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Pu'u 'O'o Lava Flow

The Big Island, HI
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Pu'u 'O'o Lava Flow, The Big Island Hawaii

Description

NOTE- THE VOLCANO IS CONSTANTLY CHANGING: Call (808) 961-8093 to find out if this hike is possible or if it's closed, and to be directed to alternative hikes.
Currently a good way to see the lava is to visit the lava lake in Halemaumau Crater. Here are some webcam images of current conditions.
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One of the most rare and beautiful sights I've seen in my life was the Pu'u 'O'o lava flow on a good night. We were lucky that the flow was particularly good that day. Driving down Chain of Craters Road, we were delighted to see two plumes of smoke rising above the ocean where the hot lava was meeting the ocean. Once we arrived at the end of the road, we walked the paved section until we came to the end of the street, where lava from the 2003 eruption covered the road! It was a great photo opportunity. A little further on there was a No Parking sign, almost wholly engulfed by lava.
Yellow markers indicate the safest route over the lava. Keep clear of the areas near the ocean because these "benches" can collapse and at least one tourist has fallen to his death into the hot water. Once the yellow markers end, you are on your own and must make your own path amongst the lava. I suggest doing this hike in the early evening when it is still light, then you only have the way back to hike in the dark. It is dreadful hiking over little hills of glass-sharp lava rock at night.
There are eight markers- little white poles with flashing lights. We hiked to the third marker because we were told by others that the view was great from there, and it was true! The third marker is two miles in. Once there, we sat on the rocks and watched the spectacle! On the mountain above us, thin rivers of red glowing lava were flowing down. Then at the ocean's edge, red lava was shooting up as it hit the water, creating orange displays amongst the smoke plume. With binoculars, we could see the lava falling into the sea. Wow!
The hike back in the dark was horrendous- I was glad we hadn't gone as far as the eighth marker. The conditions were perfect to twist your ankle. For hours, we navigated mounds of shiny lava rock. The flashlight lit up the little sparkles in the rock making it hard to see the contours of the rock. Bring a hunky guy to hold your hand!
It was well worth it though. What a rare and magical experience.
Bring a flashlight per person, and plenty of water to drink. Also, wear good hiking shoes and long pants- the lava rock is glass-sharp.
If you're hungry while in the volcano area, check out Lava Rock Cafe. We had great omelettes there the next morning. It's in the town of Volcano. Follow the signs to the town from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, and you can't miss it on your left along the road.
The crazy thing is that none of the restaurants in Volcano or at the National Park are open early enough (they open at 5:30pm) or late enough (they close before 10pm) for you to eat dinner when you go to see the lava flow at night. We ended up going without a real meal! The small grocery store in Volcano has some picnic items but nothing fresh. Hopefully, the restaurants will correct this problem soon.
Click below for updates on the current lava flow:
Current UpdateIf you are active or retired military, you could stay at Kilauea Military Camp in order to see the lava flows!

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Photo Gallery

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Two plumes rising from where the hot lava meets the sea. Seen as you descend Chain of Craters Road.
Two plumes rising from where the hot lava meets the sea. Seen as you descend Chain of Craters Road.
Where the paved trail ends and the yellow markers begin- this is where lava flowed over the road in 2003!
Where the paved trail ends and the yellow markers begin- this is where lava flowed over the road in 2003!
Guess they can't enforce that rule anymore!
Guess they can't enforce that rule anymore!
The Holei Sea Arch, near the ranger station.
The Holei Sea Arch, near the ranger station.
Halfway along the
Halfway along the "medium difficulty" yellow-marker section of the trail, the road reappears!
The plume from the trail during the daylight hours. Now we are waiting for night to come!
The plume from the trail during the daylight hours. Now we are waiting for night to come!
Red lava flowing down the mountain above where we stand.
Red lava flowing down the mountain above where we stand.
Red lava flowing into the sea, as seen from the 3rd marker where we stopped and stared in awe!
Red lava flowing into the sea, as seen from the 3rd marker where we stopped and stared in awe!
More red lava flowing into the sea!
More red lava flowing into the sea!

Full moon over lava rocks at Pu'u 'O'o Flow hike.
Full moon over lava rocks at Pu'u 'O'o Flow hike.
The lava lake at Halemaumau Crater, May 2015.
The lava lake at Halemaumau Crater, May 2015.

Directions

In Hawaii Volcanoes National Park ($10 per car), take the Chain of Craters Road to the end, park along the road, and then walk. First there is a paved road, then yellow markers in the lava rock to show you where to go, then you're on your own. The paved road is considered an "easy" hike, the marked lava-rock section is considered "moderate," and the go-it-on-your-own section at the end is considered "extremely difficult." Arrive early in the evening to get a good parking spot.
There are restrooms (nowhere to wash your hands, though- bring some wet wipes) and a ranger station.
Click below for updates on the current lava flow:
Current Update

This is an interactive map, you can zoom and move it.

Visitor Ratings

Overall Visitor Rating:


Dani
11/26/2010 09:05
unreal photos... love them....

Debbie
10/06/2009 14:35
This is wonderful! My sincere thanks for all of your hard work and time. We can't wait to return.

Last Updated Sun, 10 May 2015 21:38:40 GMT