Visiting Thurston Lava Tube

Did you know that on the Big Island of Hawaii. you can  walk underground where lava flowed hundreds of years ago? You can do just that at Thurston Lava Tube inside Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, just off Crater Rim Drive. To say that it’s an amazing sight and experience is an understatement.

Thurston Lava Tube is one of the most popular natural attractions within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. From about mid-morning until late afternoon, bus loads of tourists are visiting the lava tube. Sometimes it’s even a challenge to find a parking spot. You can beat the crowds by visiting early in the morning and what a difference it makes.

Thurston Lava Tube

Andy and I have visited Thurston Lava Tube several times throughout the day. We’ve discovered if you go to Thurston Lava Tube early in the morning, you’ll practically have the entire area to yourself. Aim to get here before about 9:30am. The rainforest area around the lava tube is so peaceful early in the morning.

The loop trail to and through the lava tube is mostly paved and well lit. Plan on about 20 minutes to walk the trial. The path has a couple of inclines, but nothing too strenuous. Unfortunately, the trail isn’t wheelchair accessible.

Of course the lava tube is the big attraction here, but I hope you also get a chance to notice the wonderful rainforest surroundings. You can’t help but gawk at the giant Hawaiian hapuu ferns. Also take a few moments to watch for a beautiful red bird, the ‘apapane, as it gathers nectar from the Lehua blossom of the Ohia trees.

If you are planning on going Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, be sure and read my tips for Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

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

See more ideas of what to see and do on Hawaii’s Big Island.

  1. I totally agree with you that the Thurston Lava Tube is one of the best attractions at Volcanoes National Park…we watched as the tour buses etc all showed up to the park. They tended to turn right and go around Crater Rim Drive – so we decided to try and avoid them and turn left.

    There still weren’t any parking spots so we went down the Chain of Craters Road – on our way out of the park (which was quite late) we finally got into see it – and we were so glad we did! It was totally worth it and next time we will spend more time there!

    In fact we are going to take our daughter back to see it and VNP over Christmas.

    1. Melanie – I’m glad you also enjoyed your visit to the Thurston Lava Tube. I hope when you are there this coming Christmas that you get to experience it with less crowds!

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