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The pullout at Halona Kahakai is at very near the crest of the Holei Pali fault escarpment. In Hawaiian, “Pali” means cliff. The viscosity of flowing oceanic tholeiite basalt, the lava that built Kilauea, is such that when it cools, rarely do slopes exceed a 6% grade. Any landform that is much steeper, such as the Holei Pali as seen from Halona Kahakai and the Hilina Pali directly north, generally has to have formed by faulting or erosion. In this case, Holei Pali results from what are called “normal faults”. All of the lava plain spread before you down below the pali has simply broken off the main slope and dropped. There is an amazing amount of throw on these faults, in places, as much as 1400 feet. Although appearing “volcano tough” to the casual observer, the Islands of Hawaii are terribly, terribly fragile constructions and, geologically speaking, don’t last very long.

Stop and take a moment to look down the pali. Generally, the explosion cloud from where the lava is entering the ocean is visible south east from here. Look at the intertwining lava flows marching across the plain below you and imagine what it must have been like to be here, only a few decades ago, when the lava was coursing down this cliff and through the now largely-destroyed Naulu Forest.

Written, filmed and produced by Donnie MacGowan and Frank Burgess, original musical score by Donald B. MacGowan.

For more information on touring Hawaii in general and the Big Island in particular, please visit and

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