Thurston Lava Tube in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Thurston Lave Tube at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

When you’re exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island, don’t miss seeing Thurston Lava Tube. (A lava tube is a cave-like tube that lava flows through underground. It’s kind of like a pipe that the lava produces in order to move underground.) The photo above shows the entrance into Thurston Lava Tube. The park has placed lights inside the tube for you to explore the size and shape of the lava tube.

The trail to and through the lava tube is a loop trail. You won’t need a flash light through the first section as the path is well lit. There is a second optional section of the lava tube that is not lit, but if you are so inclined, you can explore it if you have a flash light.

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Thurston Lava Tube is surrounded by an amazing lush green forest which is a very distinct contrast from the barren fields of black lava that you see so predominately inside the park. While you’re here, take a few moments to admire the giant Hapuu ferns and notice the Ohia trees with the lehua blossom. This area is also a wonderful place to watch for birds in this rainforest setting.

You’ll find Thurston Lava Tube just off Crater Rim Drive inside Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. See my tips for visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. From those tips, please take note that if you can visit Thurston Lava Tube early in the morning you’ll beat the bus load of crowds that constantly filter and and out from mid-morning until late in the afternoon. Trust me, it makes a huge difference.

Note: Thurston Lava tube was closed in 2018 for nearly two years. It reopened in February 2020.

6 comments
  1. I so want to go visit this thing! I’ve seen some home videos about this place and it’s so cool! If it weren’t actively volcanic around there… 🙂

  2. Thurston Lava Tube definitely is a not-to-be-missed highlight in Volcanoes National Park. The walk to see it is not difficult, and is definitely worth it — for the wonderful rain forest and all the birds there as well as for the lava tube itself.

  3. @ Evelyn – I hope you get there sometime soon. It really is neat to see. I have to say that even though lava hasn’t flowed through Thurston Lava Tube in many, many years, my heart did beat a little faster just knowing that there was active lava within in a few miles away.
    @ Joe – I’m sure you’ll snap some amazing photos of the Big Island when you go.
    @ Bobbie – I agree it’s not to be missed. I love all those ferns, plants and mosses growing in that area. It’s peaceful there, especially if you can catch it when there isn’t a tour bus there.

  4. This is was one of favorite places on the Big Island. We never miss visiting the tube and the fern grotto. We are returning to the island in July and look forward to the peaceful walk.

    To those who have not been before – bring a flashlight with fresh batteries.. The tube is in two pieces. The second half you will need your flashlight as the tube has NO LIGHT souce. It can be disorienting.

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