On the big island of Hawaii, volcanoes have their own culture.

Brochures featuring orange rushing lava greet you at the airport. Helicopter tours — including one called “Lava Waterfall” — take you on a quick spin, promising the explosive fiery images of movies. There is town called Volcano, and several restaurants are named after Pele, goddess of the volcano.

From the time you step off the plane, it’s easy to see volcanoes are a huge part of Hawaii’s history, culture, and, especially, tourism.

Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park Video

Since we were headed to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, we knew this. But if you stumbled upon the Big Island a different way, we’d recommend embracing the air of volcanoes.

First stop by the national park visitor center to check out ranger programs. (We attended three and the rangers were passionate and entertaining.) Walk through the lava tube carved by the flowing and hardening of lava and feel the heat from the steam vents. Don’t miss out on the night lava lake glow from Jaggar Museum. If you have more time, hike the 4-mile trail down into Kilauea Iki and see the steam and lava rocks up close.

However you visit the Big Island, we highly recommend making Hawaii Volcanoes National Park a part of your trip.

Check out snippets from our time there below:

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Written by Elizabeth

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James Bordonaro

The most recent issue of National Geographic is dedicated to the anniversary of the National Park System. You guys are ahead of your time!