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.)
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.