Puupuai Overlook

Puupuai Overlook-Volcanic Devastation and Trails
Local Expert's Rating:
4 / 5
The Bottom Line:

Puupuai Overlook is part of the National Park Service and gives visitors views of the Kilauea Iki crater. Puupuai is Hawaiian for “gushing hill,” which best describes the 1,900 feet towering lava eruptions of 1959 that formed the cinder mound. A parking lot is available, but there are no other amenities. There are two out-and-back trails nearby.

- The HawaiianIslands.com Local Expert Team

Puupuai Overlook is in the Volcanoes National Park, which is part of the National Park Service. There is a fee to enter based on whether you drive, hike, or bike into the park. A parking lot and platform at Puupuai Overlook allow visitors picture-worthy views of the Kilauea Iki crater and the cinder mound, Puupuai.  

In 1959, Kilauea Iki erupted, shooting lava fountains 1,900 feet into the air. When the lava cooled, it fell to earth and created the cinder mound still visible today. The Hawaiians named the mound Puupuai or “gushing hill” to commemorate the volcanic eruption. There are also two trails near Puupuai Overlook you may want to consider exploring. 

Devastation Trail 
-The trailhead is on the left side of the Puupuai Overlook parking lot.
-The trail ends at the Devastation Trail parking lot, a half-mile away. 
-The paved trail is an out-and-back that is considered easy by hiking apps. 
-Plan on this hike taking 20 minutes.

This wheelchair-friendly trail gives hikers unobstructed views of the cinder mound, which the NPS has roped off as you’re not allowed to hike it. Devastation Trail is a very popular hike, and it can be busy during peak times. You’ll also walk through wooded areas and view distant Mauna Loa. But the majority of what you’ll see is the devastation from the volcanic eruption in 1959.

Byron Ledge Trail
-The trailhead is at the Devastation parking lot
-You can also find it at the end of the Devastation Trail.
-The rocky 1.9-mile out-and-back trail is moderate.
-Plan for your hike to take 45-50 minutes to complete. 

The Byron Ledge Trail divides Kilauea caldera and Kilauea Iki crater, giving hikers incredible views of the cinder cone of Puupuai and vistas of Kilauea. The trail connects with the Kilauea Iki loop and the Thurston Lava Tube. You’ll come to a gate when you near the Kilauea Iki trail. The gate keeps feral pigs from getting into the forest, so make sure you close the gate afterward. 

While hiking, you may encounter Hawaii’s endangered geese, the nēnē. In 1952, there were only 30 geese in Hawaii. Today, thanks to the Nēnē Recovery Program, there are more than 200 nēnē thriving at sea level up at 8,000 feet. The NPS reminds visitors to stay 60-feet away from the geese and not feed them. Nēnē are comfortable around people, so feeding them will be tempting. But this conditions them to be near the parking area where they could get injured or killed. 

We think a visit to Puupuai Overlook will satisfy nature lovers, historians, and wildlife lovers. You’ll see the devastation caused by the 1959 eruption of Kilauea Iki and perhaps catch a glimpse of an nēnē. 

Insider Tip:
Pack an umbrella or wear a rain jacket or parka since it rains frequently or can be damp. Visitors also advise visiting at night when you can see the red glow of the lava.