The Lava Flows Hawaii are located in Big Island, the biggest island in the Hawaii archipelago, also known as Hawaii Island. This island is a massive volcano that rises from the bottom of the Pacific Ocean and it is growing every day because of its lava, which erupts from Kilauea Volcano and ends in the ocean.
Currently, the lava flows Hawaii is in Kalapana area, on the south-east part of the island. The fresh lava flows above older lava fields, making an otherworldly landscape, full of black and bright ripples with a subsoil that still exudes heat.
Watching fresh lava is a unique and breathtaking experience. Before finding it, you start feeling an incredible hot air and smell. And then, seeing it for the very first time, newly erupted from the inside of Earth, you just simply can’t believe it: the lava moves all the time, with incandescent orange and rock cracking. The floor burns and the night keeps falling, intensifying the color of the flow and turning the experience into something mystical.
Bear in mind that the lava flow changes every day, so it’s better to ask for information in the Visitor’s Center of Volcanoes National Park. You can also check the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory Daily Update and the Volcanoes National Park website for more detailed information.
How to get to the Lava Flows Hawaii
You need a car to get to Kalapana. It takes 50 minutes from Hilo, the biggest city in the island, and around 2 hours and a half from Kailua-Kona, another important city. The roads are in perfect condition and well indicated, so it’s so easy to get there.
In summary, there are two ways of seeing lava in Big Island:
– See it flowing fresh on the ground, after a moderate hike.
– See it falling down into the ocean (from a viewpoint accessible by foot, or from the ocean, after a boat ride).
There are three main ways to see the Lava Flows Hawaii
1. On your own after a bike ride (or hike if you prefer)
The first option consists in driving to Kaimu Chain of Craters Road and park at the end of the road. It’s easy to find, since there’s only one road. It is recommendable asking the rangers about where and how to see the lava. They always give useful tips and indications.
Then, you can rent a bike in one of the many rental stands along the road that follows the parking area.
After getting the bike, you will have to ride the 4 miles path until the end, where you’ll park the bike and start walking, trying to find the lava flow or getting to the viewpoint, called Lava Viewing Area and Kilauea Ocean Entry View Point, where you’ll be able to see the lava falling down into the
There’s a lot of people there, so you can join any group or ask them if you’re lost.
Of course, if you don’t want to rent a bike, you can walk the 4 miles path,
but predict well the time you’ll need.
This way is perfect to see the lavafalls in a safe distance, but not to see
fresh lava flowing on the ground (for that, better take a guide – continue
Advantages of doing it on your own
- It’s the cheapest way. You don’t have to pay any guide or tour, that
are quite expensive.
- It doesn’t require any planning: the bikes are available 24/7. If you’re improvising or you’re not in time to join any tour or guided group, this is your option!
- Feel free to set your own tempos and explore the areas you want to.
- It’s funny! You can ride a bike or hike, or you can just sit down on the ground and watch the amazing sunset.
Disadvantages of doing it on your own
- This way is perfect to get to the viewpoint and see the lava falling into the ocean, but it is not recommended if you want to see fresh lava flowing through the ground.
- Lava flow is so unpredictable that it’s hard to find. If you want to see fresh lava anyway, you have to be careful not to get lost. Normally, you have to walk some miles through tricky lava fields to see the fresh flow, without any reference point, that makes it easy to get lost.
- The best moment to see it is at night, when its color is spectacular, so finding the way back in the dark it’s also difficult. But don’t worry, there’re rangers in the area and, where you’re getting closer to the main path, you can follow the bike lights to orientate.
- Just in case, don’t forget your phone and, maybe, a GPS.
- Fresh lava is something to respect and be cautious with. Most of us are not expert volcanologists, so it’s difficult to know where is safe to step and where not. The subsoil is still burning and dry lava is still fragile, so you have to be extremely careful and don’t take risks.
- It’s not guaranteed that you will see fresh lava. If you don’t have several days to spend in Big Island searching for it, maybe it’s better to play safe and join a tour or get a guide.
