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Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Big Island, Hawaii
By P. Ford, Sep 2002

September 2002 - We live in Honolulu Hawaii and took advantage of the opportunity to see an active volcano lava flow on the Big Island. It is known as the Mothers Day Flow, the day it began. We took Aloha airlines from Oahu to Hilo. I should say up front that lava flow conditions at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park can vary, if you visit your experience could be dramatic or disappointing. For us the main lava movement was just a 50 yard walk from the end of Chain of Craters Road and did not consist of the flowing rivers of lava as seen on TV. For additional links click here.

Hawaii Volcano National Park
Before going down to the lava flow area we first visited the Kilauea Visitors Center and made the trip around the Kilauea Caldera on Crater Rim Drive. Steam vents like the ones above are viewable from points along the drive. On this drive is the Volcano House Hotel the only lodging option within the park.

hawaii volcano
Along the rim drive is the 1997 Halema'uma'u Crater a smaller crater inside of Kilauea. Locals leave gifts for the god Pele-`ai-honua (Pele, who eats the land).

hawaii volcano
Additional gifts of fish, fruit and rice have been left to keep the Hawaii volcano spirit happy.

Holei Sea Arch
The dramatic Holei Sea Arch is found along Chain of Craters Road.

black sand beach
Also at the Holei Sea Arch pullout. "HEY LOOK! A Black Sand Beach!"

black sand beach
Nothing more spectacular than a black sand beach.

lava crossing chain of craters road
Chain of Craters Road ends at this point where the a lava flow has blocked the street. This is as far as you can drive or easily walk. When visiting you should drive down as far as you can on the road, you will find a turn around area at the Ranger Station. As you drive out look for a parking spot. I suggest you arrive around 90 minutes before sunset.

When we visited the lava it was moving just 50 yards from the end of the road. Here we are less than 20 feet from the lava. The heat coming off the surface of the lava field is very intense. High winds moving over the cooling lava were like a blast furnace. Normal air temperatures were around 80°F, the jackets were helpful sheilding the skin from the hot winds. If you sit on the ground for extended periods beware of centipedes, I didn't see any but I understand they can bite. Also I suggest a shower after your visit.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, What to bring:
  • Drinking Water (twice your normal amount)
  • Sturdy Shoes
  • Sunscreen

    Nightime Viewers Should Add

  • Flashlight
  • Gloves
  • Long Pants

  • lava field
    It took time, but if you waited patiently a seam in the black rock would open up and hot molten lava would bulge out.

    lava moves toward ocean
    A seam nearby opens up as in the distance a constant flow of lava is pouring into the ocean.

    lava and visitors at Volcano National Park
    Crowds begin to gather as the sun sets. We didn't have flashlights so we decided to get afew pictures and leave before total darkness set in.

    Darkness allows us to see the lava flows from high on the side of the volcano.

    Looking back toward the sea. Hot lava causes the steam to glow. As we left the line of parked cars along the road was almost a mile long and more people were coming. We had reservations at the Royal Kona Resort in Kona, a 2 1/2 hour drive from the park. We could have stayed closer but had to be in Kona the next morning for business.

  • Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
  • Current Kilauea Volcano Activity Report
  • Viewing Lava Safely - Common Sense is Not Enough
  • Volcano House Hotel
  • Big Island Black Sand Beach

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    Photos & Text Copyright © 2002 Pamela Ford - All Rights Reserved