Skip navigation

Tag Archives: Kilauea volcano

By Donnie MacGowan

Lava from Kilauea Volcano flows into the ocean at one of three ocean entries along the Puna Coastline near the former village of Kalapana: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Lava from Kilauea Volcano flows into the ocean at one of three ocean entries along the Puna Coastline near the former village of Kalapana: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Lava continues to to gush unabated from Kilauea Volcano on the big Island of Hawaii through the former village of Kalapana into the Pacific Ocean, yielding one of the volcano’s best spectacles of the last ten years.  That’s the good news.

This is about all you can see from the Kalapana Lava Viewing Area, August 2010: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

This is about all you can see from the Kalapana Lava Viewing Area, August 2010: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The bad news is you cannot see any of it from the County of Hawaii Lava Viewing Area.  This is not the County’s fault; the entire area is not only private property, but also highly unstable and ferociously dangerous.

For obvious reasons, trespassing on private property is not an option, here.  Further, Big Island Mayor Billy Kenoi has promised the residents whose homes are in danger of being engulfed that he will not turn their personal tragedy into a public spectacle by opening up the area to casual tourism.

My PhD is in geology and I have spent years wandering the lava flows here and on other volcanoes around the world; I find that I really cannot recommend that folks casually stroll about this area without a basic understanding of some of the hazards. The extreme danger results from several factors. The active lava flow, especially in the vicinity of the County of Hawaii Lava Viewing Area where it is most accessible, is currently surrounded by an enormous area (perhaps 20 or more square miles) of what is called “dim lava”.  This is lava that, mostly still liquid and incredibly hot, has more or less “ponded”, or virtually stopped moving, and has developed about a foot or so crust on top of the still liquid lava.  As such it appears deceptively safe to walk on but actually it is exceptionally dangerous to cross.  Nobody would be foolish enough to walk on lava that is obviously still liquid, but many are tempted to cross the solid-appearing dim lava.  This is extremely, shall we say, stupid; dim lava is highly unstable, subject to rapid changes bringing great masses of liquid rock to the surface and is very, very dangerous.  During daylight hours it is difficult to tell the dim lava from flows that have been solid and cold for years, but one misstep can take you through a thin spot in the crust and into 2000 degree liquid.  The glow from the liquid rock can frequently be seen through cracks in the surface at night, giving you warning that you are on extremely dangerous ground.  Although at times people seem to navigate dim lava safely, it would not be wise for me to advise anyone to venture out onto it.

Dim lava in the light of camera flash: note that you can see no glow at all, erroneously leading you to suspect that, although it's warm, these rocks are safe to walk on: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

Dim lava in the light of camera flash: note that you can see no glow at all, erroneously leading you to suspect that, although it's warm, these rocks are safe to walk on: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

The same dim lava in the dark: note the glow indicating the presence of dangerous, liquid lava mere inches below the ground surface: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The same dim lava in the dark: note the glow indicating the presence of dangerous, liquid lava mere inches below the ground surface: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Additionally, lava is much more viscous than water and flows a bit differently…sometimes, not all the liquid lava is below you.  When scouring a route past the dim lava last week, we were wandering between two lava “hillocks” on long-cooled rock, when we noticed that, ten feet above our heads, was the tell-tale glow of dim lava that had infiltrated the hillocks and could, at any moment, break out and spread over the ground we were walking on.  A very, very dangerous situation and one we immediately remedied by beating a hasty, safe retreat.  No one wins an argument with flowing lava.

A forest fire burns hungrily where the lava stream is burning through the thick jungle kipuka: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

A forest fire burns hungrily where the lava stream is burning through the thick jungle kipuka: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The second prevalent hazard are the forest fires burning where the lava flows through jungle, especially surrounding the lava ocean entries, the most spectacular part of the flow and the place most people are trying to get to.  The danger from the fires is obvious, but what is not obvious is the fact that methane gas, extremely explosive, accumulates ahead of the flow under the ground surface in forested areas.  Every so often (and without warning), there will be a large methane explosion (in and of itself highly dangerous) that can blow enormous chunks of fiery-red hot liquid lava and solid rock thousands of feet.

Littoral Explosion at Waikupanaha, County of Hawaii Lava Viewing Area, October, 2009: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Another hazard is the littoral explosions.  Littoral explosions occur when hot, liquid lava meets the cold ocean water, mostly where lava tubes empty under the ocean.  Littoral explosions can hurl hot solid and molten liquid material hundreds of meters and are best given about half kilometer leeway. These hazardous explosions were once common at the Waikupanaha Lava Viewing Area, but there are currently no explosions occurring in the Kalapana Lava Viewing Area.  Just because littoral explosions are not occurring today, however, does not mean they could not start again instantly.

Plume and Waterspout at Waikupanaha Ocean Entry, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Plume and Waterspout at Waikupanaha Ocean Entry, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Finally, although not common, it is worth bearing in mind that the extremes of temperature of the mixing air, rock and water, the amount of particulate matter and vapor injected into the atmosphere and other weirdly perturbed variables around the ocean entries can cause bizarre weather phenomena, such as waterspouts and highly localized lightning.

