Posted by: Anna Webb | May 27, 2009

Lava Viewing Area in Lower Puna

Laze - Lava steam plume from lava entering ocean at Kalapana

Kilauea is likely the most active shield volcano in the world today. In January of 1983 Pu’u’O’o erupted and formed a vent and has flowed continuously ever since.

In July 2007, the lava flow from the Pu’u’O’o vent shifted and began flowing N/NE and away from the ocean and for about 8 months the lava flow on the pali (cliff) disappeared. During this time, a dramatic glow could be seen from lava that filled the vent and reflected an ominous red onto the clouds above.

"Lava glow on clouds taken from my side lanai

"Lava glow on clouds" taken from my side lanai

In March of 2008, the flow shifted and once again began flowing toward the ocean over the old flow at Kalapana. Since that time, the best ocean view is seen from Lower Puna, rather than Volcanoes National Park. Lower Puna residents had first shot of seeing the onset of the flow for about 2 days prior to the County stepping in and setting up a safe and formal lava viewing area. The photo below was taken by a friend and neighbor during that time.

Lava flow from March 2008 "Up close and Personal" taken by Jennifer Jackson

Lava flow from March 2008 "Up close and Personal" taken by Jennifer Jackson

At first, the county set up viewing from 2pm until 10pm daily. Now the hours have been modified due to the expense of posting personnel at the site and based upon the most popular visiting hours. The modified hours are from 5pm to 9pm daily. The flow and the entry view changes every day. Some days it’s heavy with a large billowing plume and other days there is no plume at all. There is no predicting it but it’s never disappointing to visit this site. In fact, it’s truly a unique experience.


Wear good comfortable shoes, no slippers or sandals. Bring water, binoculars, a camera and a flashlight. The path is marked and it’s about a 15 minute walk to the viewing area from the parking lot. Pay attention to where you are walking. Lava rock is uneven and can be sharp.


From Pahoa to view lava, take Rt. 130 south. You’ll see signs “Road Closed” ahead. Just past the 20 mile marker you’ll see where the highway ends. Follow this road to the parking area.

From Red Road to view lava (Rt. 137) follow toward Kaimu/Kalapana until you reach the right hand turn to Rt. 130. (You’ll see the steam plume to your left) Go 1/4 mile and you’ll see a left turn prior to merging onto the main highway. Turn left. At stop sign turn left again. Follow to the parking area.

Kapoho is 15 miles from the Red Road/Rt. 130 junction.

Informative Links:


  1. We had relatives visiting in January and of course, took them to visit Kilauea and late afternoon to the viewing area you mention above…we stayed almost 3 hours just watching the plume and the resulting pyrotechnics caused when lava hit cold water below. I don’t care how long I’ve lived on this island and seen it before….it is always a fascinating and mermerizing experience. Our relatives said that was the highlight of their visit.


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