Hawaii’s Helemaumau Crater Draws Huge Crowds as Lava Eruptions Reappear
Halemaumau Crater will bring some genuine excitement to your social media pages!
Of the five principal volcanoes which make up the main island of Hawai’i, only two remain active – Mauna Loa which is partly within the Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park, and Kīlauea which is entirely within the Park. On Wednesday September 29, Kīlauea’s Helemaumau Crater burst into life, spewing lava in jets reaching up to 45 feet above the crater floor. According to scientists, what may from a safe distance seem relatively small amounts of molten lava is actually 26,000 gallons bursting into the crater every second! Imagine taking some fantastic selfies with the Crater in the backdrop, or posting images of the lava on Facebook or Instagram with your own unique spin on this unique experience!
When active Kīlauea’s Halemaumau Crater is like the eighth wonder of the world
The Crater is a huge attraction and one of the most popular destinations for visitors to the Hawaiian Islands. It is a fantastic way to get a genuine feel for how the islands were created as they are all of volcanic origin and even today continue to grow in size thanks to the two remaining active volcanoes. Believe it or not, between 1983 and 2002 lava flows from Mauna Loa and Kīlauea added 543 acres to the island of Hawai’i, while between May and July 2018, the lower Puna eruption added a further 875 acres.
In case you were wondering, at the moment it is perfectly safe to visit the Crater as there has been no alarming seismic activity detected, which would be a precursor to a more violent form of eruption, such as that seen in 1982, twenty-five years later in 2008, and three years ago in 2018. In fact, it was the events that occurred between April and July 2018 which had a dramatic effect on the actual appearance of the crater.
A knowledgeable guide to the geology of Halemaumau Crater is essential
Nothing could replace the excitement of hearing the full story from a local guide while at the Crater itself, but in short, there was such a massive build-up of lava in the crater that it burst out of the east rift zone and with that, the level of the caldera below which lay the lava lake, began to drop. By the end the volume of Halemaumau Crater after the lava had escaped had expanded from between 55 and 60 million cubic meters to approximately 885 million cubic meters, while the floor had dropped an astonishing 500 meters to a new depth of 600 meters.
As for getting that rare glimpse of red-hot lava, you can drive to the crater along Crater Rim Drive, which is a two-lane paved loop encircling the crater and which extends approximately 11 miles (17km). Alternatively, there is a wide selection of guided tours which include six-hour hiking tours or group tours with transport provided. We strongly recommend either a hiking tour or one where transport is provided as there is so much to see – the adventure doesn’t simply involve peering into a crater, though if you go at night, the glow of the lava reflected off the ceiling of a starry night is an experience on its own you will never forget!
Park the car and trek to some of the best vantage points for Halemaumau Crater
However, if you are not a fan of lengthy tours, you can take your car to many of the great viewing locations and enjoy a much shorter hike. For example, there is a section of the Crater Rim Drive near the Devastation Trail parking lot that is specifically for hikers. It is an easy-to-walk trail of just under a mile to the Keanakāko’i Crater, where there are two overlook points that provide panoramic views of Halemaumau Crater and Mauna Loa. Additionally, dotted around the location are steam vents and underground lava tubes to add to the atmosphere.
One word of advice: if seeing molten lava really is on your wish list, it’s best not to delay as volcanic activity is extremely difficult to predict and the lava flows could disappear just as quickly as they appeared. Check out our list of guided tours that specifically visit the crater here.