When you say Hawaii, everybody immediately imagines gorgeous sandy beaches lined with green palm trees and beautiful crystal clear azure sea. The Hawaiian Islands, however, have much more to offer than you might think at first glance. One of the largest volcanos has been spitting lava into the ocean for decades and tourists from all over the world travel here to see this unique phenomenon with their own eyes.

The Hawaiian Islands were formed by volcanic activity and their flora is absolutely exceptional. The largest of the islands, called Big Island, offers incredibly varied vegetation – from lava fields to rainforests and beautiful beaches. The island is dominated by several volcanos, of which the most interesting one is the Kīlauea volcano. Since 1983, it has been continuously spitting molten lava directly into the ocean and so creating a new piece of land. Lava has to travel a long distance through lava tunnels. It reaches the surface near the coast and from there it flows directly into the ocean. It is an amazing spectacle that is accompanied by dense smoke, hissing and bubbling as the hot lava comes into contact with the cool ocean waters.

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Unique view of the lava flowing into the sea

tom_profilWhen staying on Big Island, we recommend visiting the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park and make sure you reserve a whole day to spend there. Stop by the visitor centre, they’ll be more than happy to give you advice and most importantly tell you the current situation. The park offers views of the lava pool, a walk through a former lava tunnel, view of a lava gate, several paths around the craters and incredible views of the surrounding countryside. The park includes a museum, as well as a path to see the petroglyphs, which were left in the lava stones by local people.
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Laughing Lava Lake in Hawaii National Park

The best way to get to the lava

To see lava with one’s own eyes, to feel the incredible destructive power of nature is truly an experience that will stay with you for a lifetime. This is why it’s necessary to prepare and choose the most appropriate way. There are several ways how to reach the flowing lava.

Walking – The road, which is about 16 km (10 miles), leads around the coast to a viewpoint, from which you can watch the hissing lava fall right into the ocean. It’s necessary to be well prepared, the road is long and challenging. Since the lava flows are usually heavily shrouded by smoke, it’s likely that’s the only thing you’ll be able to see. Prepare for this option before you set out.

Helicopter flight – Another option is to fly on a helicopter and enjoy a beautiful view of lava from above. This is the most expensive option and, of course, there is still the risk that all you’ll be able to see is the rising smoke.

Boat tour – Probably the most ideal option is a boat tour, which will take you directly to lava itself. We chose the Lava Ocean Tours, the most experienced company. Captain Shane Turpin created the company over 12 years ago. Since then he has been, expertly and with the highest respect, sailing boats to get as close as possible to the hot lava itself. Boat tour right to the lava flows is thus the ideal option to see this fascinating phenomenon.

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Burning rock that flows into the ocean

It’s important to remember that adventure offered by lava watching is directly dependent on the weather conditions. The condition of the coast is changing frequently, same as the weather and with it the flows of molten lava. If you want to ensure the best conditions for watching the boiling-hot lava, we recommend setting out early in the morning. In the darkness, it’s the easiest to see the bright red-hot lava, as it shines even through thick smoke. The morning trips to the lava flows are therefore the most expensive, but they’re most certainly worth it.

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Flowing lava is best seen in the dark, especially due to dense smoke

Lava Watching with Ocean Lava Tours

The morning trip begins at 4:30 AM already when you have to be ready at the appointed place. Our tour guide counted us and then our captain introduced himself immediately. Count on getting pretty soaked. It’s necessary to travel up to 65 km (40 miles) to see lava itself and the ocean is stormy quite often. The situation in the mornings is still the best, as you are not being cooked alive by the sun and the waves are calmer. If you are aware that you suffer from seasickness, make sure you are prepared for it. The ride is impossibly fast, the crashing waves rock the boat and water sprays everywhere. The journey to the flowing lava is actually an amazing adrenaline filled experience by itself.

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View from our ship to the flowing lava

When we arrived at the lava flows, the sky was already starting to lighten up. The arrival at our destination was accompanied by admiring sighs of our fellow travellers. There were about 50 other people on the boat with us. The seating was in twos right on the edge of the boat, so everyone could see properly. If you’re thinking about paying more for a smaller boat, we can assure you there’s no need. The captain steered the ship expertly, turning it to all sides so that everyone could see the deep orange boiling-hot hell well and up close. We sailed around the lava for about half an hour, in order for the captain to steer the boat around it. We even entered the smoke itself several times, the lens of my camera fogged up and we could smell the odour of sulphur dioxide. Our tour guide even pulled out a bucket of water from the sea so we could test its temperature. Then she walked around us all and offered to take pictures of us.

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Tom tests the water temperature

But then dawn came and the bright orange sun soon appeared in the sky. On the way back, our guide pointed out several empty lava tunnels as we sailed by them. Molten lava left behind the darkest black hole in the rock.

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Beautiful sunrise

The whole event was very professional and perfectly organized from the very beginning till the end. Not once did we feel like we were in any kind of danger. The trip left us with an incredibly strong experience, one we’ll remember for a very long time. Everyone who is thinking about visiting Hawaii should definitely consider visiting this place. It’s truly a unique spectacle that can’t be seen anywhere else in the world.


Phone: 808-966-4200
Web: http://seelava.com

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Eva and Tom – on a trip behind a running lava

Thanks to Lava Ocean Tours for support during our visit to Big Island in Hawaii. All our views are based on our own experience.

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