Navatek Dinner Cruise Waikiki sunset
Hike to the active lava flow for the red-hot photo op of a lifetime!
Navatek Dinner Cruise Waikiki sunset

Map shows current flow centered in post-1983 lava fields

Navatek Dinner Cruise Waikiki sunset

Hike is currently 4 miles each way on gravel road across lava fields

Navatek Dinner Cruise Waikiki sunset

The 61G flow crossed the bypass road on July 25th 2016

Navatek Dinner Cruise Waikiki sunset

A day later lava began pouring over the cliff & into the ocean

Navatek Dinner Cruise Waikiki sunset

Look down! Red hot glow in a crack just 8 inches below your feet!

Navatek Dinner Cruise Waikiki sunset

Lava creating a new "bench" at the ocean entry

Navatek Dinner Cruise Waikiki sunset

An active lava breakout "upstream" from the ocean entry

Navatek Dinner Cruise Waikiki sunset

Lava fountains often occur where hot lava hits the cool ocean water

Ask a Question Reserve Lava Viewing Hike

August 4th 2016

Kilauea is the most active, most “approachable” volcano in the world. The current eruption began in January of 1983 and has been pumping out lava almost without interruption for 33+ years! The focus of this eruption has not been the “summit” area of Kilauea Caldera (the main area just inside the entrance of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park); this activity has centered around a vent named Pu’u O’o which is located in a remote area near the park’s eastern boundary.

Lava flows from Pu’u O’o have mostly flowed to the south, down the slopes of Kilauea, across the coastal flat, and eventually flowing into the ocean where new land is created. These flows have destroyed most of the town of Kalapana and every single house in the Royal Gardens subdivision. The field of post-1983 lava flows is about 10 miles wide with about half of the flows inside the park and half on private property east of the park. These flows wiped the “Chain of Craters Road” off the map, a coastal route that once connected the sea-level area of Volcanoes National Park with the town of Kalapana. This road was buried under lava 150 feet deep in places!

In 2015 the active flow changed direction and started making a rare move toward the northeast, threatening the town of Pahoa. As the flow slowly advanced toward this very populated area, serious transportation issues emerged. If this flow continued through Pahoa and across highway 130, thousands of Puna residents could have been “cut off” from the rest of the island. The decision was made to build a gravel road as an “emergency route” through the 10 mile wide lava field, essentially replacing the old Chain of Craters road.
Guests view red hot lava
Witness the glowing lava!
This emergency bypass road project was completed, but just as the destructive lava reached the outskirts of Pahoa the flow mercifully stopped, sparing all but one home and never crossing the highway. Ironically, the road built to preserve access to Pahoa is now the reason that the lava is accessible to the public! While the bypass road is gated and only emergency and Park Service vehicles are permitted to drive on it,  the road is open for lava seekers who wish to hike to the flow field!

The current active lava from Pu’u O’o is now running dead center through the main flow field once again. In June of 2016 it headed down the face of the “Pali” and out across the coastal flat. On July 25th 2016 it cross the gravel road, and one day later began a new ocean entry. This area of activity is about 4 miles from the end of Chain of Craters Road in the National Park, and about 4 miles from a parking area the County of Hawaii has established near Kalapana. Four miles of trekking across a lava field … without this gravel road … would be unthinkable for most people. But for those who are physically fit, and well prepared with water, sturdy shoes, and a lot of determination, it is currently possible to hike out and get very close to red hot lava.

We highly recommend that you go with a guide. EVERYTHING about a volcano is hazardous … the surface of lava fields is like walking on tiny shards of broken glass, the black surface is sweltering hot, lava hitting the ocean creates a cloud of sulfuric acid. Most of the time having a guide with you means you will learn a lot more about the volcano, and you will be directed to the best place for safe viewing. Occasionally having a guide with you will save your life without you even knowing it! Some of the dangers are not obvious to the uninitiated … what looks like solid ground could actually be a chunk of a lava bench that is moments away from collapsing into the ocean.

For those who venture out, you currently have the opportunity to witness new land being created, and to hear and see and smell the earth flowing by in red hot liquid form!

We offer guided trips (including transportation from the Kona area) using Hawaii Forest and Trail and Kona Adventure Tours.

