A Lava hike is the best way for adventurous hikers to see lava up close. By up close, I mean ‘poke-with-a-stick’ up close. In an exhilarating experience, where 1300° C viscous lava, flows by your feet, the strenuous hike is worth the effort. Before we proceed onto describing the experience, it’s important to understand the sanctity of the land, water and volcanoes to the Hawaiian people. Pele, is Hawaii’s goddess of fire and volcanoes. A poignant mythological figure that is both creator and destroyer. She represents the destructive beauty of nature.
Whilst lava can be highly destructive, the resulting mineral-rich soil, has created the lush greenery of the Big Island. Historically, five volcanoes created the Big Island and eruptions continue to this day. Ahiuu Hawaii hold guided lava tours for keen adventure seekers.
Departing Town: Hilo
Distance: 6 miles/ 9.5km (Round trip)
Time: 5 – 6 hours+ (variable depending on Mud levels & group size)
Cost: $195 USD
Lava Hike – Through the forest
Departing from the town of Hilo, the adventure begins with a hike through the rainforest. A rainforest hike sounds deceptively magical, in fact, it was incredibly challenging. The distance itself is manageable, but the terrain is unstable, slippery and muddy. If you have a princess in your group or anyone that has an aversion to dirt- it would be best to re-consider. Don’t even bother trying to avoid the mud – it’s impossible and will slow the group down. The hike is a constant up-and-down, trekking on tree roots and trawling through mud. Vertically challenged hikers (aka the shorties), be ready for mud puddles that are shin deep. You’ll need to get dirty to get through the forest fast. Remember you’re hear to see REAL LAVA, where else in the world can you do this?! Think positive thoughts, when you’re feeling tired, dirty and just slipped for the 5th time. 100% worth the effort! This portion of the hike will take approx. 2- 2.5 hours.
Lava Hike – Finding Lava
Once you’ve conquered the forest, the guide will lead you onto the black fields. Millions of years of cooling Pahoehoe lava have formed expansive lava fields. Rain hitting the surface creates evaporating steam – leading to a tranquil, but eery setting. Depending on the direction of lava flow, it may take up to an hour for your guide to spot flowing lava. At this point, I was starting to get nervous, perhaps a clumsy person walking on lava isn’t a great idea…?
An hour passes and EUREKA – a stunning red glow is spotted in the distance. Unsurmountable levels of excitement reaches its peak. Out come the SLRs, the poking sticks and childlike enthusiasm.
The Lava hike will take you to observe Pahoehoe lava, characterised by a smooth, ropy surface. The lava builds up in vents across lava fields, before the pressure forces it onto the surface. The slow-moving nature of the lava, makes Pahoehoe ideal for observing. We spent approximately 1.5 hours poking, prodding and taking happy snaps. I’m speechless at this point, all I can manage is ‘ THIS IS SOOOOOO COOL!’. My only regret is not bringing some marshmallows or a fried egg to cook on the lava.
Many ask if this experience is safe? If a baby can out crawl Pahoehoe, rest assured that it is. The emanating heat is unbearably close, but never fear you can easily step away. It’s highly unlikely that hikers will fall into a vent or step on lava itself.
The return journey is the most difficult part. You’ve seen the star of the show. Alas, once more we must trek through mud and grime. Upon reflection, the strenuous hike was worth every bruise and mud-stained finger nail. The experience is exhilarating and a unique way to observe the mighty power of nature. It’s no wonder the Hawaiians respect Pele, the creator and destroyer of the Big Island. Sure, you can take a helicopter ride, but – no doubt this is the BEST way to see lava.
Tips & Things to bring
- Long socks/Long sleeve pants (protects feet from sharp volcano shards from entering your shoes)
- 2L of water per person
- Strong hiking shoes (your shoes will get FILTHY, refrain from bringing the Yeezys or anything $$$ )
- Long sleeve shirt (mosquitos)
- Mosquito repellant
- Vehicle required to drive to the Volcano National Park
From fire to ice, check out our Glacier Hike in New Zealand!
Lava Flow Tour – Ahiu Hawaii