Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park Will Stay Open After Dark Next Month Offering Visitors a Rare Stargazing Opportunity

With the stars of the milky way overhead, lava from the Kilauea volcano finds it's way towards the Pacific ocean during the first light of a new day.

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Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park has long protected two of the world’s most active volcanoes: Kīlauea and Mauna Loa. And now, to commemorate the one-year anniversary of the ongoing Kīlauea eruption — which is still going on right now — the park is hosting a handful of After Dark in the Park events in September.

This special round of park programming kicks off on Tuesday, Sept. 13, at the Kīlauea Visitor Center Auditorium. Instead of closing at its usual 5 p.m., the visitor center will remain open to welcome author and dark sky advocate Michael Marlin. Those in attendance will see stunning 4K images taken by the James Webb telescope on the big screen, and if the weather is clear, guests can test out the park’s telescopes or go on a night walk to learn about how animals adapt to the dark. The one-time event runs from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The following Tuesday, Sept. 20, there will be a one-hour talk with the park’s artist-in-residence, Alice Leese. Leese, who is also a rancher and plein-air painter based in West Texas, will share how the evolving Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park’s landscape has inspired her work. And on Tuesday, Sept. 27, almost exactly one year after Kīlauea began erupting (it started the afternoon of Sept. 29, 2021), volcano scientist David Phillips will share interesting facts about the volcano and show images and video of the ongoing eruption in the Halemaʻumaʻu crater. Both events run from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.

The Milky Way Over The Halemaumau Crater In The Kilauea Caldera
The Milky Way Over The Halemaumau Crater In The Kilauea Caldera.

Jim Wiltschko/Getty Images

In addition to the three After Dark in the Park programs, September will have plenty of special daytime offerings. On most Fridays, a guide playing the role of Dr. Thomas A. Jaggar, the revered founder of the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, will take guests to the edge of Kīlauea and share Jaggar’s passion for studying Hawaiian volcanoes. And on select Fridays and Saturdays you can volunteer to help remove invasive, non-native plant species from the park. Ranger-led walks through the lesser-known Kahuku area of the park and the rainforest on the edge of Kīlauea are offered regularly.

All events are free, although there is a $2 suggested donation for After Dark in the Park programs, and you will need to purchase a digital park pass to enter the park itself ($30 for a private vehicle, valid for seven days). That said, on Saturday, Sept. 24, entrance to the park (and all U.S. national parks) is free in honor of National Public Lands Day.

And while September is a very special time to visit Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park, the truth is that the park is impressive year-round. It’s home to some of the world’s most unique geological landscapes and valued cultural areas and has an impressive vertical span that ascends from sea level to a whopping 13,681 feet. In addition to being a protected and highly valued U.S. national park set on the beautiful island of Hawai‘i (Big Island), Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park is also a designated International Biosphere Reserve and UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

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