Located on the summit of Kilauea volcano on the Big Island, the steep-walled and steaming Halemaumau Crater sits within the massive Kilauea Caldera in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Halemaumau Crater is about 280 feet (85 m) deep and 3,000 feet (914 m) across.
Known as a pit crater, Halemaumau is located at 3,464 feet (1,111 m) above sea level. The crater is said to be the place where the volcano goddess Pele protects her sacred fires.
The size of the Halemaumau Crater has varied significantly over the last century. In the 1920s it was more than one thousand feet deep. Magma (molten rock) ebbs and flows just beneath the surface and sometimes erupts and fills the crater floor.
The huge summit caldera of Kilauea - which is more than 2.5 miles (4 km) across - was created when large amounts of magma beneath the surface of the volcano’s summit drained away causing the top of the volcano to collapse inward. The same thing happened atop Mauna Loa volcano and also on top of Maui’s Haleakala volcano.
In recent years the Halemaumau Crater has been emitting huge plumes of sulfurous gases that steam up through the cracks in the black lava rock. Great views of the mineral-encrusted Halemaumau Crater can be enjoyed from the Jaggar Museum and also from the Volcano House Hotel. You can learn more about Halemaumau from informational exhibits at the Kilauea Visitor Center.