Tucked into a historic corner of Volcanoes National Park, you’ll find Kilauea Military Camp. History buffs will love stopping by this often-overlooked piece of American military history. With roots that reach far earlier than WWII, Kilauea Military Camp has a long and tumultuous history. Once a military training base, KMC became an internment camp for people of Japanese heritage during World War II.
The Kilauea Military Camp is now a historical preserve/recreation center for U.S. military personnel. Anyone can drive through the streets of this mini-village. You’ll see an array of tiny, quaint cottages, some built from lava rock stones from the surrounding areas. A general store, bowling alley, and recreation center make the camp feel even more like a tiny town in itself. The Dwight D. Eisenhower residence still remains available for American military officers to stay on their Big Island vacations. It was reportedly Eisenhower’s favorite spot to stay during his time on the Big Island.
If you plan ahead, you can take a tour of the Kilauea Military Camp, or just stop in to read the historical placards around the center of the camp. Its location, just under a mile up the road from the park’s visitor center, is easily accessible to visitors, and it’s rarely busy. Many bike tours of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park stop at KMC along the way; it’s a quick and easy stop that doesn’t require much time to experience before moving on.
KMC offers accommodations (either dorm-style or individual cottages) and guided tours. Though, keep in mind that these are intended for the U.S. military: either active duty, retired, reserves, Guard, or veterans. If you’re hoping to snag reservations here, you’ll want to call ahead during business hours. Be sure to have your military ID in hand when you call. KMC does have an online booking system, but calling is a more reliable booking solution.
Kilauea Military Camp is located inside Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. You’ll need to purchase a parking pass to get there. It is just about one mile past the Kilauea Visitor Center and steam vents. Right across the street from one entrance to the Crater Rim trailhead.
-Booking a cottage here? Expect basic accommodations; the cottages are fairly clean, but they’re old, and there’s a reason they’re a budget option for military personnel.
-Bring warm clothes. Even if you’re just spending a day, temperatures in Volcanoes National Park can drop dramatically in the evenings. Especially compared to the coastal towns of Hilo and Kona. Pack a warm jacket or sweater and an extra pair of socks.
-There are a couple of cafes at the Kilauea Military Camp offering modest cafeteria-style meals. We’d recommend skipping these and heading to the town of Volcano or to nearby Volcano House for a meal instead.