Your best bet is to heed the advice of the County of Hawaii Public Safety professionals: do not cross private property, stay off of the dim lava and stay away from where the lava streams cut through burning jungle.  You put your life, and those of any foolish enough to assist you when you get in trouble, at extreme risk.

A large lava stream flows over a falls, Kalapana Hawaii August 2010: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

A large lava stream flows over a falls, Kalapana Hawaii August 2010: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

So…is it possible to see the lava flow without paying a boat captain or pilot to take you safely to the shores’ edge?  In a word, yes.  One can hike along the shoreline from the end of the road at Kalapana (by the new Kaimu Beach), but is is extremely difficult and very, very dangerous. A complete discussion of hiking to see the lava can be found here and here. The route follows the coast on razor sharp basalt, rough, broken and unforgiving, and there is no trail.  The way is at least 5 miles long in each direction of hard, hard hiking and includes about a mile of rank bush-whacking through very, very dense jungle that is not only easy to get lost in, but is on fire in some places.

Lava flows in the rain, Kalapana Hawaii August 2010: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Lava flows in the rain, Kalapana Hawaii August 2010: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

It is frequently quite rainy and, since the best viewing is at dawn or dusk, you are likely thinking about going at least one way in the dark.  Traveling this risky route in the dark and/or rain greatly magnifies the dangers.  Much of the way is jammed in a couple feet between a 60 foot cliff with unforgiving open ocean underneath and the dense jungle pressing you on the other side.  When it is dark or misty or raining, or when you are tired or not paying close enough attention, this is very hazardous.

A Lava Ribbon Flows Into the Ocean, Near Kalapana, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

A Lava Ribbon Flows Into the Ocean, Near Kalapana, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Hard and dangerous.

Honestly, I do not recommend you go at all.  Night after night of hiking in to see the lava, of all the people who set off from Kalapana around when we did, and the many, many we met returning, most turned around after only 3 or so miles of hard hiking over the lava.  Some turned around when they got hemmed in by the dim lava, not knowing to cut through the jungle to the shore; more got lost and wandered for hours in the jungle before turning around.  Many had been told by local residents that the walk was “only 20 minutes or so” and so set off in sandals, or with children, without water or rain gear. Be aware, the hike is, at minimum, two difficult hours in duration each way (due to the difficulty of the terrain), there is no marked trail or path and the rock is like razors if you slip on it.

Lava stream about to enter the ocean, Kalapana Hawaii, August 2010: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Lava stream about to enter the ocean, Kalapana Hawaii, August 2010: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Do not even attempt to hike along the shore to the flows unless you are in extremely good physical shape, confident of both your route-finding and cross country hiking abilities, you are equipped for rain, cuts and bruises, have plenty of water to drink and food.

Strange things seen at the lava flow...Kalapana Hawaii August 2010: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Strange things seen at the lava flow...Kalapana Hawaii August 2010: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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.
The best of Tour Guide Hawaii’s free content about traveling to, and exploring, the Big island, can be found here.


For more information on traveling to Hawaii in general and on touring the Big Island in particular, please also visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.


All media copyright 2010 by Donald B. MacGowan. All rights reserved.
Littoral Explosions at Waikupanaha as molten lava enters the sea; Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Littoral Explosions at Waikupanaha as molten lava enters the sea; Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Madame Pele’s whims have forced changes in how Big Island residents and visitors may view lava flowing from Kilauea Volcano in Hawaii.

Lava flows have completely covered the County of Hawaii Lava Viewing Area under 2 meters of lava and inundated the access road (see here). The conditions right now are very fluid (no pun intended) and as of this morning access was being granted to Royal Gardens and Kalapana residents only.  A 2-mile access hike has been available over the past few days and should be available again soon.  Hawaii County Police are warning visitors that cars parked illegally on the access road will be ticketed (see here).

Lava Flowing on Hawaii Highway 130, Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Lava Flowing on Hawaii Highway 130, Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

For up-to-the-minute information on access for viewing the flowing lava, call the Hawaii County Lava Viewing Hotline at 808.961.8093.

These pandanus fruit lava fossils at the County of Hawaii lava viewing area near Waikupanaha, on Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii, were buried under 2 meters of fresh lava on Saturday, 17 July 2010: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

These pandanus fruit lava fossils at the County of Hawaii lava viewing area near Waikupanaha, on Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii, were buried under 2 meters of fresh lava on Saturday, 17 July 2010: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

by Donald B. MacGowan

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Kilauea erupting at Halema'uma'u Crater, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Graphic from Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Kilauea lava flow from Kupaianaha Vent, Hawaii: Photo Courtesy of Big Island Air

Kilauea Volcano

Although it is the most active volcano on earth, many visitors to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park standing on the very summit of Kilauea Volcano often stare and wonder “Where’s the volcano?” Nestled snugly up against Mauna Loa, and not as vertically spectacular as either this near neighbor or Mauna Kea, Kilauea doesn’t even appear to be a bump on the landscape from the usual viewpoints. Even though it doesn’t standout visually, Kilauea is one of the most intriguing and fascinating volcanoes on earth…let’s just take a quick look at some of the reasons why.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

