Kalapana, Hawaii Island

Kalapana

  • 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. In July of 2016, County of Hawaii leaders officially re-opened the Kalapana viewing area to provide safe viewing of the current lava flow by foot. This was the first time lava has come close to reaching the sea since June 2013. 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 3-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 Mayor Billy Kenoi reminds 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.

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