The Pua Po’o Lava Tube Hike

Today we headed out to the Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park for a special hike.  We have been to the park a few times before and, unless there is an active lava flow, we don’t really need to see all of the craters and sulphur vents again.  But there are still several hikes that sound interesting to do.  Today was the Wild Lava Tube Hike.  Back in the mid-1990s, some park employees found a pristine lava tube that hadn’t been discovered previously.  Even the archaeologists who went in first didn’t find any evidence that the Native Hawaiians had used it.  Now the park leads guided hikes to the lava tube.

There is only one way to get on this hike.  It is given every Wednesday at 12:30.  Only 12 people are allowed on the hike.  To reserve your spot, you must call at 7:45 am local Hawaiian time the Wednesday prior to your desired hike date to get on the list.  The tour usually fills up by 8:15 local time.  Now, a week ago I was frantically trying to call the park. When I got to work, I found that the power was out throughout the city due to a small plane crash that took out a transformer; our office phones rely on electricity.  My cell phone didn’t work as well; either some cell towers were down or the network was simply overloaded.  A co-worker with a working cell phone kindly allowed me to use it to make the call.  Even so, it took me 20 minutes of trying before I was actually able to get through the jammed network.  Just as I was about to give up, I got through at 8:10 Hawaii time and got on the list.  I’m sure we were the last people on.  But on we were.

When we got to the park, we found that there was a bit of activity within the main crater. Halema’uma’u, the crater within Kilauea caldera, and the home of Pele, was venting lots of gas (heh-heh).  I guess there was some lava breaking through and bubbling within, too, but we certainly couldn’t get close enough to see it and the gaseous clouds obscured the view from a distance.  It was neat to see, though. 

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The park was debating cancelling the hike due to the fumes, but fortunately the winds shifted away from us and we were able to do the hike after all.  After a 2 mile hike in, we climbed into the lava tube.

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It was beautiful in there with lots of features you don’t get to see in the more heavily-trafficked lava tubes.  The lava tube is named Pua Po’o, “Flower head”, for a particular feature. Geologists have been unable to explain how it was created.

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We spent about an hour to an hour and a half inside the tube before starting the hike back.

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For anyone going to the Big Island who likes to explore cold, damp holes in the ground, I highly recommend this tour.  Just remember to call the park at the appointed time because you won’t get on the hike otherwise, and you won’t be hearing the location of the lava tube from me! (808-985-6017)