The Kilauea eruption at Halema'uma'u Crater from Jagger Museum at night: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Comprising the entire southeastern portion of Hawaii Island, Kilauea Volcano is not only currently the world’s most active volcano, it is also the home of the fire-goddess Pele. Early geologists believed Kilauea was merely a satellite vent of Mauna Loa, as it lies directly on that mountain’s southern slopes. However, Kilauea is now recognized as its own, distinct, volcano which has its own, separate, magma source and unique plumbing.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Looking over the shield of Kilauea, at some of the 760 billion tons of lava Mau Loa o Mauna Ulu, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Presenting the classic “Hawaiian Shield Volcano” shape, a basic oval with low, shallow slope angles, volume-wise Kilauea is one of the the world’s most massive mountains. Standing 1240 meters (4080) above sea level, the above-ocean part of the volcano is about 80 km (50 miles) long and 32 km, (20 miles) wide, along an axis trending roughly southwest to northeast. However, like all the other Hawaiian volcanoes, the great majority of its vast bulk lies below the sea, about 5.5 km (18,000 feet) deep here, making Kilauea’s true base-to-summit height about 7 km (23,000 ft).

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

A lava flow from Kilauea blocks the highway at Kalapana Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Sometimes vying with Mts. Aetna and Stromboli for the title of “most active volcano on earth”, Kilauea has been erupting continuously since January 1983; between then and June 2009, nearly 700 acres of new land was created on Hawaii Island by Kilauea lava flows. As the time scale of human lives and human tragedy are so much shorter than geologic time scales, and thus human memories of past disasters grow dim rather rapidly, this volcanic growth has come at quite a cost because people insist on building villages, towns and roads on this highly active landscape. In recent decades, the towns of Kapoho (in 1960), Kalapana (in 1990), and Kaimu (in 1990) have all been burned, buried and destroyed by Kilauea, and now are seemingly all but abandoned except by a few hardy souls. Although popularly thought to be rather tame with fairly peaceable eruptions, Kilauea in the past has had its fair share of explosive, violent, phreatomagmatic eruptions, spewing great quantities of ash as well.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

The summit of Kilauea Volcano with the much more massive Mauna Loa looming in the background, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Kilauea owes its peculiar shape to two long rift systems, the currently active East Rift and the Southwest Rift. These rifts are comprised of huge, deep fractures through the bulk of the mountain. Magma rises from deep below the volcano to a pool just below the summit caldera, then flows through internal plumbing down either rift, causing flank eruptions at vents down-rift. These flank eruptions greatly enhance Kilauea’s exaggerated elongate shape. In recent times, many more eruptions have occurred along the East Rift, than the Southwest Rift.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

A patch of sunlight illuminates the nearly 1400 feet of throw on the Holei Pali fault scarp, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The orientation of these rifts is controlled by the geography of Mauna Loa and Kilauea, as well as by gravity. Because the north side of Kilauea is well buttressed by the huge mass of Mauna Loa and the unsupported south side slopes-off into the sea, the very mass of Kilauea is pulling it down slope, into the sea. Indeed, the sub-sea, southern slope of Kilauea is a vast, hummocky field of debris from enormous landslides. Above sea level, this slumping activity is evidenced by the several, sub-parallel ridges (or “Pali”, in Hawaiian) on the southern flank. With throws of much as 430 meters (1400 feet), these faults represent the massive fracturing of the volcano’s southern flank and the subsequent slumping of these giant blocks down slope. A drive down the Holei Pali along Chain of Craters Road will quickly demonstrate the magnitude of seaward movement as Kilauea erupts, slumps and grows.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

The Kilauea Iki Crater, within the much more massive Kilauea Caldera, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Seaward slumping is exacerbated by the volcanic activity itself; as Kilauea fills with magma, it swells and slumps southward, producing massive earthquakes and landslides. The slumping, however, also exacerbates the volcanic activity. By opening-up new voids in Kilauea’s internal plumbing, the slumping allows injection of even more magmatic material into Kilauea, which then causes more earthquakes and more slumping. Essentially spreading under its own enormous weight, the synergy between magma injection and slumping allows Kilauea to grow both by eruption of, and intrusion of, magma.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

