Kalapana, Hawaii's Big Island
What: Town partially destroyed by lava, now a volcano-viewing site
Where: At the end of Hwy 130 in Puna
In the Puna District, drive beyond Pahoa Town towards the coast and you’ll find the end of the road is covered in lava. In 1990, lava from Kilauea volcano engulfed Kalapana, a historic Hawaiian fishing village and residential area, as well as the famous black sand beach at Kaimu. Pele, the volcano goddess, also destroyed Hawaii’s oldest heiau (temple), two subdivisions and several miles of public highway. No lives were lost, but 182 homes were swallowed by lava. Today, there’s an entirely new coastline, with a few poignant traces of the town that once thrived here. A visit to Kalapana is a sobering reminder of the raw power of Pele.
Located just east of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Kalapana offers a good view of activity from Kilauea’s Puu Oo vent, the source of the volcano’s most recent activity. In March of 2009, federal, state and Hawaii county leaders officially opened the Kalapana viewing area to provide safe viewing of the current lava flow by foot. This was the first time lava has reached the sea since June 2007. Note that conditions change from day to day, so lava-viewing experiences can vary.
The Kalapana viewing site is located at the end of Highway 130 in Puna. The hike can take anywhere from 20 minutes to two hours depending on current conditions and demarcations so please be prepared with sturdy footwear, proper attire, sunscreen and a torch as well as food and plenty of water. The viewing area is normally open daily from 2:00 to 10:00 pm, with the last car permitted into the parking area at 8 pm. There is no mobile phone coverage in the viewing area.
Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi reminds visitors that the viewing area passes by private homes and properties so proceed with respect and do not leave litter behind. Portable toilets are set up for public use.
Visitors on foot must obey all warning signs and are required to stay within permitted areas for safety purposes. A newly formed black sand beach and land area is extremely unstable, and could collapse into the ocean at any time. There is also the threat of acidic laze, a hazardous chemical reaction of hydrochloric acid (HCl) and seawater that occurs when the extreme heat of the lava enters the sea, rapidly boils and vaporises the seawater into visible white plumes. Because of the unpredictable nature of the lava flow, the area is subject to closure at any time.
The Kalapana viewing area offers a chance of a lifetime, allowing you to see the birth of new life and to witness Pele’s awesome powers of creation. For more information on current conditions at Kilauea volcano, safety updates and the Kalapana viewing area, please visit:
http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov/ - For daily Kilauea eruption updates, (808) 967-7328
http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov/cams/KIcam/ - For a live view of Halemaumau Crater
http://www.lavainfo.us/ For Hawaii County Lava Viewing Information, (808) 961-8093 or (808) 430-1966