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seeing the lava flow at night

by lewicki Online Now Feb 23, 2005 at 1:26 AM

Hi I just found this area -- also posted this question in the general Big Island forum. I am confused regarding viewing the lava flow at night. Is a guide necessary? Has anyone taken the Arnott's Lodge tour? It is long and rather expensive. Is it worth it? How long would it take to walk to a suitable viewing spot? Thanks for any info. We are going in one month.

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18 Answers
  • Re: seeing the lava flow at night

    by hawaiidee Online Now Feb 22, 2005 at 8:07 PM

    I live on Oahu but from what I've seen on the news and from friends who have gone to see the lava, you have to hike down to the lava after parking your car on the side of the road. If you go at night, there are no lights and the ground you are walking on is actually hardened lava. Some of the places are pretty trecherous and you can twist an ankle if you fall on the path if you don't know where you are going. People with asthma should be careful because the smell of the lava hitting the water is sulphuric and can be a problem for those with breathing problems. During the day time, I know people can probably hike their way down to see the lava but at night, you won't be able to see and there have been cases of tourists wandering off the paths and falling into lava flow because they were standing on fresh lava which broke through. You can ask the park ranger's at the Volcano National Park who they recommend for a tour or how to best view the lava. But it is off the regular path and you need to hike down probably a mile or 2 to the ocean to see the dramatic lava. Lava constantly moves and is always reshaping the island. You need to respect its beauty and destructive power. Have a great trip

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    Re: seeing the lava flow at night

    by BlueCollar Online Now Feb 23, 2005 at 1:25 AM

    Not to boast or brag, but I have written plenty on viewing lava at night on my HVNP page. So I will not repeat it all here (because of space). :) First of all, HVNP does NOT offer hikes with park personnel to go out and view the current surface flows. And to venture onto the lava fields during daylight is dangerous in itself, let alone doing it at night. Currently, the lava is flowing into the ocean in a few different spots. One of which is West Highcastle which means it is not too far from the end of Chain of Craters Road. But the flows are dynamic and can change almost daily. On a previous trip of ours, it was right at the end of the road. Current flow update: hvo.wr.usgs.gov/kilauea/upda... Arnott's does a very good job. We have used them twice. However, their tours never lasted until dark. We had to do that on our own. Their website currently says they are going down to the lava field after the sun sets behind Mauna Loa so it is still very light out but subdued. The dangers of viewing lava at night are plenty. If you have never been before, I'd suggest that you NOT go out there without a guide. As some of my pictures indicate, a twisted ankle is the least of your worries. You could fall through a skylight of an old lava tube and have a nasty or deadly fall to its bottom (one we ventured into was about 15 feet deep, look at the pics in my travelogue). The gases released can also be deadly especially at sea-entry. You need to stay upwind. However, to do this, you need to cross the current flow (a guide comes in real handy here) since the trade winds come from an easterly direction. (continued next post)

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    Re: Re: seeing the lava flow at night

    by BlueCollar Online Now Feb 23, 2005 at 1:26 AM

    Whether you go during daylight or at night, be sure to take a couple flashlights with extra batteries and plenty of water. The HVNP recommends 3 liters per person per day because if you get hurt and can't back, you may be there for a while until somebody finds you... if they even come looking. The flashlights are required because it is so dark out here on a moonless night. Remember, you are walking on black rock and there is no background light since there are no nearby cities. The ground is very uneven and hard enough to traverse during the daylight, not to mention at night. And an open skylight to a lava tube will be dark, too. Without the light, you may not see it and have a large first-step to deal with. Also, do NOT venture on to lava benches. These are formed where the lava is currently flowing into the ocean. They are notorious for collapsing and have been know to take people with them when they go. It's a wonderful sight to see the lava at night. And if you have an infrared camera (Nightshot on your Sony), to see all the hot spots around you is amazing. I could go on and on. But I'll close with this: Get a guide and you are sure to be safer than without. Arnott's is good however there are some others. Hawai`i Forrest and Trail is another.