Due to the dynamic nature of Kilauea Volcano, active lava viewing conditions change daily or even hourly. These tours are your best opportunity for close proximity to red hot lava, but successful lava viewing cannot be guaranteed. If you are not up to the demanding hike required with these tour options, consider the Twilight Volcano Adventure instead. This is a more comprehensive driving tour of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, including the opportunity to see the evening glow coming off the lava lake inside of the summit caldera of Kilauea from a distance.

Hawaii Forest and Trail Kilauea Lava Hike

The goal of this adventure is to find red hot lava, which requires a 3.5 mile round-trip walk on a gravel road, with some hiking on rocky, uneven terrain near the flow itself.  They have an exclusive arrangement to be able to drive closer and park closer to the flow on a private road. Your guide will share the science of volcanoes and the legends of the Hawaiian fire goddess “Pele.” Lunch is provided en-route from Kona, and a local-style dinner at Hilo’s landmark “Ken’s House of Pancakes” is included after the hike. Maximum group size is 12.

Schedule:  Sunday, Tuesday, & Thursday.  Departure times vary with the season, typically between 10am-11am.

Tour Length: 12 hours round-trip from Kona, 11 hours from Waikoloa, and 8 hours from Hilo.

Tour Includes:  ​Beverages, snacks, lunch & dinner.

Restrictions: Guests must be physically fit and able to hike long distances in hot conditions. No children under the age of 13.

What to Bring & Wear: Comfortable hiking boots, lightweight long pants, a lightweight shirt with sleeves, a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen.

Kona Adventure Tours Lava Viewing Hike

It is not everyday that we get to see the magnificent event of red flowing lava!  Rivers of lava carve paths into the landscape as it marches its way to the sea.  This hike is 9 miles round trip.  This new addition is the most challenging of all the Kona Adventure tours, and it is the ultimate lava view experience. Kona Adventure Tours specializes in private and semi-private small group excursions and the maximum number of participants is limited to six.

Schedule:  Offered Daily for Advanced bookings.  Departs the Kailua Kona area at 12:00 PM and returns around 10:30 PM

Tour Includes: Beverages, snacks, lunch, and dinner

Restrictions: Minimum age is 18.  Guests must be in good physical condition.

What to Bring & Wear: Comfortable hiking boots, lightweight long pants, a lightweight shirt with sleeves, a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen.

Hike on Gravel Road to Lava
It's a LONG hike on a gravel road ...
Portrait of Kevin and Ayumi Ditamore with Lava
...but WORTH the effort!

CATV Outfittersruise Ship Passengers

Cruise ship passengers cannot do the active lava hike due to the time required for this activity and the limited duration cruise ships are in port.

 

Activity Tips

Kevin Ditamore – Owner / Manager

My wife and I hiked out to the flow on July 21st, 2016 and took some fantastic pictures of breakouts on the coastal flat (that’s us in the photo above). We were just a few days early; the lava was still about a half mile above the gravel road and hadn’t quite made it all the way to the ocean. We’ve hiked out here before though, and have witnessed some spectacular ocean entries with previous flows. Sometimes the lava entering the ocean causes littoral explosions … a steam explosion that causes tiny lava particles to be spray like a fountain in ever direction in a spectacular display.

Access to the flow is best made from the Kalapana side to the east … while the hike is about the same distance from west side at the end of Chain of Craters Road in the park, the fumes from the flow are often blown TOWARD you if you are hiking from the west. When hiking from the east the prevailing trade winds typically blow the fumes AWAY from you. All the guided hikes are currently starting from the east side of the flow field.

The hike is strenuous … while the well-graded gravel road makes this possible, it is surprisingly difficult due to the heat and the wind. On the return from the flow a headwind of 20mph had us exhausted by the conclusion of the excursion. We don’t recommend this for anyone with any physical problems at all; the hike should only be attempted by people who are fit. Hawaii Forest and Trail doesn’t allow anyone under 13 to do the hike; Kona Adventure Tours caters to small groups / families and they will allow children to go along, but don’t even think about taking kids out there if they are the “are we there yet?” kind. We’ve seen children do just as well (or better) than adults on the hike, but the average child isn’t going to enjoy a long van ride from Kona, followed by a long hike in the heat, followed by a long hike back into the wind, followed by a long van ride back to your resort … unless they are REALLY excited by the opportunity to see red hot lava and they are hardy hikers.

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