We just returned from the islands last night and did some spectacular things in Hilo. We were able to visit a small village (Kalapana) where until 1990 was a nice quiet beachfront community that only the locals knew about. Now, what used to be the bay is now one big lava flow. We were able to hike (walk) to where the new black sand beach is forming. One of the former homes that used to be beachfront is now at least 200 yds from the ocean. It was weird to walk where there used to be ocean!! There was also a neat little story board that had pictures before, after & during the flow. Pretty impressive.
We also went down a new road that just opened in September, then closed 2 weeks later (due to lava activity), and has now reopened. The road will take you over some of the newest lava flow to where you can park your car and hike (walk) to within about 1/4 mile from where the lava is flowing into the ocean. (They have security to make sure you don't go any closer, due to the fact that in the 90s several people were killed and more were injured when they got too close and the "bench" that they were standing on collapsed and went into the ocean).
Some days you can see a waterfall of lava flowing, and others you can just see the steam to where the lava is trickling into the ocean. The day we were there, it was mostly trickling into the water with the occasional larger flows. Even then, it was unbelievable!!!!! This is where you can hike to around 7 miles from the park to see. I would have to say it was much easier driving most of the way!! We were also able to experience the lava flow from the ship at night. It was very exciting to see the glowing red coming down the volcano and spilling into the ocean!
If you have any more questions on Hilo or any of the other islands, just let us know!!