If you are wondering if you can still visit Hawaii as the largest active volcano in the world, Mauna Loa, is erupting, then the answer is yes. As per the Hawaii Tourism Authority, you don’t have to change your travel plans, in fact, there’s an influx of travelers who are hoping to view the red glow of the lava.
The spectacle of incandescent lava spewing from Hawaii’s Mauna Loa has drawn thousands of visitors and is turning into a tourism boon for this Big Island town near the world’s largest volcano.
How hotels seeing the growth
Some hotels in and around Hilo are becoming fully booked in what is normally a slower time of the year for business. Helicopter tours of Mauna Loa, which began erupting Sunday after being quiet for 38 years, are also in high demand by tourists and journalists.
“Right now, it’s boomed,” said Marian Somalinog, who staffs the front desk at the Castle Hilo Hawaiian Hotel. “We’re sold out until after Christmas.” She attributed the increase to people wanting to watch the rivers of bright orange molten rock gush from Mauna Loa, a shield volcano whose name means “Long Mountain” in Hawaiian. The glow from the eruption can be seen in the distance from parts of the hotel.
This time of year is normally a slow season for Hawaii’s travel industry, falling between the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.
But this week thousands of cars have created traffic jams on Route 200, known as the Saddle Road, which connects the cities of Hilo on the east side of Hawaii Island and Kailua-Kona on the west side.
Danger to communities
With Mauna Loa, the largest active volcano in the world, erupting, some travelers may be wondering if they can still visit Hawaii.
The number of visitors to the park hasn’t increased since Mauna Loa’s eruption began late Sunday, but she expects it to rise late next week in line with normal seasonal patterns. Saddle Road, which is outside the park, might not remain a prime viewing spot for long. The red-hot lava is creeping toward it.
Ken Hon, scientist in charge at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, said the flow has “slowed considerably” and on Thursday was 3.3 miles (5.3 kilometers) south of the highway. At that rate, he said, it would be at least a week before it arrives.
“We don’t really know which way the lava flow will ultimately go,” Hon said.
A blockage of the road would pose problems, especially for those who use it to commute from Hilo and other parts of the island’s east side, where housing is generally more affordable, to jobs on the west side, home to many of the larger beach resorts.
Unless some sort of bypass is constructed, commuters would need to take coastal routes to and from Kailua-Kona, adding at least an hour drive time each way.
How can you see the lava flow on Hawaii Island?
Tourists can view the lava flow at the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The lava’s glow is “currently visible from many areas and overlooks surrounding Kaluapele (Kīlauea caldera)” at night. As per the park’s website, here are the best viewing locations and times:
- Kūpinaʻi Pali (Waldron Ledge) at Kīlauea Visitor Center from 5 to 8 p.m.
- Overlook near Keanakākoʻi Crater from 5 to 9 p.m.
- National Park Service recommended people wear closed-toe shoes and bring a rain jacket in case of inclement weather, and a headlamp for nighttime viewing.
For those who are outside the park, they can see the lava flow from Daniel K. Inouye Highway.
Here’s what you should keep in mind:
People are prohibited from stopping or parking on the highway between mile markers 16 and 31. According to the County of Hawaii website, Hawaii Police Department will give citations and tow parked vehicles. People are advised to park in a safer, designated parking lot to see the lava, like the Gil Kahele Recreation Area, which is open 24 hours and offers parking spaces and restrooms.
When did Mauna Loa last erupt?
Mauna Loa last erupted in 1984. The current eruption is its 34th since written record keeping began in 1843. Its smaller neighbor, Kilauea, has been erupting since September 2021.
With AP inputs