This observatory offers visitors a chance to observe two active volcanoes. Kīlauea and Mauna Loa were sacred to the Ancient Hawaiians. On August 1, 1916, area became home to the country's 13th national park. Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1987.
Beginning around the year 300, the Hawaiian
Islands were settled by Polynesian migration. Dominated by the chieftain class,
Ancient Hawaiian society was highly stratified with a strict caste
system. The people also maintained a rich oral history tradition that was passed down through dance,
song, and chant. These volcanoes
were part of that tradition, as ancient Hawaiians would travel to their summits to
make offerings during eruptions.
Within Hawaiian legend, Kilauea is the home of
the volcano goddess Pele. Even after their religion was abolished by the ruling government in 1819, the
Kilauea summit caldera remained an important cultural and religious site to
In the late 19th century, interest in the volcanoes was closely tied
to tourism. Lorrin A. Thurston, the grandson of the missionary Asa Thurston,
who was one of the first Christian missionaries to Hawaii, became a tireless
advocate for the establishment of a national park after investing in hotels
that had been built along the rim of Kilauea.
Hawaii National Park was established by Congress through a 1916 law signed
by President Woodrow Wilson. The original legislation included part of the current Hawaii Volcanoes
National Park and the Haleakala National Park on the island of Maui. Both parks became separate entities in 1960. Lands totaling more than 115,000 acres were added to Hawaii
Volcanoes National Park in 2004. In 1980, the United Nations Educational,
Scientific, and Cultural organization (UNESCO) named Hawaii Volcanoes National
Park an International Biosphere Reserve because of its outstanding scientific and
The park was recognized for its important
volcanic sites, its volcanic island ecosystem, and its cultural and historic
sites. In 1987, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park was named a World Heritage Site
by UNESCO. This was done with the idea to recognize and protect the park in
which has outstanding natural, historical, and cultural values. More than 1.5
million tourists arrive each year to see Kīlauea and Mauna Loa.