A pahoehoe lava flow sizzles into the sea at La'epuki on Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The supply of magma to the volcano is fairly consistent at 1.8 cubic km (1.0 cubic miles) per year, however forty to fifty per cent of the melt never makes its way to the surface. Called “endogenous growth”, nearly half the growth of Kilauea can be attributed to magma cooling and solidifying below ground, in the growing voids opened by the synergistic magma injection and seaward slumping of the mountain.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Looking out over Kilauea Caldera from the back porch of Volcano House, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Conjoined on its northern flank by the vastly larger Mauna Loa, Kilauea doesn’t appear to the casual observer to have a true summit. However, the summit region, around which Crater Rim Drive circles, is comprised of a larger collapse crater (Kilauea Caldera), which contains three smaller collapse craters (Halema’uma’u, Keanakako’i and Kilauea Iki Craters). Collapse craters, such as here and those along Chain of Craters Road, are formed when magma is withdrawn from a reservoir during an eruption, and the suddenly unsupported land above simply collapses into the void. As you look out over the enormous cavity formed by Kilauea Caldera, imagine the immensity of the eruptive event that left enough of a void in the magma chamber to allow this huge crater to form.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Offerings to the Goddess Pele at Halema'uma'u Crater in Kilauea Caldera, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Kilauea’s large magma pool lies just below the summit region, somewhat south of Halema’uma’u Crater, at a depth of about 1.5-5 km (1-3 miles). Forming a magma reservoir several kilometers wide, it acts as central storage for the entire summit-rift magma plumbing system. Partial melting in the mantle at a depth of 40-60 km (52-30 miles) produces magma which rises through the earth and pools within a couple kilometers or so of the surface, and which then flows almost immediately to the site of eruption (summit or flank), having very little residence time within the volcano itself. This “open door to the mantle” feature is a fairly unique to Kilauea Volcano.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Pu'u O'o Vent on Kilauea in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Shannon Walker

Based on eruptive patterns in recorded history, Kilauea has been observed to follow three shifting modes of eruptive behavior. The first mode involves explosive volcanism at Kilauea’s summit. This activity contributed to the formation of past and present calderas in the summit area as well as having showered Ka’u with a cover of cinder and ash. The second mode is continuous effusive eruptive activity at the summit. This mode is typified by features such as the former lava lake at the summit which was present well into historic times, and events such as voluminous outpouring of lava from several summit vents. This mode tends to fill-in summit calderas and produce a landscape of broad, coalescing shields atop the various vents. The third mode of eruption is the continuous flank eruption, as seen today on the East Rift at vents such as Pu’u O’o and Kupaianaha.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

A view into the vent at Kupaianaha on Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

These modes are derived from observation of the volcano’s activity only during modern times, and almost certainly Kilauea’s behavior over geologic time must be much more complex. Rather than a view of the evolution of Kilauea Volcano, these modes may serve more as template through which to view what the volcano is capable of doing. It has been observed that periods of volcanic quiescence, or of small eruptions which shift location from summit to flank, may herald a shift in these eruptive modes. Further, it has been suggested based on recent observations that large, south-flank earthquakes initiating magma intrusion can greatly alter eruptive modes.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Kilauea eruption at Halema'uma'u Crater from Steaming Bluff, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

So, now that we understand a little of the mystery and complexity of Kilauea Volcano, where is the best place to see it from? For starters, one cannot beat the view off the back porch of Volcano House in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which encompasses much of Kilauea Caldera and Halema’uma’u Crater. Although currently closed between Jagger Museum and the intersection with Chain of Craters Road because of the ongoing eruption in Halema’uma’u Crater, the portion of Crater Rim Drive which is open provides a unique view of the volcano in a scenic loop around the entire summit region. Of particular interest are the stops at Steaming Bluff, Jagger Museum, Halema’uma’u Crater (closed), Southwest Rift Zone (closed), Keanakako’i Crater (closed), and Kilauea Iki Crater Overlook.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Looking at the trail across Kilauea Iki Crater, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Driving across the summit dome and down to the slump-block cliffs on Hilina Pali Road takes you on a fabulous backcountry exploration from a nether-world of volcanic destruction and to lush, tropical dryland forest and savanna. Hikes along Devastation Trail, through Kilauea Iki Crater and out to the caldera overlook at Waldron Ledge give fabulous insight to Kilauea Volcano and are particularly beautiful as well as fascinating, and fairly easy for those in reasonable physical condition.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

View down the slump blocks that comprise the Hilina Pali, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Aside from the summit region, the Chain of Craters Road travels through the most interesting geography of Kilauea, including lava flows from numerous recent eruptions. Although everywhere fascinating, stops at Pauahi Crater, Mauna Ulu and Muliwai O Pele are almost mandatory. As mentioned earlier, this drive gives stark perspective on the slump blocks and the slippage of Kilauea’s south flank toward the sea. Stops at Kealakomo Overlook, Halona Kahakai, Alanui Kahiko and Holei Pali illustrate the vast nature of the slow creep of Kilauea’s southern flank down-slope. A stop to see the amazing, ancient petroglyphs at Pu’u Loa Petroglyph Field provides a moving, human connection to the peoples of the past, the awe and respect they had for this Goddess and her mountain home. The end of Chain of Craters Road gives way to a playground of geological landscapes, booming sea cliffs and ancient villages, as well as providing the jumping-off point for hikes to see the flowing lava, when it is flowing within the Park boundaries.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

The eruption of Kilauea at Halema'uma'u from Jagger Museum, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

