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Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park | Creation in Destruction

Hawaiʻi Island is all about volcanoes. The youngest of the island chain, eruptions occur here with a frequency like it’s got something to prove. Layers of lava stretch over moonscapes, collect in calderas, and put on an awesome show. So, grab your front row seat. You’ll pass through hundreds of miles of history over seven climate zones to an in-depth adventure in Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park with exclusive access to a lava tube on private land. Best of all, let somebody else take care of packing all the snacks.

Pele | The Fire Volcano Goddess

Pele is unpredictable, temperamental, and powerful. She is red-hot molten rock. She can transform herself into a beautiful young woman or a wise old woman. Pele is a creative and destructive goddess. She formed the Hawaiian Islands with Pāoa, her sacred stick, given to her by a protective uncle who helped her understand and direct her power.

Pele lives in Halemaʻumaʻu, the deepest crater at the summit of Kīlauea, which is the youngest of the five volcanoes on the island. It first formed on the ocean’s floor around 280,000 years ago and has a summit of over 4000 feet at the highest edge of its caldera. That’s the big bowl at the top of the mountain about three miles long and two miles wide. Lava drains from the summit causing the land to collapse and form cliffs stepping down to Halemaʻumaʻu.


Kīlauea | The Most Active Volcano on the Planet

When it comes to volcanoes, prevailing wisdom says to evacuate at the first signs of trouble. Ignore that. If Kīlauea, the world’s most active volcanic mass, happens to be erupting. Then definitely ignore that. Stratovolcanoes, with their thick magma and unpredictable summit eruptions of the Mount St. Helens variety definitely warrant a level of wariness. But Hawaiʻi is made of shield volcanoes. Thin basaltic magma allows volcanic gasses to pass through unimpeded and lava to ooze. If a volcano in Hawaiʻi is erupting, you hop in a van and head out to watch.

Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park has both the world’s largest volcano, Mauna Loa, and Kīlauea, the world’s most active. It’s a sea to summit park, going from the coast up the slopes to the summits of both of these volcanoes. That’s over 500 square miles, only about 75 square miles smaller than the island of Oʻahu. There’s a lot of ground to cover.

Pele’s Hair

On a sunny day, the summit area of Kīlauea looks like it’s covered in spider webs. You’ll see fine fibers reflecting in the light and glimmering on the landscape. What you’re actually seeing are long strands of silica formed when a gas bubble burst at the surface of an eruption. Peleʻs hair can stretch out up to several feet long and about ten times thinner than an eyelash.

Pele’s Tears

When lava fissures spew molten rock, it hardens in the air and falls as tephra. Some of this pyroclastic material forms Peleʻs tears: smooth, teardrop-shaped drops of hardened lava. Peleʻs tears and hair are generally formed together and separate during the process depending on how fast the lava droplets are ejected into the atmosphere.

Steam Vents

Wahinekapu, or the steaming bluff, is where steam rises up from cracks in the ground near the summit of Kīlauea. It's also a great spot for a facial. Precipitation trickles down through the porous ground and hits rocks heated by magma from below. Steam rises up through stable cracks, formed in the rift zone near the summit of Kīlauea.

Kauhi Cave | Life in a Lava Tube

Cut a cross section of this island and youʻd have a volcanic version of swiss cheese — holes through each layer of lava as this island formed. Lava tubes are everywhere on this island. Formed when the exposed surface of an above-ground flow hardens, insulated lava eventually carves its way down into the ground. The eruption subsides and you’re left with an empty tube.

The twists and turns of a lava tube reveal nāhuku hanging from the ceiling. Astute observers might think they’re normal stalactites, formed with every drip of water as minerals accumulate. Thatʻs not the case in a lava tube. Literally translated as the protuberances, these lava icicles dripped down when molten lava was flowing through the cave and melted the ceiling.

Some lava tubes in Hawaiʻi host rare bacteria. Scientists are still discovering different species of these simple organisms and learning how they work together to sustain life in pitch-black caves. Waste products of the microbial matting is visible on the cave walls.


Hawaii Forest & Trail | Your Guide to Big Adventure

Hawaii Forest & Trail started in 1993 with an emphasis on conservation and education. They’ve got island-wide partnerships to get guests into private lands and wildlife refuges. Specialized trips stretch across the geological, ecological, and cultural diversity of Hawaii.

The Volcano Unveiled adventure with Hawaii Forest & Trail will change slightly depending if Kīlauea is actively erupting or not. If it isn’t, don’t fret. There’s tons to do and see in Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, and your guide will know all the spots. Plus, that private lava tube in Puna is one of the best on the island — and not something most people get to explore.

Meet up at the Hawaii Forest & Trail headquarters, about a 10 minute drive from the hotel on Queen Kaʻahumau Highway. This is a full day adventure: about 12 hours round trip, but donʻt worry, it includes all the gear you’ll need for anything the island throws at you. They’ll supply reusable water bottles, drinks, day packs, meals, snacks, bug spray, sunscreen, walking sticks, and on-the-ground knowledge of the formations and characteristics of these volcanoes.

. . .”HAWAIʻI VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK, hundreds of miles of history”