It was humbling and mesmerizing experience to watch lava flowing into the ocean. I struggle to find the adequate words to describe it. If you are able to get out to the Big Island to see if for yourself, then I strongly encourage you to do so. I wanted to share some tips for viewing the lava so that you can make the most of your experience. Here are my suggestions.
• • • See a Lava Flow See a lava flow on the Big Island Seeing flowing lava up close is truly a breathtaking and unforgettable experience. Imagine standing by while the earth churns and molten hot lava oozes across the ground or into the ocean. The Big Island of Hawaii is home to active volcanoes and seeing those volcanoes (and sometimes even a surface flow!) is possible when visiting or other areas like . When planning your visit and thinking about whether you'll get to experience a surface lava viewing, it's important to remember that nature can be very unpredictable.
The Big Island's volcanoes are an active geological wonder and are always churning below the surface but surface flows are not always occurring or accessible. My best advice is to take the opportunity to see surface lava if you can, but don't be too disappointed if it isn't possible during your visit. The following information will help you find out about whether you might get to see surface lava on the Big Island during your visit, where to go and how to prepare so that, if there is lava that can be viewed, you'll be able to get the most out of the experience and enjoy it safely.
What will I get to see? The kind of volcanic activity that you've seen on TV—massive eruptions and giant rivers of lava—are not the kind of thing that most people get to see. It's extremely dangerous for anyone to be anywhere near that kind of volcanic activity. So, unless you have a multimillion dollar budget, a helicopter, and a zoom lens that takes two people to carry, you probably won't get to see a National Geographic special unfolding before your eyes.
The good news for the rest of us is that this is not what most lava flows in Hawaii are all about. When there is viewable surface lava, it can be very accessible to visitors and the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Rangers do everything they can to help visitors safely enjoy the breathtaking site of molten lava breaking through the Earth's surface and flowing down into the ocean. It takes a bit of luck to get this opportunity as weeks and months can go by without any viewable surface lava.
But being prepared and knowing where to look will put you in a position to take advantage of the opportunity to view a real lava flow in Hawaii. Where to Go Viewable surface lava flows are accessible through the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island (for general information on visiting the park, check out our dedicated ).
If it's a surface flow that you're looking for, the first step is to keep an eye on the daily online updates posted or . These sites will let you know if surface lava will be viewable in the area at the end of the Chain of Craters Road or other accessible areas in the National Park. If surface lava is accessible to visitors, Park Rangers at the Visitor's Center will be able to guide you on the specifics for getting there safely on that particular day. In general, the most accessible surface lava flows in the park are those that appear near the end of the Chain of Craters Road, where a 1986 lava flow crossed the road and provides a site that you certainly don't see everyday.
For additional lava viewing opportunities, consider checking out the outside of the park where lava has also been flowing into the ocean for the past several years. Lava viewing opportunities at Kalapana also depend on current conditions.
The site is outside of the national park and is administered by Hawaii County authorities, who have their own rules for viewing lava flows. Why did the lava flow cross the road?
To get to the ocean on the other side, of course. If there is viewable surface lava, you'll want to plan your day around this activity.
Get to the end of the Chain of Craters Road with plenty of daylight hours left—hiking across sharp jagged lava rocks is not something you want to rush. Viewing Surface Lava Safely Hiking to see a surface lava flow is quite safe if you are prepared, follow the directions of the Park Rangers, and take the proper precautions. Viewing surface lava flows is not the same as a day at the beach, so you need to dress appropriately.
Wear solid closed-toe shoes like hiking boots or sneakers—no flip flops! It can be incredibly hot even at a safe distance from exposed lava but wearing long pants is best to protect yourself from the sharp rocks all around you. Wearing work gloves while you're walking will also give your hands extra protection in case of a stumble. Be sure to stay within marked safe areas and away from the shelf of rock nearest the ocean. While this area may appear stable, it is not and can break away and fall into the sea at any time.
In addition to wearing the proper attire, be sure to bring plenty of drinking water (1-2 quarts per person) and a good flashlight. Hiking out over the rocks in daylight will give you a nice view of the lava with the background of the mountains, the large lava field, and the ocean but the real show begins after dark. You'll want to plan on staying until dark to have the chance to see the surface lava light up in brilliant yellows, reds, and oranges.