A complete guide to exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park can be found here; you should plan to spend the better part of a full day in the park—unless you’ve been here before, it will be the most interesting place you’ve ever been to yet. Viewing the flowing lava, the spectacle of the earth remaking herself, is one of the most moving, soul-filling, surprisingly emotional experiences you can have. The current eruption in Halema’uma’u Crater, although it hasn’t yet produced any lava flows, is best viewed from the Jagger Museum; at times of peak activity, it is most spectacular when viewed after dark. Guides to Lava Viewing in the Park and at the County of Hawaii Lava Viewing platform east in Puna at Waikupanaha can be found here and here respectively. A general outline of the volcanoes of Hawaii Island is presented here, a brief discussion on the differences between a’a and pahoehoe lavas can be found here, and an overview geologic history of the Hawaiian Islands can be found here.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

A hiker watches lava from Kilauea Volcano flow into the ocean at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Perhaps no other volcano in the world, certainly no active volcano, is so easy to explore, to touch, to experience. If you come to see Kilauea, home of the Goddess Pele, be sure to give yourself a lot of time—you’ll be more captivated than you expect; certainly you’ve never experienced anything like this before. Come, explore, enjoy, stand at her door and breath the breath of the Fire Goddess.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

The plume from littoral explosions where lava from Kilauea Volcano enters the sea at Waikupanaha, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

To see the new iPhone/iPod Touch App, please visit http://www.tourguidehawaii.com/iphone.html.

The best of Tour Guide Hawaii’s free content about traveling to, and exploring, the Big island, can be found here.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Aerial view of the Mauna Ulu Crater, Kilauea Volcano, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

For more information on traveling to Hawaii in general and on touring the Big Island in particular, please also visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.

All media copyright 2010 by Donald B. MacGowan. All rights reserved.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

The steam cloud at Waikupanaha where lava fro,m Kilauea meets the sea, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

The County of Hawaii Lava Viewing Platform at Waikupanaha, Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Aerial view of Pu'u O'o Vent on Kilauea, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Shannon Walker

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Looking down into Kilauea Caldera from Waldron Ledge, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

by Donald B. MacGowan

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Lava Flow through Lua Manu Crater wall, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo By Donald B MacGowan

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.

Lua Manu

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Lua Manu Crater, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Collapse craters (or “pit craters”) such as Lua Manu, and many others along the Chain of Craters Road, form primarily when lava drains out of chambers beneath the surface, causing the surface to collapse-in to fill the void. These craters are characterized by deep pits with no airfall debris on the rims, indicating a lack of eruptive or explosive events in their formation.

Most of the pit craters along Chain of Craters Road were formed before European-style written records were kept, but their formation is likely associated with the major subsidence episodes around 1790 that formed much of the modern Kilauea Crater seen today.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Lava flow into Lua Manu Crater, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Lua Manu is interesting in particular because it was partially filled by a small lava stream that flowed into it during the 1974 Kilauea eruption.

To see the new iPhone/iPod Touch App, please visit http://www.tourguidehawaii.com/iphone.html. The best of Tour Guide Hawaii’s free content about traveling to, and exploring, the Big island, can be found here.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

The floor of Lua Manu Crater, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

For more information on traveling to Hawaii in general and on touring the Big Island in particular, please also visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.

All media copyright 2010 by Donald B. MacGowan. All rights reserved.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Lua Manu Sign, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

by Donald B. MacGowan

Kipuka Kahalihi Kipukas are holes between lava flows where vegetation is saved from being incinerated or buried.  At Kipuka Kahalihi, however, much of the vegetation was buried in hot cinders blown here from the 1969 Mauna Ulu fire fountains.  Only the tall vegetation was preserved from ash burial and only very hardy species have grown back since the eruption.  Wandering between the parking lot at Mauna Ulu and the margins of Kipuka Kahalihi one finds the rifts that opened to vent the fire fountains of the 1969 eruptions—a Martian wilderness of twisted lava forms and volcanic ejecta that is well worth exploring.  There are no services available at Kipuka Kahalihi.

Kipuka Kahali'i: Graphic from Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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.

Kipuka Kahali’i

Kipuka Kahalihi Kipukas are holes between lava flows where vegetation is saved from being incinerated or buried.  At Kipuka Kahalihi, however, much of the vegetation was buried in hot cinders blown here from the 1969 Mauna Ulu fire fountains.  Only the tall vegetation was preserved from ash burial and only very hardy species have grown back since the eruption.  Wandering between the parking lot at Mauna Ulu and the margins of Kipuka Kahalihi one finds the rifts that opened to vent the fire fountains of the 1969 eruptions—a Martian wilderness of twisted lava forms and volcanic ejecta that is well worth exploring.  There are no services available at Kipuka Kahalihi.

Inside Kipuka Kahali'i, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Kipukas are holes between lava flows where vegetation is saved from being incinerated or buried. At Kipuka Kahali’i, however, much of the vegetation was buried in hot cinders blown here from the 1969 Mauna Ulu fire fountains. Only the tall vegetation was preserved from ash burial and only very hardy species have grown back since the eruption.

Wandering between the parking lot at Mauna Ulu and the margins of Kipuka Kahali’i one finds the rifts that opened to vent the fire fountains of the 1969 eruptions—a Martian wilderness of twisted lava forms and volcanic ejecta that is well worth exploring.

There are no services available at Kipuka Kahali’i.

