to people taking advantage of an extended weekend to travel. In October, be careful not to time your trip to coincide with the Ironman World Championship race.
This race has a global following, and thousands of people descend on the island to compete and to watch. Hotel room prices tend to rise accordingly, so check what date it’s planned for the year you are visiting and avoid coming to Kilauea during that time.
Least Busy Time to Visit Kilauea
The least busy time to visit Kilauea is also during the shoulder seasons in April and May and then September to November. Visiting outside of the peak tourist times ensures that you will be able to contemplate the majesty of Kilauea’s eruption with the viewpoint all to yourself.
It gets very crowded during peak seasons, sometimes even making it impossible to reach the volcano itself.
Visiting during the shoulder season ensures that you will have an easier time exploring Kilauea. The time of day also matters when figuring out the least busy time to visit Kilauea. The least busy time is early in the morning.
Few people are willing to brave a pre-dawn wakeup time to visit the volcano, which means that those who do are rewarded with excellent views and a viewpoint they can have all to themselves.
In many other places, visiting during the off-season usually involves some kind of tradeoff in terms of weather or poor conditions.
The weather is consistently warm and wet around Kilauea all year round, so it’s absolutely worth it to visit during the shoulder seasons (just be careful because November gets very rainy).
Worst Time to Visit Kilauea
The worst time to visit Kilauea is during the peak tourist season, which is the winter. Between December and March, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park gets very crowded.
Many of the visitors are precisely interested in seeing Kilauea’s spectacular crater, so expect that area to be the most crowded. The National Park Service itself warns visitors that they should brace for extensive crowds during the peak of the winter season, which is December and January.
Visitors often wait for hours just to get into the park itself, inch along traffic on Crater Rim Drive, and can’t even park by Kilauea to get out to view the lava because the parking lots are full.
Sometimes, the park service even has to close popular Kilauea viewpoints completely because the crowds become unsafe. If you visit Kilauea during the peak season, you may go home disappointed because you aren’t able to actually see the volcano due to the crowds.
If the only time you can visit Kilauea is during the peak season, there are a few tips to avoid the crowds. Come very early in the morning, and you can still have popular Kilauea viewpoints to yourself.
There are also less popular trails that still allow you to have a view of the volcano. Another bad time to visit Kilauea is when the volcanic eruption is dangerous for visitors.
The park service usually blocks off roads as soon as they get word that conditions are dangerous, but you don’t want to make the trip just to go home disappointed. Check if there are any alerts ahead of time on the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park website or the U.S. Geological Survey website.
Things to Consider
Here are a few tips that can help you decide when will be the best time to visit Kilauea:
- Prepare for crowds. If you are visiting during peak times, prepare for long waits and potentially not getting the view of Kilauea that you want. The biggest factor when deciding when to visit Kilauea should be avoiding the crowds.
- Park prices are the same all year round. You pay $30 for a 7-day entry ticket. Hotel prices vary depending on the tourist season.
- Bring waterproof gear. It rains a lot all year round around Kilauea. It rains the most in late autumn, especially in November.
- Always check volcano conditions before visiting. Sometimes, the park has to temporarily shut down the areas around Kilauea’s summit if an eruption is potentially dangerous to visitors.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are a few common questions people ask about visiting Kilauea that might also help you plan your trip:
What are the risks of Kilauea?
Kilauea may be mostly safe for visitors, but it’s still an active volcano. The most dangerous part of any eruption is “vog,” or volcanic fog. This thick mist contains dangerous particles such as dust and chemicals. People with respiratory issues, pregnant women, and children should avoid Kilauea during heavy vog days.
Is Kilauea erupting in 2023?
Kilauea has been continuously active for decades. The period of activity is ongoing in 2023, with slow, oozing lava greeting visitors.
Is Kilauea likely to erupt?
While Kilauea has been oozing lava since the 1980s, the likelihood of a volatile eruption is low. However, make sure to check the volcanic activity updates before visiting, as this could change at any moment.
Is Volcano, Hawaii, safe to visit?
All of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, including Kilauea, is very safe to visit as long as you follow instructions. The National Park Service has clearly posted signs telling visitors where to go, and any injuries usually happen when people ignore those signs.
How often does Kilauea explode?
Kilauea tends to explode every few years. Its eruptions last a long time, which is why it is so popular among visitors.
So, When Is the Best Time to Visit Kilauea?
The best time to visit Kilauea is in late August to September. You get to benefit from the relatively drier summer weather while avoiding the peak crowds. For more affordable and less crowded visits, go later in the fall or in the spring. Happy travels!