After what seemed like an eternity (real time scale approximately two weeks) of buckets of rain filling local residents catchments, overflowing rivers, and feeding the lush forest greenery, EASILY pounded with a years worth of watering, we were much overdue for a sunshiny day.
We chose to spend our day of sunshine on a bike to hike in search for ACTIVE LAVA. Have you ever seen active lava? It is insanely terrifying, but breathtakingly mesmerizing. This is comparable to an I love you, but you could kill me instantly type of relationship. It was AWESOME!
There are a few different options to see the lava flow. One is to go into Volcano National Park, drive about 20 miles down to the coastline and then hike for 10-12 miles…ORRRRR you could head over to Kalapana and bike or shuttle to hike. There are numerous bike vendors, if you will, lined up ready to capture your business for the day.
The company we chose was Kalapana Cultural Tours (KPT) and we were more than satisfied. The bikes pricing averages on $20.00 bike for a little extra you receive some fancy gears and a nice seat. We chose an older mid-grade bike, with some basic gears and paid $10.00 a person, it was MORE than sufficient. The company provides you with waters, a fanny pack with the goods…an emergency number, a small first aide kit, and a bike lock. The staff was genuinely friendly and more than accommodating. KPT even provide a one way shuttle that takes you halfway there if you don’t feel up to riding the entirety of the way.
This is the map they provided us, as you can see when you’re riding you pass three gates and then turn right up ahead into the lava fields. The area that is blocked off with red is an area above an unstable lava tube. Don’t worry there is plenty of lava flowing. The biking is about 2.5 miles and there are signs labeled to tell you you’re headed in the right direction. It’s then about an 1.5 hour hike through the lava fields to find the flow.
This is a self guided tour, with this it is much less expensive, but there is no marked trail, so you are just basically hoping you’re going the right direction. To find the lava you walk toward the steam vents, the more steam vents, the hotter it becomes, the closer you’re getting to the flow. You will know when you’re close because the temperature shoots up about 20 degrees and when you’re super close it feels like you stepped into a sauna and your eyebrows are going to burn off you should make sure you’re not going to step on it because if we were playing the hot cold game, you ARE ON FIRE (as you might be able to tell by our facial expressions)!!
There are also guided tours you can pay for, which i’m sure would be incredibly informative, if it’s in your budget. We met Jerry on our venture who was a guide and after talking with him briefly at the flow, he won’t leave your disappointed. If anyone can find you some lava, he’s your dude for the job.
Some safety considerations when you’re searching for lava.
- Wear closed toed shoes and long pants..This is ROUGH and sharp terrain and you WILL be sorry if you wear sandals. If you fall while covering this uneven ground it will cut the shit out of you. This is some lava glasslike rock found along the trail.
- Bring sunscreen: Ill show you why
- If the ground is a silver try to avoid stepping on it as it could still be hot and could melt the soles of your shoes.
- Have the compass app on your phone and mark your location when you park your bikes (pointing toward the ocean when you set compass) This will help you make it back to where you parked your bikes, especially if you are coming back in the dark.
- A headlamp and a flashlight. There are people who go out at night to find the lava and it looks really cool, but know where you are going and probably do not attempt alone.
- DON’T TOUCH THE LAVA: Lava is about 2,000 degrees and will melt the crap out of you. You will be sorry. Additionally, lava is considered sacred to the Hawaiians and should not be touched by humans, i.e. poking it with a stick. You may see others doing this, but it considered very disrespectful to the Hawaiian culture.
- If a large storm cloud rolls in, or it starts raining, leave immediately as this can kick up plume (toxic gases such as sulfur dioxide and hydrochloric acid), into the air which can kill you. Typically, if the conditions are hazardous they will have the route blocked off and won’t be renting bikes for the day. So just be mindful and aware of your surroundings.