Once it gets dark, definitely take your time to appreciate what's going on around you. Let yourself be quiet and enjoy the feeling of seeing the Earth churning around you. Listen to the subtle sounds of rock cracking and lava making its way towards the sea. Walk around and explore but also take the time to sit quietly in a spot where you can see the lava flowing off the end of the Earth and into the sea, creating new land with brilliant colors glowing though a cloud of steam.
Hiking back the way you came becomes much more difficult at night. There are a series of beacons that mark the way but the biggest challenge is navigating each step over the same sharp lava rocks. Take it slow, stay together, and make sure you have a good flashlight—not a dollar store pocket light. For up to date information and an extensive overview of lava viewing safety, always consult the National Park's page before visiting.
Ready to Go? Madame Pele, Hawaii's volcano goddess, is unpredictable. While you might get the chance to see an amazing surface lava flow, your visit might also fall during a time when things are relatively quiet in terms of eruption activity. The good news is that the Big Island's volcano sights include much more than just surface lava. Incredible views of the crater, steam vents, diverse vegetation and wildlife, ancient petroglyphs, and ocean views are all available for you to enjoy.
A visit to see an active volcano in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is an amazing experience whether surface lava is part of the trip or not. Enjoy what's around you and, if you don't get to see everything you hoped for, be sure to make plans to visit again soon.
best date lava flows big island - Big Island Lava Tours
Big Island, Hawaii These are the 2 things I want you to know right off the bat: 1. If you get a chance to , close enough to poke it, DO IT. 2. Walking on lava rocks suck. Walking on lava rocks at night sucks even more. But even then, see #1 Big Island is home to world’s most active volcano. As opposed to throwing its lava and rocks around in a big, destructive tantrum, Kilauea oozes its lava in a relatively peaceful manner.
This provides a rare opportunity for people to get close to it. As of a matter in fact, close enough to step in it if you’re not careful enough. (MORE: ) On that note: be careful. Even in headlamps you can tell where fresh lava has been. Even if it looks solid, don’t step on it. Often the crust hides hot lava underneath. At Jagger Museum in Volcano NP, you can learn what happened to a scientist who accidentally stepped into a pool of lava.
The spot where the current lava flows from Kilauea changes all the time. Jack and I were lucky enough to be on the island when the current flow is within a reasonable hiking distance. Unfortunately, the hike to get there requires hiking pass private property. The owner decides to charge $120 per group to allow people to cross his property. Fortunately, if you come after 10 pm there will be nobody to stop you from doing the 1.5 hour hike.
Contents • • • • The hike to see lava As soon you get to parking lot (we parked by the guard shack), you can see the reddish glow in the horizon which acted as our beacon. The hike was tough. Walking on lava rocks is big pain in the ‘okole. The terrain is covered with cracks and fissures – often 3-4 ft deep. On top of the challenging terrain, lava rocks are super sharp.
They’ll chew up your shoes. They will shred your skin if you fall. I had to concentrate all the time on where I put my feet. Soon I was getting a headache because I was straining so hard to see. For the longest time, I swear that glow was not getting any closer. Tip: wear long pants and very strong headlamp But when we finally got there, all the pain was forgotten Because seeing lava up close is something that’s hard to describe. It was beautiful as in Mordor is beautiful. The land in front of us steams, glows, crackles, and sizzles.
The heat was intense. We couldn’t get any closer than 5 ft from fresh flowing lava. As lava cools, it forms a thick layer on the surface, but we could see the lava underneath from the cracks in the crust – intensely bright against the ground in the night sky. Crackling noise fills the air. Jack playing with the lava flow. The steam at the top right background is where the lava meets the ocean.
Fresh lava seeping from ground, courtesy of Kilauea, the world’s most active volcano – Big Island, Hawaii We had a playground from hell in front of us and we had it all to ourselves.
We had a lot of fun with the lava We found some discarded walking sticks on the way in that we poked the lava with. It catches fire almost instantly. We laugh. We prodded the lava some more. Let me poke a stick at it and see what happens Jack started throwing rocks at a spot of flowing lava just because he could. They fell in a silent thud. Lava is a lot thicker and heavier than it looks. It is, after all, molten rock. We took lots of blurry pictures with our phones. (That night I learned that phones do not take good night time pictures.) Here you can see Jack having way too much fun with lava Coastal lava flow After abusing the poor lava flows inland, we made our way to the coast.
