Hawaii A Trip toThe Big Island

The Big Island is the youngest of the Hawaiian Islands. There are six volcanoes that have worked together over the last (give or take) one million years to create the Big Island. These volcanoes formed one after the other and partially overlap. From oldest to youngest their names are: Mahukona, Kohala, Mauna Kea, Hualalai, Mauna Loa and Kilauea.

The approach from Kalapanga (apx. 4 miles)

The six volcanoes of the Big Island are: Kohala, Mauna Kea, Hualalai, Mauna Loa and Kilauea. Mahukona is below sea level. These six volcanoes are responsible for a whole bunch of impressive world records such as: “most active”, “most massive (active)” and “tallest sea mountain”.

Three volcanoes are still active: Hualalai, Mauna Loa and Kilauea. Kilauea is currently erupting while the other two could erupt at any time. Mauna Kea is dormant, Kohala inactive and Mahukona has probably never breached the ocean surface.

Ocean Entry

Each of these volcanoes has a story to tell and before we forget, the Big Island is not the only Hawaiian island with active volcanoes. There is a new island in the making in front of the Big Island right now (Loihi) which will break the ocean surface in an estimated 10.000 / 100.000 years, and did you know that the Haleakala volcano on Maui could still erupt!?

Jennifer and I traveled to Hawaii in March of 2017 to view the lava flows both on the fields and at the ocean entry. From following websites and Facebook pages we were aware that the lava had been flowing into the ocean for the last nine months or so. We missed it the last time we were on the Big Island since it wasn't entering the ocean.

Kamukona Ocean Entry Point (note the people on the cliff above the lava)


Kilauea is the youngest of 6 volcanoes on the Big Island and has been continuously erupting since 1983. Kilauea means “spewing” or “much spreading” in the Hawaiian language, and the Kilauea volcano certainly honors this name. Since 1952 there have been 36(!) separate eruptions, and 90% of the surface of the Kilauea volcano is less than 1000 years old! This activity has a profound influence on current day Hawaii. Kilauea is one of the best (and most reliable) volcanoes in the world to see an active volcano, and the volcano attracts many visitors to the Island of Hawaii. For many of these tourists seeing the lava is the single most impressive event they say to have ever witnessed. During the current eruption over 500 acres of coastline have been added to the Island. This creation goes hand in hand with destruction, as many houses, historical sites, and beaches have disappeared under a thick sheet of lava.

Halema’uma’u Crater in Volcano's National Park
Stean Vents near the Halema’uma’u Crater

Depending on the activity of the Kilauea, you see the active lava with your own eyes. You can hike up to the lava flow or see the glow above the Halema’uma’u crater at night. If there is no access to the lava by foot, you can always opt for a helicopter to fly you over red-hot filled craters. The Pu’u ‘O’o is the cone from which the lava is currently flowing into the ocean. The Halema’uma’u has an active lava lake visible from the HVNP, but no lava is flowing out of the lake into the crater at the moment.

Pu’u ‘O’o Cone

We visited from the Kalapanga side rather than the Chain of Craters Road side. Reports indicated the approach was easier from the Kalapanga side and bicycles and ATV rides were available. Also the winds kept the fumes away from this approach. Although the signs say viewing from 3 pm to 9 pm, this really means it is staffed during those hours. Other hours, no bikes or ATV's are available but you can walk. If you drive through the first gate you are subject to parking tickets and if you cross the national park service ropes, I believe the fine is $130. I went out with a local photographer and, I will admit, crossed the lines for better images. We received a $35.00 parking ticket but were not cited by the park service. We were there from about 3:30 am to 7:30 am and there were really no other people except our group.

John, Jennifer and a stowaway
The Halema’uma’u has an active lava lake
Two separate tour groups

You can see a lava viewing guide here:

Ocean Entry

In addition to the Ocean Entry Lava Flow, there are surface flows on the old lava fields above the ocean entry. These are best visited at dawn or sunset. We took a tour with Poke a Stick Lava Tours and was very satisfied with the sunset trip. Others are Kapalanga Cultural Tours and Epic Lava Tours. All have good websites and Facebook pages to keep up with what is happening with the lava. For us this was a 6 mile round trip to small surface flows. The images below are a good representation. The old lava was hot and you could see hot spots beneath as you got to the surface flows.

Surface Flow: The flames were coconut hulls some of the teenagers threw in the lava
Waterfall: Just as we were ready to leave this breakout occurred.
Surface Flows
Surface Flow

The third approach to viewing the lava is the boat tours. These boats take you through a rough ocean trip to the ocean entry point. Jennifer and I both took Dramamine since we do get seasick. The tour we took was Lava Ocean Tours which was a larger boat. Some of the other tours are 6 passenger fishing boats. I'm not sure which would be the best but the smaller tour we book had canceled for rough water. The trip was bumpy but nothing to worry about.

Ocean Entry from the Boat Tour
Ocean Entry
Old Lava Tube viewed from the Boat Tour

Of course, there were many other things to do and see on Hawaii. Here are some assorted images.

Surf's Up!

High waves and heavy surf brought the surfers out in droves! One day they issued life threatening warnings. Didn't matter, they were still out there.

Koi, Omelet Station, Music, and Green Sea Turtle all at the Mauna Lani Hotel
Mauna Lani
Created By
John German


Photography by JohnRgerman

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