Far from the Big Island’s sandy beaches and crowded hotels, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park showcases the living, breathing power of Pele, the Goddess of Fire, and her striking processes of creation and destruction. Designated a national park in 1916, and a World Heritage Site in 1987, the park encompasses more than 330,000 acres, and ranges from the Pacific Ocean to the 13,677-foot summit of Mauna Loa. This vast area contains a striking variety of ecosystems, from low-elevation tropical rainforests to high-elevation volcanic deserts. The park’s most active volcano, Kīlauea, has experienced intermittent periods of eruption since the 1980s. These eruptions have enlarged the island by more than 500 acres. The most recent eruption occurred in 2018, when thermal explosions and lava flows temporarily closed the park. Some facilities and trails remain closed, but the majority of the park has reopened.
Just west of the park, about 45 minutes west of Hilo, Nāmakanipaio Campground is situated on the lower flank of Mauna Loa, near the Kīlauea Caldera. The campground offers 26 grassy campsites and 10 camper cabins shaded by tall eucalyptus and ōhi’a trees. Campsites have picnic tables and fire pits, and the campground has drinking water and flush restrooms; showers are available to cabin guests. The campground sits on the lower slope of Mauna Loa, at an elevation of 4,000 feet. Evenings can get cool, and rain—often heavy—is common. Good rain gear and, for campers, a durable, water-repellent tent fly is recommended. For those not packing camping gear on their Hawaiian vacations, the Volcano House rents camping packages that include a tent, sleeping pads, linens, a cooler, lantern and two camp chairs. Dogs are permitted in the campground, but not in cabins. Campsites are first-come, first-served for $15/night for two people; cabins are reservable for $80/night; park entrance fee required.
Camping at Nāmakanipaio is ideal for spending a few days exploring all the natural wonders in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The best place to start is the Kīlauea Visitor Center for the latest park info, trail maps, and volcanic activity updates. Park staff and volunteers offer a variety of interpretive programs on Hawaiian food, art, and culture, as well as volcanism and geology. A drive down the Chain of Craters Road reveals a variety of dramatic and colorful lava formations, craters, vents, and cinder cones. Many can be seen from viewpoints or short nature trails. There are several hiking trails that explore some of the older lava flows, and visit the Hōlei Sea Arch and Pu’u Loa Petroglyph sites. Hikers are encouraged to wear sturdy shoes, and pack along plenty of drinking water and sun protection. While the park is safe for visiting and exploring, guests should heed all safety warnings and stay out of closed areas.
lots Of trails for a variety of levels
Due to the draining of the Lava Lake and constant earthquakes in Volcanoes National Park, this area is closed. At this time it is uncertain that it will open again.
I love camping at this spot. Namakanipaio has wonderful views the Milky Way, and used to have a great view of the glowing lava lake. It was a short hike to Jagger Museum, that now is being consumed by the caldera. With daily earthquakes in the area, it is no longer safe. you can not even stop in the highway in that area. Hopefully it will open again in the future.
Awesome access to lots of trails and of course the volcano. Wouldn’t go right now with the eruptions but worth the visit in the future.
Bring extra warm stuff; can get windy and quite chilly at night.
This camping site is great! It’s 10 miles inside the volcanos national park. At the end of the drive there is parking for about 4 vehicles and a very clean and nice structure housing a pit toilet with paper. No running water, no fires allowed. Camping stoves ok. There are I believe 10-12 sites some right off the lot some farther out ours was up over a hill so you could not see any other sites or the lot from our location. There was a picnic table in each site. You pay at the gate (we got the year pass) and then $10 a night you put it in the bash box on site and put the receipt at your site if you happen to love for the day. We both tent camped and put up hammocks. You are in the shadow of Laura loa volcano and when we went you could see the glow of the main crater from our site however with the recent activity I am pretty sure the level may be too low now.
We hikes for a half hour towards the crater glow in the night to get to a ridge to look out over the valley. The moon was bright enough you didn’t need flashlights. It’s very windy at night and the temp drops. I had a sleep mat in my hammock and slept in sweats with a blanket and Summer sleeping bag. Our hammocks were swaying in the wind all night.
One of the best sites was the moon setting behind Mauna Loa just before sunrise and then watchingbehr sure from purple to pink to red as the sun came up from behind us and cast colors on her. A few miles farther on the drive you will reach a dead end with a pavilion and an incredible view of the Pacific.
Its close enough to hilo we left our site for the day and went to the hilo parks to swim than did all of the volcano park activities in the early evening.
Pretty epic experience sleeping so close to Pele. The best entrance to see the volcano at night is a bit of a drive/back ride but well worth it! Talk to locals in Pahoa and Keaau for tips on how to see the best views of the volcano. Cheap site about like $15 i believe.
A friend came to visit from off island and I had to take her to see Volcano National Park. We tent camped one night at this campground. It has toilets and a large pavilion, that we utilized to cook and eat under due to early morning rain. The night we stayed was verily quiet with not many other campers. I paid in the onsite dropbox with a check, but I am sure there is a way to probably pay online. Unfortunately there are no shower facilities.
The all time highlight is that when it got dark we made the 15-20 minute hike up to the Jagger Museum overlook/observatory to see the glowing lava in the crater.
The campground is technically outside of the national park and if you hike in there is no park fee.
We were able to snag a walk up site right at check out time, which is when you should arrive if you want to camp here. The campground was full by dinner time. The huge upside of this campground is the proximity to the Jagger Museum and the inner caldera of the volcano. You can hike from the campground to the caldera overlook and if you get lucky with a cloudy night sky, you'll be treated to a fiery display with the volcano glow lighting up the sky. The only downside of this campground is that there are no showers for tent campers. Definitely not something that would prevent us from returning.
Nice, open sites with decent amenities. You don't really have a lot of privacy at all… but you should be off exploring the park! I say desert, because it can get so hot during the day and turn around and get really cold at night.
I stayed here in spring of 2007, and was struck by how similar it was to Northern California, with the tall eucalyptus trees, and cute little cabins.
The camping bathroom didn't have showers, but the communal bathroom for the cabins did, and a sympathetic cabin renter let me into that bathroom. (I'm a bike tourist, so I really need the shower.)
I spent two nights here, because the second day I went for the dusk hike among the lava fields. Note to bikers, make friends with someone at the bottom who can drive you up, because it is a big climb not to be biked up in the dark.
There was a pavilion with a stone fireplace that was very attractive for groups.