Where to go in Hawaii to see volcanoes?

Quite often, I’m asked for advice on where to see volcanoes in Hawaii. The answer is both simple and tricky. You’ll soon see what I mean.

All the Hawaiian Islands were created from volcanic eruptions, though most of  the volcanoes that formed the Hawaiian island are extinct or dormant. From the oldest island, Kauai, to the newest island, Hawaii’s Big Island, you can see remnants of volcanic shaped mountains, formerly active lava flows and craters.

When you visit each island of Hawaii, you see that you are on land that was formed by a volcano. I’ll provide two typical examples to illustrate Hawaii’s volcanic history.

The first example is that many of Hawaii’s beaches are flanked by lava rocks jutting into the ocean. Here’s a photo of the sun setting behind lava rocks that flank Oneloa Bay Beach in Kapalua, Maui.

Oneloa Bay Beach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Perhaps Hawaii’s most iconic volcano remnant is the crater Le’ahi, which is more commonly called Diamond Head. This volcanic crater anchors Hawaii’s famous Waikiki Beach on Oahu.

Waikiki Beach at Sunset

If you want to see volcano activity, such as active lava flows and churning lava, Hawaii’s Big Island is the only place to see that in Hawaii. Both Kilauea and Mauna Loa on Hawaii’s Big Island are active volcanoes, with Kilauea being the most Hawaii volcano active, by far. (See this article for how to find out where the lava is active on Hawaii’s Big Island.)

At the moment Kilauea is producing several active spots that are thrilling to see on land or by helicopter. From Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, you can see the crater Halema’uma’u glowing with a billowing flow of volcanic smoke from the churning lava lake that’s below the surface.

Halemaumau at dusk

Halema’uma’u glowing at dusk

Kilauea is actively producing a lava, though the flows are not always active and easily visible/accessible from the ground.

Lava rolling to the sea

Lava flowing on the coastal plain and rolling to the ocean near Kalapana in 2008

Kilauea is also typically active at Pu’u O’o crater, but you’ll have to take a helicopter tour in order to see that.

To summarize  – volcanoes are actually everywhere in Hawaii, but only visibly active at Kilauea on Hawaii’s Big Island.


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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+.

One comment

  1. All of Hawaii’s volcanoes are worth seeing, but definitely don’t miss the opportunity to catch the lava flowing, if you’re on the Big Island of Hawaii.

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