Can you walk out to see the lava flow?

Liquid Rock at Pu'u O'o

And the answer is yes, at least for the moment. Be aware that conditions can change at any moment. So, let me help clear up confusion about seeing liquid rock on the Big Island. Here are some frequently asked questions.

Where is the active lava now?

Let me give you the long term answer for that. The US Geological Survey maintains websites with very useful information on volcanic activity. The best place for getting lava flow updates in layman’s terms is on their Kilauea Images site. They also have a daily volcano update that’s good, too, though it’s written in a little bit of “scientific-ese.” You can also find an updated map of the lava flow which gives you an idea of where and how the lava is flowing. One last interesting point about the current flow, is that none of the lava activity is inside of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

I want to see the active lava. Is there any way to see it?

As of March 8th, a lava viewing point was created off of Hwy 130. Lava flow and conditions are subject to change at any moment.  Check the Hawaii Volcano Observatory daily update reports for Kilauea.  If the lava flow changes to an inaccessible area, your best bet to see the lava is by helicopter tour.  Call 808-961-8093 and/or 808-935-0031 for updates.  Currently, pilots and tourist are reporting that the views are fantastic, too. According to the Big Island Visitors Bureau, “Helicopter and fixed-wing aircraft tour companies in Hilo and Kona are reporting a huge surge in demand – and some of the most spectacular flight-seeing imaginable.” So, if you are considering a helicopter tour on the Big Island, you should do your homework and book a tour ahead of time. (See more helicopter tour tips and also get an idea of what a helicopter tour is like on the Big Island.)

If I can’t see lava flowing, is it still worth going to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park?image

My answer is absolutely, yes! Who would have thought that acres and acres of black hardened lava could be so interesting? There really is a lot to see and do from hiking in forests and across an inactive volcanic crater, to the Thurston Lava tube, and much, much more. Where else will you see an interesting sign like the one on the right?

Is lava flowing to the ocean?

March 7th update: The lava is currently flowing to the ocean.

Where will the lava be flowing in the future?

Ah, one of the most fascinating aspects of a volcano is that you can’t predict what it will be doing next. In the last six months or so, lava was flowing to the ocean and then it suddenly stopped. The Pu’u O’o vent was a huge impressive lava lake, and then it quit. Then in July, a new fissure popped up, the July 21st Eruption. In recent days the lava was flowing very slowly towards the ocean and then suddenly started flowing at a rate of a half-mile per day. Who knows what will happen next?

I hope this article has helped you from being tricked by the flashy ads and miscommunication that would make you think you can just take a 10 minute hike out to see the lava flow.


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About Sheila Beal

Sheila Beal is the founder and editor of Go Visit Hawaii. You can connect with Sheila Beal on Twitter, Go Visit Hawaii on Facebook, or Sheila Beal on Google+.

5 comments

  1. That was one of my concerns when I went to the island. But I am glad to know there is no danger of getting burned or overcome with fumes.

  2. Thanks for all this information. I will be there in one month :D

    I was wondering if one can now walk to see the lava flows on the surface. I know lava can be seen pouring to the ocean, but from a respectable distance. But I have seen many fotos and videos in Internet where the people come walking as close as a few meters to the glowing lava.

    Some of the fotos are on the official website, so I guess that is allowed and not so dangerous.

    Can it be done now? Or the surface flow is too far to walk to?

  3. Hi Carmen –

    I was there about 3 weeks ago and we could walk to a point that we could see some lava on the surface. We couldn’t get as close as a few meters, though. I’d estimate we were 100 meters away.

    The lava is much more visible at night in comparison to the day time.

    Please see these tips for lava viewing: http://www.govisithawaii.com/2008/03/16/advice-for-viewing-the-big-island-lava-flow/

    A volcano is very unpredictable. So things can change almost daily. I hope you are able to see the lava flowing when you are there! Have fun!

  4. Hello,
    I noticed this article was published in early 2008. I was wondering if it was still possible to see the lava by walking today? Also, how long is the walk? I have heard 3 to 5 miles.
    Thanks,
    Abbie

    • Hi Abbie -

      Here’s are two website where you can find the latest on the Big Island lava flows:

      - http://www.lavainfo.us/ Note that you can expand the map to see the latest plan. Bear in mind that I don’t live on the Big Island and it’s been over a year since I’ve been to the flow. Just by looking at the map and based on my own memory of the area, I doubt it’s 3 – 5 miles. It’s probably more like 2, I’d guess. It could be further depending on how far away you have to park.

      - http://volcano.wr.usgs.gov/kilaueastatus.php

      Also for more information you can call the Kalapana Lava Viewing Hotline – (808) 961-8093

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