Kilauea Volcano on The Big Island: Your Questions Answered

Hawaii has been in the news a lot lately due to the volcanic activity from Kilauea. Lava has been flowing through a remote but populated area on the Big Island. If you’re set to visit Hawaii then we understand you might be getting nervous and so we’ve put together the following info to get you up to speed and reassure you of your safety. Before you read on: know that Hawaii is open for visitors and that it is completely safe to visit.

We also know that many of our readers love Hawaii and so are deeply concerned about those communities on the Big Island who are affected. We’ve included some ways at the bottom of this article that you can give support to those who need it.

So what is going on?

Currently, Kilauea volcano on Hawai’i Island (more commonly known as the Big Island) is erupting. In fact Kilauea, Hawaii’s most active volcano has been erupting almost continuously for 35 years; however most of the time you won’t hear too much about it as lava flows out from its fissures slowly.

The latest volcanic activity, which started in late April has seen new fissures opening, and lava flowing out in a populated area. This is having an big impact on the people who live in those communities.

Who is being affected?

The latest activity is affecting those remote communities situated on the eastern slopes of the Kilauea volcano. For those living in that area the volcanic activity is extremely dangerous and the consequences devastating. The areas of Leilani Estates and Leipuna Gardens in the Puna area have been evacuated. Fortunately there are no reports of any fatalities to date some reports state over 400 homes have been destroyed.

I’m planning on visiting the Big Island. Is it safe?

Yes it is. What is happening with the lava flow, only affects an area of about 10 miles squared. To put that into perspective, the Big Island is 4,028 square mile in total.

Kilauea is located on East Hawaii and the lava is flowing toward the east. Almost all of the tourist accommodations on the Big Island (from the resorts to the airport) are located on the West side. Given the shape of the Island a lava flow from East to West is incredibly unlikely.

If you’re on the the Kahala or Kona coasts, you’re staying in the area farthest from the active lava flow. While there’s no way of knowing when the lava will stop flowing, it’s more or less confined to the areas which have now been evacuated.

Unless you were planning on staying in the Puna area, these evacuations won’t affect you.

Two thirds of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is currently closed; be sure to check with the National Park Services who has up to date information for the time you are there. The NPS will exercise caution at all times, so if they say it’s safe to visit, it’s safe. Just be sure to listen to Park Rangers and any posted signs.

All activities outside of the restricted area are still open as usual.

I’m visiting Hawaii, but not the Big Island. How will this affect me?

The short answer: it won’t. The Hawaiian islands are separated from each other by miles of ocean, and while Kilauea is erupting, none of the other volcanoes on any of the other islands are.

If you’re staying on Oahu, Maui, Kauai, Molokai, or Lanai, the lava flow is not going to make an impact on your trip; if you have a connecting flight in Kona, on the west of the Big Island, it will still connect you to your destination. All flights into Kona and Hilo international airports are operating as normal.

What about the air quality?

The air quality for the vast majority of the Hawaiian Islands is good and remains unaffected. In the communities surrounding the volcano the air quality can be poor as the latest activity from Kilauea is causing heavy emissions of vog. Vog is a sort of smog or haze containing volcanic dust and gases.

Those staying on Maui, Oahu, Molokai, Lanai and Kauai will have no concerns about air quality which is good and unaffected by the emissions from the Kilauea volcano.

On the Big Island, the air quality remains clean and healthy in the areas of Hilo, Pahoa, and the Kona and Kohala coasts. If you’re planning on visiting areas south of Hilo, then be sure to stay alert to air quality updates, particularly when wind conditions change. Those with breathing conditions should limit their exposure to the vog.

Where can I go for more information?

We hope this helps to answer some of your questions about visiting Hawaii at this time. To find out more, check out the Hawaii Tourism Authority’s updates. If you have other questions then feel free to post them in the comments section below and we’ll get back to you.

We hope to see you in Hawaii soon! Aloha.

Show your support

Here are just a few ways you can support those affected by the Kilauea volcano:

Puuhonua o Puna is a new community organization which has been started to help those displaced by the lava flow. It provides an information and supply hub to those directly affected. You can donate here.

The Salvation Army are providing meals for those in the shelter at Pahoa Community Center as well as setting up a distribution centre in Puna. You can donate to their efforts here.

GofundMe has a page listing several funds which have been started to help families and individuals affected by the volcano.

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