Due to seismic activity, the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is closed until further notice.

Photo by David Croxford

Hawaii's Kilauea Volcano: What travelers to the Big Island need to know

Pele continues to show her power as Hawaii Island’s Kilauea volcano reaches its fourth week of lava outbreaks.

UPDATE 06/18/18:

The lava on the Island of Hawaii has continued to flow, now claiming 467 homes and filling in the entirety of Kapoho Bay and the Waiopae tide pools. The large spike in homes destroyed is due to the lava flow reaching and consuming much of Vacationland Hawaii, a subdivision of residences in the Puna district. With lava now flowing freely into the ocean, there are various ways to watch this natural spectacle unfold, such as with Kalapana Cultural Tour's personable and cultural boat tour. Currently, the lava outbreaks are still limited to the islands Puna district, with fissure 8 being the most active of the bunch, and the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park remains closed. 


It’s been nearly four weeks since the May 3rd lava outbreak on the island of Hawaii. While the majority of the island remains safe for visitors and locals, there has been an increase in activity in the isolated Puna subdivisions. As the number of fissures continues to rise, here’s what travelers to the island need to know.


1. Yes, it’s still safe and there are many things to do

With terms such as acid rain, lava bombs and major eruption being thrown around in news headlines, visions of Hawaii being some sort of apocalyptic wasteland may come to mind. This is not the case at all. The majority of the island remains unaffected by the ongoing volcanic activity, with the biggest disruption for visitors being the closure of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Airports, hotels, restaurants and activities are still open and operating. Hilo’s still lush, there are friendly manta rays to snorkel with in Kailua-Kona and the summit of Mauna Kea is as awe-inspiring as ever.


2. Vog pollution has increased downwind from Kilauea Volcano

First, understand that vog (volcanic smog) isn’t unusual for the Big Island, and looks like a haze, dimming what would normally be a bright blue sky. This commonly occurs, and the vog can spread to the other Hawaiian Islands. However, due to Halemaumau Crater’s ash clouds and the lava outbreaks in the Puna District, the pollution on the Big Island has increased downwind from Kilauea. If you’re worried about the air quality, keep an eye on changing vog levels and where it’s headed by visiting the University of Hawaii’s Vog Map before deciding on which outdoor activities to do and where.


3. Kilauea Volcano has been actively erupting since 1983

With its name meaning “spewing” or “much spreading” in olelo Hawaii (Hawaiian language), Kilauea fits its name to a tee. The most active of the Big Island’s five volcanoes, Kilauea has been erupting since 1983, during which it’s been the site of 61 separate outbreaks and lava flows. The current activity is a shift in movement of the lava from Puu Oo and Halemaumau Craters, where it’s been centralized, to the Lower East Rift Zone of the volcano.


4. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is closed

Due to seismic activity, summit deflation and ash clouds at Halemaumau Crater, the Hawaii Volcano National Park will remain closed until further notice. Halemaumau Crater is also expected to produce a larger steam explosion, which could shoot rocks and boulders into the air, however the debris is not predicted to leave the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park area. For updates on when the park may reopen, visit the park’s website.

Vog, or volcanic smog, isn't unusual for the Big Island. 
Photo by David Croxford

5. You won’t be able to reach the danger zones, even if you tried

With 22 fissures opening in the Puna district and dozens of homes and structures being destroyed by the flowing lava, the easterly tip of Hawaii Island still remains a hot spot of volcanic activity. Road blocks are set up to keep the public out of areas that pose any threat, so getting close to the lava, even if you tried, is not possible.


6. When will it stop?

According to Tina Neal, USGS scientist-in-charge at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, there’s no telling as to how long the outbreaks and fissures will continue to occur.


7. How to stay informed

For more information and live updates on Kilauea, visit the Hawaii Volcanoes Observatory live update page here, or call for an activity summary at (808) 967-8862.