Kipuka Kahalihi Kipukas are holes between lava flows where vegetation is saved from being incinerated or buried.  At Kipuka Kahalihi, however, much of the vegetation was buried in hot cinders blown here from the 1969 Mauna Ulu fire fountains.  Only the tall vegetation was preserved from ash burial and only very hardy species have grown back since the eruption.  Wandering between the parking lot at Mauna Ulu and the margins of Kipuka Kahalihi one finds the rifts that opened to vent the fire fountains of the 1969 eruptions—a Martian wilderness of twisted lava forms and volcanic ejecta that is well worth exploring.  There are no services available at Kipuka Kahalihi.

Flows and cinders from Mauna Ulu fire fountains surround Kipuka Kahalihi, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

To see the new iPhone/iPod Touch App, please visit http://www.tourguidehawaii.com/iphone.html. The best of Tour Guide Hawaii’s free content about traveling to, and exploring, the Big island, can be found here.For more information on traveling to Hawaii in general and on touring the Big Island in particular, please also visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.

All media copyright 2010 by Donald B. MacGowan. All rights reserved.

Kipuka Kahalihi Kipukas are holes between lava flows where vegetation is saved from being incinerated or buried.  At Kipuka Kahalihi, however, much of the vegetation was buried in hot cinders blown here from the 1969 Mauna Ulu fire fountains.  Only the tall vegetation was preserved from ash burial and only very hardy species have grown back since the eruption.  Wandering between the parking lot at Mauna Ulu and the margins of Kipuka Kahalihi one finds the rifts that opened to vent the fire fountains of the 1969 eruptions—a Martian wilderness of twisted lava forms and volcanic ejecta that is well worth exploring.  There are no services available at Kipuka Kahalihi.

The lava flows surrounding Kipuka Kahalihi, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Graphic from Photo by Donald B MacGowan

by Donald B. MacGowan

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Rangers give lectures on a host of subjects at the Kilauea Visitor's Center, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Graphic from Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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.

Kilauea Visitor Center

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Kilauea Visitor's Center, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Newly remodeled and updated, the Kilauea Visitor’s Center is an outstanding resource of information on Hawaii’s volcanoes and the National Park; the not-to-be-missed, definitely first stop in the park you must make. The Center is run by enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff that has the most up-to-date information on viewing the eruption, hiking and camping, bird watching, stargazing and just about any other topic of interest to Park visitors.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Kilauea Visitor's Center Book Shop, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Available for sale in the Center are maps, guidebooks, books and videos about the volcanoes, Hawai’iana, history, plants and every topic you can imagine pertinent to the Park, even souvenirs. There are free brochures and pamphlets on various trails, attractions, hiking safety and lava viewing hazards and precautions. Starting at 9 a.m. and showing every hour on the hour is a 20 minute informative movie about the Park; the film changes from time to time, but always contains spectacular footage of eruptions, information on Volcanology and the natural and human history of the Park.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Kilauea Visitor's Center at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The Visitor Center is open daily from 7:45 a.m. to 5 p.m.; there are public restrooms, water and pay phones available. Tuesday evenings the Center is open until 9 p.m. for their “After Dark In The Park” series of free lectures that start at 7 p.m. Lecture topics range from natural history to geology to topics of local and regional importance and are presented by experts and community leaders. Call 808.985.6017 for the schedule of presentations.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

The visitor's center has exhibits on about just about everything you need to know about Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

To see the new iPhone/iPod Touch App, please visit http://www.tourguidehawaii.com/iphone.html. The best of Tour Guide Hawaii’s free content about traveling to, and exploring, the Big island, can be found here.For more information on traveling to Hawaii in general and on touring the Big Island in particular, please also visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.

All media copyright 2010 by Donald B. MacGowan. All rights reserved.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Books on a variety of topics are for sale at the Visitor's Center, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

by Donald B. MacGowan

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Kilauea Military Camp Sign, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Graphic from Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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.

Kilauea Military Camp

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

The rising sun lights up Mauna Kea, Kilauea Military Camp, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Now run by a private foundation, Kilauea Military Camp was built as a military R and R camp shortly after World War 1 and operated through the Vietnam conflict. Now it offers small but clean cabins for rent to active and retired military members.

No services for the general public.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

The cabins at Kilauea Military Camp, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

To see the new iPhone/iPod Touch App, please visit http://www.tourguidehawaii.com/iphone.html. The best of Tour Guide Hawaii’s free content about traveling to, and exploring, the Big island, can be found here.For more information on traveling to Hawaii in general and on touring the Big Island in particular, please also visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.

All media copyright 2010 by Donald B. MacGowan. All rights reserved.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Crater Rim Drive at Kilauea Military Camp, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

by Donald B. MacGowan

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

An offering to Madame Pele, Kilauea Crater Overlook, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Graphic from Photo by Donald B MacGowan

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.