2. Getting a guide
The second way to see the lava flows Hawaii is to get a guide (private or joining a group). There’re a lot of guides services in Kalapana that offer hikes or bike rides to see fresh lava on the ground, and the prices are around 100$ per person.
You can check the best guides in Tripadvisor. I did it with Aloha Lava Tours and it was amazing. Kalapana Cultural Tours and Moku Nui Lava Tours also have great reviews.
Advantages of doing it with a guide:
- It’s guaranteed that you’re going to see fresh lava. All guides know where exactly the lava is flowing that day, so they will guide you there straightly.
- It’s secure. Guides will let you know where you can stand and step.
- It’s a good opportunity to know more about volcano activity and history in Hawaii. Most of the guides have a wide knowledge regarding lava, volcanoes, eruptions and different episodes in Big Island, so you can ask whatever you want to.
Disadvantages of doing it with a guide:
- It’s quite expensive.
- You must follow a schedule and follow the instructions of the guide.
- Depending on the hike the guide does, it could be strenuous. Make sure you’re in good shape for the hike. Aloha Lava Tours offer a 6 miles hike instead of 10 miles that is the usual, because 4 of them are done by car.
3. Getting a boat tour
The more spectacular way to see lava is watching it falling into the ocean from the sea, in a boat.
Again, there’re a lot of boat tours in Kalapana, but maybe the best option is Kalapana Cultural Tours. They offer a combo hike or bike + boat tour, all in the same day, that lets you see the lava in
all possible ways.
You’re going to start early in the morning with the boat tour. Make sure you choose the earliest option (5AM), because sunrise is the best time to see the lavafalls. Then, in the afternoon, you’ll do the hike with an experienced guide (it’s strenuous, but it’s amazing!).
This combo tour costs 280$ + taxes per person and you can book it on their website.
Advantages of take a boat tour
- It’s an unbelievable way to see the lava falls.
- Seeing fresh lava falling into the ocean is an experience you can only live in Big Island, so enjoy it!
- You’re going to take unbelievable pictures there!
Disadvantages of doing it with a guide
- It’s expensive.
- If you’re not used to sail, it can be a bit dizzy.
Lawa Flows Hawaii Price
As you could see, the price of this experience can vary from 20$ + taxes that cost bike rental to 100$ that cost a guided hike or 300$ that cost the combo hike or bike + boat tour. It’s up to you!
How much time do you need there
Normally, it takes around 4 or 5 hours to do the whole hike to see fresh lava. It starts around 3pm and finishes around 21pm. If you’re taking the combo tour, you’ll need the whole day, from 5am to 21 or 22pm.
When is the best time to visit the Lava Flows Hawaii
Fortunately, Kilauea Volcano is in full activity since 2008, so you can see its lava flowing any time of the year. October is a perfect month to visit Hawaii: weather is nice, prices are lower and there are less people than in July or August.
What to do there
Whatever option you choose, you will enjoy this unique experience. Remember to bring a raincoat, good hiking boots, enough water and some food. Last but not least, don’t forget a flash light, your mobile, your camera and a GPS.
What not to do
The excitement of seeing fresh lava can make you take irrational risks. Ask for information about hikes and tours in the Visitor’s Center of Volcanoes National Park or to rangers you’ll find in Kalapana.
If you’re not sure that you can make it, don’t hesitate to take a guide or tour.
Of course, don’t touch the lava and don’t get too much close. And respect the environment: take your trash with you and leave it as beautiful as you find it.
Where to stay
You can sleep in Kalapana town or in Pahoa. Both are close to Lava Viewing Area. There you’ll find some guesthouses, hostels and hotels.
Why should the Lava Flows Hawaii be on my bucket list?
The Lava Flows Hawaii is an insane experience. It’s going to show you how alive our planet is, how beautiful it is and how vulnerable we are when we’re facing the strength of Mother Nature.