Kalapana, Hawaii Island
- Name: Kalapana
- What: Town partially destroyed by lava, now a volcano-viewing site
- Where: At the end of Hwy 130 in Puna
In the Puna District, 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 here 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. On July 26, the lava flow entered the ocean, spilling over the sea cliff for the first time since June 2013. This activity of ocean entry can be observed from the ocean on a permitted tour boat or from above by helicopter or small tour plane. 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 round-trip 6-mile hike can take up to three hours depending on current conditions and demarcations so please be prepared with sturdy footwear, proper attire, sunscreen, a flashlight as well as food and plenty of water. The viewing area is normally open daily from3:00 to 9:00 p.m., with the last car permitted into the parking area at 8:30 p.m. Cell phone coverage may be spotty in areas.
Hawaii County officials remind visitors to please respect private property and the rights of local residents and do not leave trash behind. Restroom facilities are limited and lack running water.
Be safe and respectful of the Hawaiian culture, and help to protect our island’s natural and cultural resources. Many believe that lava is the kinolau, or physical embodiment, of volcano goddess Pele. Therefore, poking lava with sticks or throwing/placing things in or above the lava flow to watch them burn is considered disrespectful, not only culturally, but it is also against federal law. Pets and unmanned aerial systems, or drones, are also prohibited on the flow field in the national park.
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 vaporizes 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://pubs.usgs.gov/fs/2000/fs152-00/ - For the USGS Lava Viewing Safety Fact Sheet
http://hvo.wr.usgs.gov/cams/KIcam/ - For a live view of Halemaumau
http://www.hawaiicounty.gov/lava-viewing/ - For County of Hawaii Lava Viewing Information