Kilauea Crater Overlook

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Kilauea Crater and Eruption of Halema'uma'u, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

The Kilauea Overlook gives a breathtaking view of Kilauea Caldera and Halema’uma’u Crater. Rarely crowded as it’s not on the scheduled stops of the tour buses, this is a nice, quiet place to sit and contemplate the awesome power of Madame Pele.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Dawn lights up the Mauna Kea Summit Observatories from Kilauea Crater Overlook, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Look around the area between the parking lot and the crater. Those enormous boulders were cast up out of Kilauea and Halema’uma’u craters during explosive eruptions. Nothing speaks so eloquently to the power and violence of the occasional phreatic (driven by steam from groundwater contact with the hot magma) eruptions of Kilauea as these boulders scattered about the landscape. If you turn your back to the crater and look due north, on a clear day, you can see Mauna Kea peeking over the shoulder of Mauna Loa. Many days you can even make out the astronomical observatories on the summit; after dark you can see headlights of cars winding their tortuous way down the mountainside.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Giant boulder ejected from Kilauea Crater, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

A covered picnic shelter and restrooms are also available. No water is available.

To see the new iPhone/iPod Touch App, please visit http://www.tourguidehawaii.com/iphone.html. The best of Tour Guide Hawaii’s free content about traveling to, and exploring, the Big island, can be found here.For more information on traveling to Hawaii in general and on touring the Big Island in particular, please also visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Crater Rim Trail wanders from Kilauea Crater Overlook into a fog bank, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan


All media copyright 2010 by Donald B. MacGowan. All rights reserved.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand. Interactive maps, GPS and WiFi enabled, dozens of videos…available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Kilauea Crater and Eruption of Halema'uma'u, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Graphic from Photo by Donald B MacGowan

by Donald B. MacGowan

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Waikupanaha lava ocean entry, Puna Hawaii: Graphic from Photo by Donnie MacGowan

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.

Waikupanaha Lava Ocean Entry

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Waikupanaha ocean entry, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Can you believe this? It’s absolutely outstanding and amazing! You can actually walk almost up to flowing lava here; see a volcano erupt before your eyes and the molten rock pour into the sea. This has to be one of the four or five most exciting, amazing, wonderful, mystical, spiritual experiences on earth…you must not miss this!

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Kupaianaha Vent on Kilauea Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Photo by Donald B MacGowan

Over the months and years, the lava river issuing from Pu’u O’o and Kupaianaha vents winds its way back and forth across the lava plain of about 8 miles breadth, sometimes flowing into the sea within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, sometime outside the eastern margin of the Park on County of Hawaii land, sometimes ponding behind the low lava hills for weeks at a time without entering the ocean at all. You can check with the rangers about flow conditions by calling the eruption hotline at 808.985.6000; they have lots of useful, up to the minute information and can tell you the best way to approach these flows (for more information on touring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, please go here; for information about hiking to the lava flows from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, please go here).

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Lae`apukii Ocean Entry Lava Flow Hawaii Volcanoes National Park: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

If the lava is flowing in the more eastern margin, onto County of Hawaii land, viewing is from a County of Hawaii-maintained viewing platform. To reach this parking lot and observation point, drive south from Hilo 20 minutes, or southeast from Kona 2 hours, on the Hawaii Belt Road to the town of Kea’au. At Kea’au, turn south on Hawaii 130. There is a clearly marked intersection near the 20 mile marker on Highway 130 which leads to the county road and viewing area.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

As lava streams into the sea, the explosion cloud is visible for mile, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

After approximately 2 miles of driving over a flat, but alternating asphalt, gravel, basalt and dirt, road one reaches the parking lot at the end of the road and the beginning of a 15 minute hike to the viewing platform. The road opens at 2 in the afternoon, the last car is allowed in at 8 p.m. and the area is cleared of people and cars at 10 p.m. The trail is well marked with reflectors and paint and there are safety officers stationed all along the trail until closing at 10 p.m. Information on the lava viewing area is available from the County of Hawaii at 808.961.8093.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Helicopter and Explosion Plume, Lava Ocean Entry at Waikupanaha, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Regardless of where the lava is entering the ocean, this is as far as hikers are allowed to go from this side. You should bring at least 2 quarts of water, a flashlight for hiking out in the dark, camera, food, first aid kit, and a rain jacket; wear a sun hat, sturdy hiking shoes, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt–those rocks are sharp!

Of course, you will need sunscreen and sunglasses (see these two articles for complete discussions of sunscreen and sunglasses appropriate for Hawaii). Over the years, we have found a stout hiking stick and an umbrella to be of good use as well. Photos and video are most spectacular just before and during dusk and into night; it is wise to bring a camera tripod. You will need flashlights or headlamps to negotiate the trail, hiking back in the dark.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Waikupanaha explosion plume, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

The lava seems to glow with only a dull petulance during the day and may be less than inspiring until nightfall brings it alive and the madly glowing, fiery goddess within is revealed. Thus knowledgeable hikers plan their hike to commence in the afternoon, reaching their destination at dusk, and to hike back in the dark. Check your flashlights before you leave the car. Remember that you are hiking on a highly active volcano, if flowing streams of lava strand you, no rescue is practical or possible; don’t wander away from the trail or the lava viewing area.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Plume at Waikupanaha Ocean Entry, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

There are unusual, peculiar dangers to hiking on the lava plain that might not be obvious to the casual visitor. The steam clouds generated by the lava entering the sea contain fine, glassy particulate material as well as sulfuric and hydrochloric acids in concentration high enough to aggravate the very young and old, expectant mothers and people with respiratory and cardiac conditions. Over the past 20 years, a few adventurous people venturing too close to vents or the sea entries have asphyxiated from toxic gasses. Additionally, severe, but ephemeral, weather phenomenon occur in the explosion plume immediately offshore, such as lightening and water spouts (note water spout in photo at right).

