Photo of lava ©MB
Kilauea Volcano, Brought to you Since 1983!
This is a favorite part of Hawaii and the attraction for millions around the world. How often can you stand on land younger than your 5 year old child, or park in an area that two later is under 15 feet of lava. Or grab a picture with you toasting marshmallows over lava (don’t eat them) with the lava flowing inches from your feet. It’s all true. And it’s amazing! But the lava is continuously changing. And access to it changes as well. Sometimes it’s a 10 foot walk to a molten stream of lava. At other times it’s a 3 mile hike over treacherous ground with steam coming between your toes. Literally.
Right now there are two main places to view the lava. The first is at the caldera in Volcano’s National Park. If you enter into the park, you will see a visitor’s center on the right. If you look opposite of the visitor’s center, there is a service entrance that takes you to the volcano house. Now that it has been renovated again, you can go into the Volcano house for gift shoping and more. If you go around to the back you will have hiking trails and paths around the caldera. At night you can see the glow of the lava.
The other option is to go to the Puna district. Right now there is 1 main tour company taking visitors hiking out on the lava fields. Poke a Stick Lava Tours. They provide you with the knowledge to keep you safe and you actually do poke a stick in the lava. It is so cool and well worth it! Just know that the terrain is treacherous. Wear strong footwear, tennis shoes or hiking boots. This is a place even Tevas and Chacos might meet their match so best not to test them out.
Important Things You Need to Know about Exploring Kilauea Volcano!!
- THERE ARE NO GAS STATIONS WITHIN MANY MILES (PAHOA)! You cannot bury a gas container in the ground for a gas station. If you do not fill up on gas beforehand, you will be in a difficult place. Even more so because…
- THERE IS NO CELL PHONE SERVICE. If your car runs out of gas or you have some kind of medical emergency, you are left to the resources around you.
If you Hike over the Dry Lava:
- Take a lot of batteries in your flashlight. If you go at night to see the lava which is the best time and you walk on the dry lava fields, you will need every beam of light. Flashlights run out quick.
- There are no water stations and it is HOT. Take a lot of water. A dehydration incident is bad.
- Take good shoes. No exceptions. The lava is treacherous and is just hungry to cause a sprained ankle.
If you Hike to the Lava Flow–Respect the Dangers!
- Fresh lava dries very fast! What it means that it doesn’t always look red and glowing but rather black and glassy. Truly dried lava has a black and dull look. DON’T STAND ON FRESHLY DRIED LAVA! It’s very deceptive because it appears hard, but actually has a thin crust that breaks. There is no medical care here. You will know when you are around fresh as you will hear crackling, you will see heat waves and it will be hot. So don’t panic if you are on a wide swatch of dry lava. But if you get close to the flow, please be smart. I’ve seen a lot of people do dumb things, even warned them, and they don’t heed the warnings. People, 2200 degree lava is not a joke. Respect it.
- Shelf Breaks—This is another doozy so many ignore. When lava flows into the ocean it forms a shelf. Unfortunately there is nothing under the shelf to protect it. It’s not uncommon at all that those shelves break off and into the ocean. They can break off by the 20-30 acres at a time. No one has yet survived a shelf break. So when getting close to the nation, keep a healthy distance if you don’t know the shelf line.
The volcano is an amazing place to explore. Parts of it are active and parts are from previous lava flows. Plan on spending a day here unless you just go to the crater at the top. There are many ways to explore the volcano which will be discussed here.
Volcano National Park–Past Lava Flows and One Active Blow Hole
Poke a Stick Lava–On the Puna Side, Hike to the Lava