Hawaii Volcanoes National Park offering hikers access to lava flow’s ocean entry


Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is providing hiking access to a sea cliff area at its eastern border where lava from Kilauea volcano’s remote Puu Oo vent is pouring into the ocean.

The lava reached the ocean-entry site, dubbed by scientists as “West Kaili ili,” late last week, marking the first time since 2009 that lava has entered the ocean within park boundaries. Other recent ocean-entries have occurred by way of private land and within County of Hawaii jurisdiction.

Currently, several streams of lava are pouring into the ocean, providing dramatic views (pictured, right and below). Visitors who stay after dark can also see channels of lava flowing down the pali (slope) and across the flow field, but conditions can change at any time.

Want to catch a glimpse of the dazzling spectacle of molten lava slipping into steaming ocean waters? 

Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park Superintendent Cindy Orlando is pleased to extend the opportunity. But before dashing out to the Big Island site, better double-check whether you’re ready for the 4-mile hike to the West Kaili ili entry, which starts at the bottom of Chain of Craters Road.Hawaii_Big Island_volcanoes_lava_ocean-entry

“Hikers must be adequately prepared with plenty of drinking water, dressed for rain or sunshine, wear sturdy, closed-toe shoes, carry a flashlight and spare batteries, and be in good physical shape for this hike,” across and uneven flow field, Orlando said in a news release issued yesterday by the national park.

In addition, hikers must heed all warning signs and ranger advisories, and be aware of earth cracks and crevices, sharp terrain and rain-slick pahoehoe (smooth) lava and other hazards. Further, steam plumes produced by lava entering the sea contain fine lava fragments and acid droplets that can be harmful. Also, scientists have confirmed that a lava delta is being formed at the base of a sea cliff at West Kaili ili. Lava deltas can collapse with little warning, produce hot rock falls inland, and generate large local waves.

Visitors who are not up for the hike can observe the ocean-entry plume from the end of Chain of Craters Road, near the ranger station. After sunset, flowing lava from Puu Oo has been visible from the turnout on the hairpin curve on Chain of Craters Road, weather permitting.

Puu Oo, a cinder cone Kilauea volcano’s eastern flanks, began erupting in January 1983. The ongoing 29-year Puu Oo eruption, among the longest-lasting Hawaiian eruptions in recorded history. The first written accounts of eruptions in Hawaii date back to the 1820s, when American missionaries arrived on the Big Island.

Daily updates on Kilauea volcano activity are available at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory website.

HawaiiMagazine.com has reported regularly on lava activity at Kilauea volcano and Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island. Click here to catch up with all of our Volcano News posts. You can also follow our updates on our Twitter and Facebook pages.

Categories: Hawai‘i Island