How to See Lava Up Close
There is nothing like feeling the heat of 2200 degrees on your face, dipping a stick in the lava or watching it flow rapidly into the ocean. It’s mesmerizing! In fact it’s one of my favorite things to do on the island.
The challenge is that access is changing every single day and hour. Currently the flow is on the Puna district (NOT HAWAII VOLCANO NATIONAL PARK) and visitors can hike out to the lava. Conditions change rapidly so make sure you stay updated. You can call the visitor’s center at 808-985-6000 for updated lava viewing conditions.
Lava Sightings are NOT Guaranteed. The lava goes anywhere, anytime, and stops and starts at will. Having said that, here are some places where you MAY see lava.
See the Glow of the Lava from an Easy Trail
While the bulk of the lava is outside of the Hawaii Volcano National Park, a few years ago not far from the visitor’s center a hole blew in the caldera. It’s on the far side of the caldera and while you can’t see the lava, you can see the glow at night. For those with limited mobility, this is especially appealing.
To get there you will need to go to the Visitor’s Center. Across the street from the center and behind the trees, you will see a building with an access road. This is where you can park. Walk through the building or around it and you will come to a paved trail that is on the rim of the caldera. This is where the core of the volcano bubbled for years but is mostly dormant. Until it blew a hole a few years ago. You can see the steam coming up and the glow at night:
Poke a Stick Guided Lava Tours
When the volcano moved out of the park and into residential area, a company was formed to help people see the lava up close. They specialize in education and safety as they lead you out to find the flow. And yes, you literally can poke a stick in the lava and don’t even have to be a scientist to do so.
Getting to see the lava up close and personal is an amazing and rare experience. This tour is pricey but worth every penny. It also helps local economy.
Important: This is not a hike for people who are unable to hike around 5 miles over rough terrain. Many people can do this hike but it does require a lot of walking over some of the worst terrain you’ve traversed.
See Lava by Boat
Another way to see the lava is by boat. For the last several years the lava has been flowing into the ocean making for some spectacular viewing and photography. The boats come in within a reasonable distance but granted they have to stay somewhat safe. Hot lava hitting water has minor explosions and steam. But if you are looking for a different way to see the lava going to the ocean, check out the boat tours.
There are some restrictions. Their website clearly states:
Restrictions: Guests need to be 4 years old, able to climb a 10 ft ladder. People with any of the following conditions will not be allowed on tour, recent injuries, frailness, obesity, osteoporosis, pregnancies, back, neck, joint issues.
The reason for these restrictions is that the waves can be bumpy and guests need to be able to hold their footing. I personally have not been on the boat tours but I’ve seen pictures from those who have and they are impressive views of the lava.