I read somewhere that you can get really close to the hot spot, the spot where the lava drips down to meet the ocean – but we couldn’t get there that night. Not without stepping over newly formed crust still hot to the touch (it means there’s still lava underneath the crust). It seemed too high of a risk. So we skirted around towards where we came from until we found ourselves at the edge of a 50 ft cliff. As our gaze follow the coastline we saw thick plumes of steam as half a dozen lava waterfalls plunge 50 ft to the cold ocean.
Even from quite a distance, the red glow of these molten rock waterfalls was striking. As the waves come in, bits of lava would get thrown in the air like a firework display. The thought that I was watching new land being formed just blows my mind.
I stood mouth agape for a very long time feeling incredibly lucky to be where I was at that very moment. IMPORTANT Follow highway 130 all the way to the very end. There was a sign that says "Authorized personnel only" - drive around it and keep going until you pass a row of porta potties. Keep going and you'll see a guard shack. Park there. Since the lava flow moves constantly, this post will be outdated pretty soon. Check with park rangers and locals about where the current flow is, and if you can make it there - your effort will not be wasted.
We promise. IMPORTANT - having a way to get back to your car is critical. Getting to the lava is the easy part, but finding your car in the dark 1.5 mi away is not so. If you don't want to get trapped until sunrise, bring a GPS (we used for Android) Just a side note…nobody can decline you access to the lava flows (except the State/county/gov. You can take the old lava covered county road to the flows.
Some GPS have this road or you can find the data on the state GIS web page. Also, the new coastal land is owned by the state of Hawaii…so you can follow the coast. Private property is in the area and you need to be respectful of that (over 1000 different owners/lots in the area, but you don’t have to pay $$$.
Next time call the police on this guy because he is full of BS. Also just learned that one of the tour companies in under a murder investigation for someone else starting a lava tour company. Be carefull….. • My 13 year old daughter and I (everyone else backed out when they heard that it's a 3 mile hike each way) will be doing a Lava Proximity Hike with Volcano Discover Tour on the Big Island in approx. 2 weeks time. I'm excited but am nervous at the same time.
I'm a bit of a clutz so I am quite concerned about falling and cutting myself. We will be doing the hike in the day – starting at approx. 10am and plan to end around 4pm. I realize that it's a challenging, but not undoable trek. Should I be concerned? I understand that the night trek is 100% tougher than the day one. Any insight would be greatly appreciated.
• Hi there, I think you're up for a treat! Hiking on lava rocks is tough and you might get cut up if you fall so I'd suggest long pants and good hiking boots. Maybe even walking sticks. It all depends on how much hiking you've done and how comfortable you are on uneven terrain but as long as you go at your own pace and pay attention to your footing, you'll be fine. Do you mind me asking how much the tour costs?
Some people have asked me about the possibility of a guided tour. Have a great time on the island!! We're hoping to be back soon. • What an incredible adventure with some great photos! We were at Volcanoes NP a few years ago but never got close to this flowing lava. It wasn't exactly recommended with 2 toddlers in tow ðŸ™‚ I would love to see this at night. We were supposed to see the lava flow from the cruise ship but had a detour. •
Hiking to Active Lava Flows on Hawaii’s Big Island September 05, 2013 — 6 minute read On This Page • • • • • In January 2013, while vacationing on the Big Island of Hawaii, I had the chance to go on a hike out to the active lava flows from Kilauea.
This is a fantastic experience, and one I highly recommend to anyone able to do it. Volcanos are one of the most powerful forces on Earth and the unique experience of this one is the ability to get right up close to lava in a (relatively) safe way. If you’re interested in viewing more photos of the lava hike - my has plenty. Location Kilauea flows into the south east side of the Big Island, south of Hilo.
The location of the active flows, is actually well outside Volcanoes National Park. The USGS keeps an updated site with maps explaining the current flows at This map is pretty close to what we saw. Kilauea flow fields The way to approach the flow fields is from the end of Highway 130.
It becomes a small access road, then delivers you straight to the flow fields. route from Lava Beds B&B to the flows and ocean entry There is parking at the end of 130, but we continued on to Lava Beds B&B to meet our guide. Preparation and Advice I highly recommend you go with a guide.
