Lava Flowing to the Sea

Two months before our trip to Hawaii, lava started flowing on the Big Island, where we planned to visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Two weeks before our trip, lava reached the sea! An opportunity.

There are several ways to get to the active lava flow. After past lava flows overran the coastal road, a gravel emergency road was built on the lava flows. Tourists can drive to within a few miles of the active lava flow and hike or bike on the gravel road.

I biked to the lava flow in the late afternoon from the Kalapana side, outside the Park, and this worked well. During the summer, the trade winds usually blow from Kalapana into the Park. They were blowing that day — blowing the heat and fumes from the lava into the Park and away from those of us coming from Kalapana. In contrast, a volunteer at the Park had driven to the lava flow from the Park two days before, and her lungs were still smarting from the sulphur fumes.

In 1990 a lava flow destroyed many homes in Kalapana. Some people have moved back to their land by the emergency road. Lucky for them, the 2016 lava flow is a few miles up the road. The smoke on the far left is from the current lava flow.

Some people in Kalapana moved back after a 1990 lava flow destroyed their homes
Some people in Kalapana moved back after a 1990 lava flow destroyed their homes

Lava flows down the cliff, forming a lava delta of new land. See the people standing near the triangle of red lava that just broke loose. Shown in the top photo, some people take a small boat to see the lava.

red lava spills over a cliff and into the sea
red lava spills over a cliff and into the sea

We walked inland to get a closer look at the lava. A light-gray crust quickly forms over the red-hot lava. “The dark red lava often seen slowly crawling across parts of Hawaii, measures around 895 F.” The black lava is old and safe to walk on.

light gray crust forms over the red-hot lava
light gray crust forms over the red-hot lava

Fast-moving lava glows red or yellow. As the lava slows down and cools, it turns gray. As the sun sets, the red-hot lava appears brighter.

red lava toe
red lava toe

After dark we returned to the coastline and the lava delta, where glowing lava illuminates the smokes and waves.

lava flowing into ocean at night, coloring the water and steam clouds
lava flows into ocean at night, coloring the water and steam clouds red
wave breaking on lava flowing into ocean
wave is colored red by lava flowing into ocean

A spectacular finale. Riding a bike back on a gravel road in the dark is challenging but part of the experience.

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Published by

charley280

I enjoy travel, art, food, photography, nature, California native plants, history, and yoga. I am a retired software engineer. The gravatar is a Nuttall's woodpecker that visited our backyard.

2 thoughts on “Lava Flowing to the Sea”

  1. That was a great post and beautiful pictures. This gave me a good idea what it may be like being there. Some of the best photos I have seen that give a good perspective. I plan on visiting in May so that is why I am reading others experiences.

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