Tiptoe Through the Craters

By Andrea Sachs
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 12, 2007

Q. My husband has always wanted to visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, but we heard that you can no longer hike to watch the lava meet the sea. We've been to Arenal Volcano in Costa Rica. Where else can we go?

Kristin Zipay, Herndon

A. On any given day, 20 to 40 volcanoes are rumbling around the world, and travelers who walk too close to a spewing crater can be injured or killed by rocks, explosive blows and other geologic projectiles. "If you're going to a volcano, check in with the volcano observatory and ascertain its safety," said Marianne Guffanti, a volcanologist with the U.S. Geological Survey. "And don't try to go to the crater of an active volcano. Keep in mind that some active vents may be temporarily quiet and seem safe but then suddenly resume activity."

However, just because a volcano is active doesn't mean it's off-limits -- almost. In the States, the two liveliest volcanoes are Kilauea in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and Mount St. Helens in Washington state. Hawaii's Kahaualea Natural Area Reserve and some trails are currently closed because of dangerous volcanic activity. (For updates, check the park's Web site at

A safer choice would be Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. Instead of hot molten lava, you'll see sliding rocks and falling ash. The volcano is accessible from many vantage points, such as the Johnston Ridge Observatory and the trek to the crater rim (purchase a $22 permit at; other info, 360-891-5000). Elsewhere in the States, Guffanti suggests the Augustine Volcano ( off the coast of Alaska.

Tobias Schorr, founder/tour guide of Germany-based Volcano Discovery (011-49-2241-208-0175,, is like a volcano whisperer, following seismic blips from Indonesia to Europe. "Stromboli [in Italy] is one of the most active volcanoes on the planet," Schorr said. His favorite volcano, however, is on the Greek island of Nisyros. "Its last eruption took place in 1886," the company's Web site states, "and it is certainly going to show activity in the future again."

My husband and I would like to take a cruise for the first time next summer, and we are dying to see sea turtles. Any suggestions?

Kim Rice, Syracuse, N.Y.

It's understandable for a first-time cruiser to feel overwhelmed. To narrow the choices, start with the sea turtles: You'll have to go deep in the Caribbean (say, Costa Rica) or cruise to Grand Cayman, which has a sea turtle farm. Katherine Parks, an agent at Going Places travel agency in Baltimore (410-284-9200,, says the Caribbean is a good choice for new cruisers because "they speak English on the islands and are used to tourists."

Shorter Caribbean cruises usually depart from Miami or Fort Lauderdale. Cruises sailing to the Caribbean from mid-Atlantic terminals, such as Norfolk, Baltimore and New Jersey's Cape Liberty in Bayonne, are longer. These ports also have sailings to Bermuda, another good destination for first-timers (but no turtles).

Season-wise, summer is busy, because kids are on vacation. To avoid the schoolyard-at-sea scene, consider traveling in the fall. And while that is hurricane season, cruise ships have a built-in escape plan: "The great thing about a cruise is that the ship can sail away from the hurricane," Parks said.

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