Hiking in Search of Lava on the Big Island of Hawai’i :: Part 2

After discovering that finding flowing lava in Volcano National Park was not going to happen, it was time to go on a search with fingers crossed. At this point, all I knew was that the Puʻu ʻŌʻō vent was active, it was on private land, and the nice lady at our hotel gave us a mans name who had access to this private land.

Equipped with only a first and last name, my best guess was the east side of Chain of Craters Road. There we were greeted by a team of security to a single private road to homes rebuilt on top of the lava fields. The effort to keep people from venturing out alone was high. I told security who I was looking for and although they knew him, they wouldn’t tell me how to contact him. They said I could watch from “the viewing area” – which happens to be 5km away.

This viewing area had another security guard – who was much more willing to provide information. After 30 minutes of chat and learning how the homes survive without water, heat or utilities, I had 3 possible names that I could hire as guides and within 2 hours, I was scheduled to meet back in Kalapana the next day to start the hike before sundown.

After the 5km one-way hike, I found myself standing face-to-face with the most intense heat wave imaginable burning through my skin. From 10 feet away, it felt like I was sitting an inch from a camp fire.

It’s easy to see the lava fields from a map. Kalapana is marked by the pins on the lower right.

On October 6th 2012 at 3:57pm, we started our hike from Kalapana equiped with a gps to track the journey. You can see this in the map below but unfortunately the batteries died on the different route back. Please note that the location of the lava changes on a daily basis so this information is no longer accurate. It’s best (if not required) to have a guide that knows what routes are safe.

Hike Over Lava Field

The total hike recorded was 4.91 kilometres one way with a 71m elevation taking us 2 hours and 8 minutes. After much anticipation and excitment, we arrived at 6:06pm.

The heat was incredible and impossible to explain. I appear to be smiling in the photo below, but it was not without pain. Pushing a stick into the slow-moving and very thick liquid rock takes a bit of force.

Poke a Stick in Lava

The Images

The heat is hard to explain in words. I required a break between shots to cool down and I didn’t dare attempt to use any non-glass filters. In the short amount of time that you position the camera, focus, and press the shutter, the metal rings of the camera absorbed the heat and quickly became warm to touch.

The effort was worth every second of this experience.

Lava, Big Island

Lava, Hawaii

Puʻu ʻŌʻō Lava

Lava in Hawaii


Lava, Hawai'i

Published in Travel on December 2012


  • Darren January 2013 at 9:59 pm

    wow, amazing photo’s. never seen a foreground element like that !

  • Danielle January 2013 at 6:44 am

    I’m not sure how I didn’t see these until now, incredible experience and of course shots!!

  • Scott Dimond January 2013 at 1:19 am

    Just fantastic! No other words are necessary. Great images and a great tale. It makes me want to put Hawaii back on my travel list. It has been many years and I did see lava once on the Big Island but nothing like this…

    • Stephen DesRoches January 2013 at 9:36 am

      Absolutely a highlight and well worth the effort to find the not so well marked guide business. It is however much different today. The lava has once again reached the coast and spilling over into the ocean.

  • Kevin January 2013 at 5:34 pm

    Amazing shot ! I dream to see a day this things ! Great !

  • Add a Comment

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    Join us for eight days in 2017 while we explore one of the most beautiful countries in the world.

    GREENLAND GRANDEUR – An OFFBEAT Workshop Greenland Trip Information