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Lava enters the sea at Waikupanaha, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Unstable benches that build up into the sea, and upon which the unwary hike and pause to photograph the scenery, are prone to collapse carrying all into the sea. Such collapses can cause local tidal waves which scour the landscape clean of everything as they pass. The ocean near the lava entries is superheated and waves lapping on inviting black sand beaches can be scalding hot

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Streaming lava at Waikupanaha, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Where explosive, the meeting of molten rock and sea can explode large, searing hot rocks hundreds of feet in the air and throw boiling water, splashing everywhere. Methane explosions occur with no notice, dozens if not a hundred feet ahead of flows, flinging huge blocks hundreds of feet. Thin lava crusts can hide lava tubes, caves, hollows and holes into which hikers occasionally fall and are caught.  You only have to have running shoes catch fire on your feet once to learn the wisdom of wearing boots here—learn from my bad judgment and experience.  Don’t walk on thins crusts over glowing rock, on hot rocks or rock that feels “spongy”, is crackling or hissing.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Hiking to see the lava in Puna Hawaii is serious business, take water, flashlights and appropriate footwear: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

A volcano is a naturally highly seismically active area and earthquakes are common (there are over 1200 measurable earthquakes a week on the Big Island). Less common, but certainly a constant threat, are local tsunamis generated by these earthquakes. The County has marked a very safe trail to the lava; follow it closely, turning around frequently to acquaint yourself with landmarks for the hike back in the dark.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Flowing lava, open, steaming cracks and razor sharp rocks are why one should always follow the marked trail to Waikupanaha, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

Be sure to take extra memory cards or film for your camera and remember to wipe down all cameras, eyeglasses, binoculars, optics and electronics after your visit; the salt and volcano effluent-laden atmosphere is highly corrosive. Batteries may be drained faster than expected due to the high heat near the lava; take extra.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Hiking to the Waikupanaha lava ocean entry, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald MacGowan

Despite the inherent dangers of hiking over liquid rock, steaming and unstable ground along the ever-restless sea, very few hikers are injured here. This is only because people enter the goddess’s home with a sense of awe and great caution, and the County safety officers are very good about instilling fear and trepidation into the hearts of those who think themselves otherwise immune to the mortal dangers presented here.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Road signs to Waikupanaha Lava Viewing, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald B. MacGowan

If you go, remain cautious and vigilant, plan for adversity, think ahead and pay attention. The rewards for this are a moving and amazing experience few ever have, a memory of mystery, awe and wonder to treasure always.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Magical Sunset at Waikupanaha lava ocean entry, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

If you are planning on viewing the lava at night, be sure to remember that there will be no open gas stations or restaurants when you depart the Lava Viewing Area until you reach either Kona or Hilo…plan accordingly, think ahead.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Rain squalls are common at Waikupanaha; take raingear, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donnie MacGowan

To see the new iPhone/iPod Touch App, please visit http://www.tourguidehawaii.com/iphone.html. The best of Tour Guide Hawaii’s free content about traveling to, and exploring, the Big island, can be found here. For more information on traveling to Hawaii in general and on touring the Big Island in particular, please also visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Littoral Explosions at Waikupanaha, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

At Tour Guide our goal is to insure you have the most fun, most interesting and enjoyable vacation here in Hawaii–that you are provided with all the information you need to decide where to go and what to see, and that you are not burdened with out-dated or incorrect information.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Lava flowing just below the surface at Waikupanaha burns vegetation above the surface, Puna Hawaii: Photo by Donald B MacGowan

For independent reviews of our product, written by some of our legions of satisfied customers, please check this out.

All media copyright 2009 by Donald B. MacGowan. All rights reserved.

New at iTunes: Hawaii Dream Vacation iPhone/iPod Touch App Puts the Magic of Hawaii in the Palm of Your Hand, available at iTunes or www.tourguidehawaii.com.

Lava explosions, Puna Hawaii: Graphic From Photo by Donnie MacGowan


A montage of some of my favorite footage that Frank and I have shot of the Kilauea eruption, from the active vents at Pu’u O’o and Kupaianaha to the ocean entry at Waikupanaha, as well as day and night time footage of the summit eruption at Halema’uma’u. Sit back, turn up the speakers and enjoy–I’ve even recorded a new piece of music to go with it.

Produced by Donald B. MacGowan; videography by Frank Burgess and Donald MacGowan; Narrated by Frank Burgess, Original music written and performed by Donnie MacGowan. For more information about traveling the Big Island in general and exploring Hawaii Volcanoes National Park in particular, visit www.tourguidehawaii.com and www.tourguidehawaii.blogspot.com.