Volcanoes are one of nature’s most amazing phenomena. But it’s not just eruptions and flowing lava that make them so exciting. They leave their traces in lava tube caves, crater lakes, and even entire islands. Here are just some of the places you can see volcanoes on a cruise and their awe-inspiring landscapes.
Top Destination for Seeing Volcanoes on a Cruise: Hawaii
When you think of volcanoes on a cruise, Hawaii is probably the first place that pops into your mind. The Hawaiian language has 2 words for different types of lava. Pāhoehoe flows slowly and has a smooth surface while ʻaʻā moves quicker and has a rough surface. You can spot both in Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island. The national park is home to Mauna Loa, the largest volcano in the world, and the highly active Kilauea. Shore excursions can take you on a helicopter tour of the park, or a hike to the summit of the dormant Mauna Kea.
All of the Hawaiian Islands are formed by volcanic activity, so the Big Island isn’t the only place to experience incredible volcanic views. On Maui, for example, there’s the 7-mile long Haleakala crater. After Mark Twain saw sunrise over Haleakala he wrote, “It was the sublimest spectacle I ever witnessed, and I think the memory of it will remain with me always.”
Related: Cruise to Hawaii: A Guide to the Islands’ Must-See Attractions
For Hot Springs: South Pacific
The Ring of Fire isn’t just a Johnny Cash song, and Hawaii doesn’t have the only volcanic islands in the Pacific. Volcanic activity can be found all around the edges of the Pacific Ocean, especially the South Pacific.
Rabaul, Papua New Guinea sits in the shadow of Mount Tavurvur which erupted as recently as 1994. There, you can take a shore excursions and hike to the observatory where scientists monitor the island nation’s 14 active peaks.
In Tauranga, New Zealand you can take a more leisurely approach to see hot springs and steaming volcanic vents in the evocatively named Hell’s Gate Geothermal Park.
For Colorful Volcanic Rock Beaches: The Mediterranean
The Mediterranean is also a volcanic hot spot. Stromboli is known as the lighthouse of the Mediterranean (and the namesake of the Italian-American dish full of molten cheese). It’s near-constant minor eruptions throw splashes of lava up into the sky. The sight is particularly impressive when viewed from a cruise ship at night.
In Roman mythology, Mount Etna was said to hold the forge of the gods, worked by Vulcan (who we named volcanoes after). Today, it’s still the tallest and most active volcano in Europe. Even so, it’s possible to reach the summit by 4×4, cable car, and hiking the rocky terrain.
The Greek island of Santorini was formed by volcanic activity, but the volcano is now dormant. You can still experience the after-effects, though. Santorini is known for its colorful red, white, and black beaches (each featuring sand made of a different type of volcanic rock) as well as its hot springs.
Related: Mediterranean Cruises: Top Ports to Explore
For Hiking Through Volcanoes on a Cruise: Iceland
Northward, the Land of Ice and Fire was formed by volcanic activity. You can even go inside a volcano – well, sort of. Near Reykjavik, you can hike through lava tubes left behind by past eruptions. The tour lasts around an hour and is the perfect shore excursion while visiting Reykjavik.
For Nearby Volcanoes: The Caribbean
Even the nearby Caribbean is a great place to view volcanoes on a cruise. In fact, Nicaragua is nicknamed the Land of Lakes and Volcanoes. Masaya Volcano National Park features a crater lagoon and two smoking volcanic peaks. Approach Masaya’s rim via coach tour to view the lava fields below.
Grand Etang Lake fills the crater of an extinct volcano in Grenada. The lake is surrounded by lush rainforests that smell of the native nutmeg. Grenada is sometimes known as the spice island.
Snorkeling and volcano are not two words you’d expect to go together. But, in the Dominican Republic you can snorkel in the warm waters over a group of volcanic vents. The vents give off bubbles, which give the area the name Champagne Reef.
One of the more famous places to see volcanoes on a cruise is the southeast coast of St. Lucia. These twin volcanoes are known as the Pitons. Many St. Lucian shore excursions revolve around the Pitons and include either hiking, a catamaran tour or a helicopter tour. Land, sea and air all offer different experiences so we recommend trying more than one if you go back for a second visit.
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Author: Dan Smolinsky