What comes to mind when you think of May? May Day, Lei Day, May Flowers, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day? You might be surprised to discover that May is also the month for honoring all who currently serve in the military. On May 20th this year, we will do just that by celebrating Armed Forces Day. 

If you’re visiting Volcano, Hawai’i on the Big Island, you might also be surprised to discover that tucked away in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park is a camp that serves the military.

Book Your Stay in Volcano Now!

The History of Kilauea Military Camp

Kilauea Military Camp (KMC) was established in 1916, which is the same year of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park’s establishment. Occupying about 50 acres of the park’s 300,000+ acres, the camp has its roots in the Hilo Board of Trade. The board’s members had a vision for creating a training ground for the National Guard that would also serve as an Army vacation and health recruiting station.

Kilauea Military Camp’s first visitors would likely disagree with this later definition. Especially the men from Company A, Second Infantry of the United States Army. 

On November 6, 1916, 68 enlisted men from Company A arrived at KMC only to discover that the three main buildings were not finished, let alone suitable for occupants. What’s more, it was the beginning of the rainy season on Hawai’i Island. As a result, Company A’s men settled for whatever shelter from the November rain they could find during their weeklong stay.

Fortunately, the camp’s facilities and services have improved considerably. And over the past one hundred years, Kilauea Military Camp has functioned as a training facility, housed a Navy camp, hosted General Dwight D. Eisenhower (who later became the 34th U.S. president) and other notable dignitaries, and even served as an internment camp and a prisoner-of-war camp during World War II.

Like much of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, KMC has experienced Kilauea Volcano’s creative and destructive forces. Today, renovations to the camp have transformed it into one of Hawaii’s most unique military destinations without comprising its historical charm.

Experience Kilauea Military Camp 

With the exception of lodging, which is limited to military personnel and their families, Kilauea Military Camp is open to the public. And there is so much to enjoy at the camp itself, including a six-lane bowling alley, volleyball, tennis, and basketball courts, and an arcade and game room. And since pickleball is all the rage, enthusiasts will be happy to hear that every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday from 9am to 2pm, the KMC tennis courts are the sight of the Volcano Pickleball Hui. 

What’s more, there is a theater and live music (bring your dancing shoes!) at the Lava Lounge on most Friday and Saturday nights. You can also dine at the casual Crater Rim Café while enjoying fish and chips, other classic dishes, and grilled-to-order entrees on select nights.

Experience Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park

Kilauea Military Camp is an excellent place to discover the natural wonders of Kilauea Volcano if you’re vacationing on Hawai’i Island. And for those who live in Hilo or Kona, it’s the perfect way to beat the heat of summer without ever leaving the island!

Start your visit at the Kilauea Visitor Center, which you’ll find on the right, just past Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park’s entrance. Typically open Monday – Sunday, 9am to 5pm, rangers and volunteers are on duty daily to provide you with the latest information on the current conditions, hiking trails, the daily schedule of ranger-led activities, and safety precautions at the center. From there, begin your Crater Rim Drive Tour at Kilauea Overlook and work your way clockwise along Crater Rim Drive, stopping at the scenic overlooks along the way.

If you like to hike, head to Devastation Trail, a paved path winding through a beautifully barren landscape that is recovering from being buried beneath cinder that fell from Kilauea Iki’s lava fountains during the eruption of 1959. On the occasional rainy day, check out the Volcano Art Center Gallery.  Nestled within the Niaulani Rain Forest, the thriving fine arts gallery showcases the handcrafted artwork of over 230 local artists. The center also develops and offers programs for residents and visitors alike, such as the award-winning Na Mea Hawai’i Hula Kahiko performance series, held at the park’s kahua hula.

Homebase for Exploring Kilauea Military Camp 

If you’re not active duty or retired Armed Forces, why not experience the fun of KMC and the adventure of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park by staying at Tutu’s Place or the Ola’a House in Volcano? KMC is easily accessible from the Volcano Heritage Cottages, making our vacation rentals the ideal home base for exploring the camp and beyond while visiting Hawai’i Island. Book a stay today and get ready to experience the beauty of the rainforest and serenity in the heart of Volcano Village, Hawai’i.