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borderNahuku (Thurston lava tube)Nahuku (Thurston Lava Tube)

Nahuku (Thurston Lava Tube), Hawaii's Big Island

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Quick Facts

  • Name: Nahuku (Thurston Lava Tube)
     
  • What: Huge lava cave for exploration
     
  • Where: In Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

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Take a walk in the dark through Nahuku, known as the Thurston Lava Tube, a 500-year old lava cave located within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Lava caves like this are formed when a river of lava gradually builds solid walls and a ceiling. When the lava flow stops and the last of it passes downhill, a cave is formed. These caves can be a few metres high and only metres long, or they can stretch for kilometres with high ceilings. The Thurston Lava Tube is a fantastic example of a massive lava cave.

Lit by electric lights, with a flat rock floor and a ceiling high enough in the centre to keep you from scraping your head, this is a great introduction to lava tube geology. The solidified drips and waves of once-liquid lava rock clearly show the molten forces that created this cave. Your torch will reveal the beautiful shapes and colours of minerals leeching from the rock. After strolling the short, lighted section of Nahuku, there’s another segment past the steps leading back up the trail that’s completely dark with an uneven floor, so don’t venture there unless you are sure-footed and have a strong torch. But for the able-bodied adventurer, a walk of 45 metres or so into this part of the lava tube will give you an intense experience, especially if you turn off your torch. A tropical rainforest awaits at the end of Nahuku.

There are several lava tubes you can visit around the island but Nahuku is the most easily accessible. You can reserve a spot at a guided park ranger tour of Pua Poo lava tube by calling or visiting the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Visitor Center, the earlier in the day the better. Some private companies also run guided tours of the Thurston Lava Tube as well as other lava tubes around the island including Hawaii Forest and Trail, Kilauea Caverns of Fire and Native Guide Hawaii.