Pu'u O'o - Lava meets Sea


Explosion Explosion (1997)

This tour describes a hike from the Kalapana end of the Chain of Craters Road to the 1999 entry of lava from Pu'u O'o into the ocean.

The facts:

Start/ End Kalapana to lava ocean entry and back to Kalapana
Distance to trail head/end Hilo: 50km/ 1h, Kona: much more :-)
Length of hike 16km/ 6h (8km/ 2.5h one way)
Terrain Gravel road, Pahoehoe lava fields
Rating Difficult walking, strenous long hike. Great views of steam plume and potentially flowing lava.
Hazards Potentially dangerous: glassy lava (cuts), brittle lava (break ins), steam plume (toxic gases, glassy shards), rock falls (bench collapses)
Tips The lava fields are devoid of vegetation and exposed to trade winds - bring hat, sun screen, sun glasses, lots of water (2l minimum; I know it's heavy but you want it). Wear long trousers and gloves in case you stumble and fall.

Background/ Orientation

Lava streams from Kupaianaha destroyed the village of Kalapana and its famous black beach. The number of books written about this event gives evidence how many people were affected, and how profoundly their lives were changed. Later the eruption moved West to P'u O'o and it is still going strong - for 16 straight years now!

December 1997 Flow Map December 1997 Flow Map

From the vent the lava immediately enters a lava tube and can't be seen with the exception of the occasional view through a "sky light", a cave-in of the tube roof.

The lava flows straight down Pulama Pali, crosses over the coastal plain, spreads out, and finally enters the sea. In December 1997 the lava entered the ocean at two points. When we returned in 1999 only one entry was active.

The trail takes you over the lava fields with great views of Pulama Pali, Pahoehoe lava, and the steam plume(s).

Getting There

Kilauea Surroundings

Kilauea Surroundings

From Hilo, drive south direction of Kilauea/ Volcano Village (this road gets you to Kona as well). From Kona, drive south direction of Hilo (11).

Exit to the left/ right towards Kalapana (130). This road is/ was part of the Chain of Craters Road which once was a loop but has been interrupted by lava flows from Pu'u O'o.

Chain Of Craters Road

Chain Of Craters Road

Follow the road (130) until it ends at Kalapana (or where it was).

The road is blocked in quite a spectacular way - it is covered by a lava stream.

Park here, and don't leave anything in the car that you would regret missing when you come back.

Let's Go!

© 1999 Anita & Christian Treber