Here’s How To Safely View the New Eruption on Hawaiʻi Island

Due to COVID-19, visitors must wear masks and stay six feet apart.
Visitors experience the new summit eruption at Kīlauea volcano in Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park. Photo: J. Wei/National Park Service

As news spread of a new eruption at Kīlauea on Hawaiʻi Island, hundreds of visitors rushed over to Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park yesterday and today for a glimpse of the spectacular sight.

SEE ALSO: There’s a New Eruption at Kīlauea Volcano in Hawaiʻi

But park officials are stressing the importance of safety—both because of high amounts of hazardous sulfur dioxide gas and particulates and COVID-19.

The national park on Hawaiʻi Island is open 24 hours a day, which means visitors can witness the billowing plumes of gas and steam by day and the glowing lava in Halemaʻumaʻu crater at night. (I’ve done it before; it’s mesmerizing.) But there are hazards associated with a visit.

“The return of lava to the summit of Kīlauea is a natural wonder, but we need the public to be fully aware that we are in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic and to recreate responsibly, maintain social distance and to wear a mask,” said Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park Superintendent Rhonda Loh. “We want to keep the park open for all to experience this new phase of volcanic activity, and we need visitors to follow safety guidelines that keep everyone safe. We continue to work with USGS scientists to receive the latest volcanic updates, and remind visitors that the eruptive activity and accessibility could change at any time.”

If you plan to visit the park—it‘s the first time there’s lava on Hawaiʻi Island since the deadly 2018 Lower East Rift Zone eruption and summit collapse of Kīlauea that destroyed more than 700 homes—here are some tips from the national park:

  • Volcanic eruptions can be hazardous and change at any time. Stay on marked trails and overlooks, and avoid earth cracks and cliff edges. Do not enter closed areas.
  • Hazardous volcanic gases are billowing out the crater and present a danger to everyone, especially people with heart or respiratory problems, infants, young children and pregnant women. For more information on air quality, click here.
  • Slow down and drive safely. Expect long waits for parking spaces at popular vantage points like Kīlauea Overlook.
  • Maintain social distance of six feet from others and wear a mask to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
  • At 4,000 feet (1,219 meters), the summit of Kīlauea can be chilly at any time. Bring a rain jacket, wear long pants and closed-toe shoes.

All the areas in the park that were open before the new eruption remains open. Suggested viewing areas include Wahinekapu (Steaming Bluff), Kīlauea Overlook, Keanakākoʻi, Waldron Ledge and other overlooks along Crater Rim Trail. Nāhuku (Thurston Lava Tube) remains closed due to COVID-19 concerns.

There’s around-the-clock law enforcement at the park, just FYI.

Check the Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park website for updates or visit its webcams here.

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