There are many wondrous, enigmatic and fascinating attractions on the Big Island of Hawaii, some better known than others, many out of the way and generally off the beaten track. Tour Guide Hawaii has produced an encyclopedic collection of the most up-to-date information, presented as short GPS-cued videos, in an app downloadable to iPhone and iPod Touch that covers the entire Big Island, highlighting the popular and the uncrowded, the famous and the secluded, the adventurous and the relaxing.
A skylight opening in the 25-mile long Kaumana Cave is located at this county park, just west of the 4-mile marker on the Hilo side of the Saddle Road (Hwy 200 or Waianuenue Avenue). Concrete stairs take you down through the fern, philodendron and rain forest jungle to the floor of the cave at the bottom of a collapse pit, which also forms two entrances to the cave. Even the casual visitor will be fascinated exploring the openings to these caves, which are cool and welcoming during hot weather, and dry (or ”drier” at least) when rain pours in Hilo.
The lava tube was created by a flow from Mauna Loa in 1881 that threatened the city of Hilo. History has it that Princess Ruth Ke`elikolani camped directly in front of the advancing lava flow and stood praying, beseeching the goddess Pele to spare the city. The flow stopped a scant 2 km from the city, so it would appear that her prayers were answered.
Most people are drawn to the entrance on the right, a large, opening leading to cavernous rooms. In this entrance, graffiti from hundreds of years ago to the present is preserved, scratched into the rocks. The entrance on the left, however, is more interesting, leading through squeezes and low spots to numerous rooms with fascinating speleo-architecture and cave formations.
The average visitor will want spend their time in the lighted openings of the caves, which go to true dark in fewer than 300 feet in either direction. A quick tour of the caves, for which no flashlights are needed, takes fewer than 20 minutes.
For the adventurous, there are more than 2 miles of easily accessible, wild cave to explore here. If you intend more than just a cursory inspection near the entrances, bring a hard hat, water and at least 3 sources of light. The caves open onto private land—the County of Hawaii requires you to get prior permission of landowners and sign an assumption of risk waiver (available at the cave) before exploring deeply into these caves. A brief discussion of exploring Kaumana Cave more deeply, including a list of equipment and clothing to bring and discussion of risks, is contained here.
Parking for the caves is located across the road from the park; extreme care should be taken when crossing the highway. Public restrooms, drinking water and picnic tables are available at the park.
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All media copyright 2009 by Donald B. MacGowan. All rights reserved.