These guys do hikes daily when the flows are active so are always up to date on where the best flow areas are, and are the best way to do it safely. In the pitch black, they know the way back. Our guide brought flashlights for everyone, but I also brought my own very high powered LED light. A headlamp is actually the best way to go since it is extremely dark (unless you have the advantage of being under a full moon) and it leaves your hands free.
Our guide for the hike was David from Photography Advice - bring a tripod (if you can afford the weight) as there are plenty of low light opportunities and some distance shots to be had. Since getting close to the ocean entries from land is difficult, I suggest a long lens for that plus a good fast lens for up close flows inland. Beyond that I don’t think there’s much advantage bringing a whole bag of lenses.
Make sure you have lots of memory card space, you’ll want to take hundreds of photos of the flows then edit later. Stills are great, but seeing the lava move and flow is incredible, so bring something to take video with. Perhaps the best way to go is two cameras, a DSLR with a long lens and a good point-and-shoot for speed and weight. Setting Off We left from Lava Beds B&B (the blue house) around 4:30pm, which is only a hundred or so yards from the edge of the hardened lava flows.
A little further out, and that house would end up looking like one we came across later. a blue house in the distance at the edge of the hardened flows Ahead, nearly as far as the eye can see, is an expanse of hardened lava, which we began walking across. From the photos it looks as if the hardened lava might be slippery, but it’s not.
The grip is actually quite remarkable, and it was possible to navigate the terrain even on sharp angles. hardened lava with some burnt trees for texture Hiking across the lava, one must pay attention to what is under foot.
The hardened rock is full of cracks and fissures which have razor sharp edges. Some recommend hiking with work gloves on in case you have to set a hand down while walking (or falling). mind the sharp cracks As we progressed further out onto the lava, we came upon the burnt shell of a house that was just a little too far out. It was actually a place that had survived previous flows, and used to be surrounded by other houses, but it too eventually succumbed to a flow of lava. burnt shell of a house consumed by lava Along the way there are a number of burnt but not completely consumed trees laying around.
In a number of places, you can see impressions of the trees left in the lava. impression of tree in lava Some trees left larger marks in the lava.
They were large enough to divert the flow of lava around rather than being knocked over. The lava cooled and hardened as it hit the trees and while the trees were then set ablaze and burnt through, the hardened lava left an impression from the trunk. hole in lava left by a tree trunk There are also a few other random surviving artifacts, like this toilet.
If we had come across it on the walk back, I would have been tempted to try it out. no idea how this survived Visible in some small patches is a type of lava called Pele’s hair, which looks like little gold hairs. Pele's hair ##Reaching the Flow After walking for a couple miles, the first hints of the flow were upon us.
The newer lava had a slightly different texture and it was possible to feel the heat below through your feet. different texture, and a hint of red glow indicates nearby flows Recent lava flows harden quickly, but are still very hot and have a beautiful red glow underneath.
a recent hardened flow, only a few minute old Flows can begin anywhere, and change form and direction quite fast. Our guide provided walking sticks for everyone, and a few people decided to try poking the lava. poking the lava with a stick provides a good souvenir Eventually it was time to leave the flows and continue on to the ocean entry location where lava meets the water.
Ocean Entry From our vantage point at the flow area, we could see steam rising from the ocean, and we headed in that direction.
ocean entry ahead Along the way to the ocean entry there were few other interesting formations and artifacts. flow over rocks this sign may have said danger Eventually we made it down to the ocean entry, and sat for an hour or so on the cliffs watching the lava flow into the ocean and listening to the waves.
There were a few groups on boats, which get real close to the entry points. One benefit - the entire cliff area feels like heated car seats when on top of it. ocean entry flows This was the best part of the trip, watching parts of the lava break off and listening to the waves crash against the shore whilst the newest land on earth is formed. Return Our return hike was in pitch darkness, lit only by flashlight. The stars above were amazingly bright, and I wished I had a tripod to setup a nice long shot of them.
Hiking in darkness over uneven terrain can be a bit difficult. Be extremely careful, it’s easy to fall and get hurt. One person in our group tripped lightly, put a hand and knee down on the ground and ended up with multiple cuts and plenty of bleeding. One last thing I was surprised of, is how much hiking over that surface destroys the treads on shoes. My hiking shoes had only a few outings on them prior to this hike, but it nearly destroyed them. Tags: , , Categories: , Share on
Sunday, July 8, 2018 - Amazing Lava Flow on Big Island Hawaii!!