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.
Mauna Ulu, or “growing mountain” is a still steaming, tall, shield-shaped hill formed by numerous eruptions along the rift between 1969 and 1974. Mauna Ulu is best seen by walking beyond the parking lot to where the end of road is covered in fresh lava flows. At Mauna Ulu, visitors can get an intimate look at both pahoehoe and a’a lava flow types.
Pahoehoe, the less viscous and generally hotter liquid flow, moves fluidly like a river or glacier, the surface folding and molding, like poured taffy, into a ropey structure. Pahoehoe forms generally flat, fairly smooth, hard surfaces. A’a, on the other hand, is much cooler and has exolved much of its dissolved gas, so it is much more viscous, causing the upper surface to fracture into clinker-like boulders and fragments. Flowing a’a sounds and looks like a moving pile of hot glass shards; when it cools, it leaves behind rubbly piles of sharp fragments. Fields of pahoehoe and a’a make a landscape that look as if Madame Pele has bulldozed her land to flat surfaces, but left these acres of boulder piles here and there.
The hike to the summit of Mauna Ulu is fabulous and rewarding. However, it is a long, dry, serious hike with some dangers (rock fall, crater collapse, scalding steam and others) and should only be undertaken by those in good physical condition and experienced at hiking cross-country across broken and hazardous ground.
Pu’u Huluhulu (“shaggy hill”) is a 150 foot tall cinder cone formed in pre-contact times between Mauna Ulu and Pauahi Crater. There is a fascinating 3 mile round trip hike from the Mauna Ulu parking lot to the top of Pu’u Huluhulu that is marked by cairns (or “ahu”). The round trip hike from Mauna Ulu Parking lot to Pu’u Huluhulu and return takes about an hour and a half to two hours. From the vantage point of Pu’u Huluhulu’s summit are fine views of Mauna Loa, Kilauea, Mauna Kea, the coastline and the very interesting, active cinder cone, Pu’u O’o (hill of the bird”), about 5 miles away.
Pu’u O’o was built by the fire-fountains erupting along Kilauea’s rift zone between 1983 and 1986. Since 1986, the center of eruption has moved about 2 miles further down the rift to a vent called “Kupaianaha”, or ”mysterious” in Hawai’ian. However, within the maw of Pu’u O’o is an active lava lake, which serves as a window into the plumbing of the eruptive rift system.
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