The March, 2008, eruption of Halema'uma'a created an entirely new crater and sent toxic fumes and debris into the air. Nearly a decade later, the floor of this crater continues to seethe and emanate vog that presents a very real hazard to visitors to Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. This constant activity led the National Park Service to close the large section of Crater Rim Drive that is most vulnerable to these fumes, although a section leading to Keanakāko'i Crater was recently opened to foot and bicycle traffic in 2012. For visitors exploring the massive Kīlauea Caldera via the Crater Rim Drive, the Jaggar Museum is the end of the line along the north rim.
Thomas Jaggar founded the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory to study the incredibly active Halema'uma'u Crater in 1912, four years before the designation of Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park. Jagger ran the observatory until 1919, and he remained a director of the observatory until 1940 even as the National Weather Service and then the United States Geological Survey took ownership of the facility. Today the Jaggar Museum is an essential stop for anyone hoping to gain a better understanding of the geology of this area.
Visitors here can take a quick tour through the museum to see lava in a few of its many different manifestations and to learn about some of the fundamental dynamics of volcanism. Information is succinct and always connected to very real examples, so the material is particularly fascinating. But the showstopper here is Halema'uma'u Crater, and visitors to the museum will enjoy some of the park's best available views. Additionally, from the viewpoint just outside the museum you can take in the entirety of the Kīlauea Caldera, which is enormous. It is well worth the drive and the stop; and if you can make the trip at night, all the better. The museum itself closes at 8 p.m., but the park is open 24 hours a day.