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    RE: seeing the lava flow at night

    by diver-x Online Now Feb 23, 2005 at 6:11 PM

    You don't need a guide, but if you go alone, be very very careful! We hiked on our own about 4 years ago, starting at the Chain of Craters Road. I've heard the lava is closer to the end of the road now than it was back then, but I think it changes all the time. Anyway, we started out late in the afternoon and hiked for 2 1/2 hours to get to the flow at around sunset. It was gorgeous and I am very glad we did it! But getting back was a nail-biting experience! Not to mention hand-cutting and knee-skinning!

    The hike was pretty easy in daylight, but in the dark it's another story. Crevices and hills spring up unexpectedly forcing detours, and the coastline curves into your path unexpectedly too! The coastline is very dangerous as lava benches can fall into the ocean with no warning! We had no moon and it was pitch black and all of a sudden we noticed that we were walking on a slope and the ocean sounded much louder than before. . . My heart was pounding when I realized where we were! Needless to say we made a 90 degree turn away from the water immediately!

    I have to say the night hike is easily the most beautiful I've ever done. You can see lava glowing all along the mountainside and the stars were absolutely incredible! We used the stars to navigate - luckily it was mostly clear! The batteries in our flashlights began to run out about halfway back, so we only used one flashlight between us, which was very scary! BRING EXTRA BATTERIES!

    I slipped on the glassy and crumbly surface of the lava and got cut up on my hands & knees. It was just like falling on glass and had to pull out slivers of glass from my hands with tweezers back at the room. The hike back took about 3 1/2 hours.

    Looking back, I can say that we were very lucky that nothing really bad happened. I'd recommend going with a guide if you're not an experienced hiker. Bring long pants, thick-soled hiking shoes, at least 2 liters of water each, at least one flashlight per person, spare batteries and a first aid kit. Maybe a compass too and bike gloves in case you slip and fall on your hands like I did.

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  • RE: seeing the lava flow at night

    by lewicki Online Now Feb 23, 2005 at 4:56 PM

    Thanks for all the advice. It looks like we should have a guide. Now, I should say that we are 4 people in our 50s, not very athletic, but all treadmill walkers. Arnott's website is a bit scary, he says if you have to ask if the hike is too hard, it is. Could someone comment on that? If is just a matter of putting one foot ahead of another for a long time, we're good at that! On the other hand, it there is a lot of climbing involved, it could be a problem.
    Thanks again.

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    RE: RE: seeing the lava flow at night

    by BlueCollar Online Now Feb 23, 2005 at 8:22 PM

    Mr. Arnott is a straight-forward Aussie. He just likes to tell it how it is upfront so there is no whining later. That's my personal opinion of him after spending our whole evening talking with him since he was our guide on the Sunset and Stargazing tour to the top of Mauna Kea (another great tour they do).

    The lava hike is tough, especially if you are short. Our guide, Ian, wanted to keep a fast pace since we had to hike about 2.5 miles each way to get to the current surface flows. My wife is only 5' 1" and had a very difficult time keeping pace with the group over the very uneven terrain. The shorter you are, the shorter your step. But what makes it worse is that there is the constant up and down out on the lava fields which means shorter people are walking up and down more so than taller folks.

    Everytime we caught up to the group, they were off again. They got to rest. We really didn't get too much of that but still had a great time.

    The closer the lava is flowing to the end of Chain of Craters Road, the less you will have to hike and the less this is important.

    FYI, there was a gentleman in our group that was 58 who had no complaints about it.

    Like I said in my earlier post, the lava is entering the sea at West Highcastle. You may not have far to hike at all. But it could all change before you get there.

    Good luck.

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  • RE: RE: seeing the lava flow at night

    by lewicki Online Now Feb 24, 2005 at 6:31 PM

    Thanks Blue Collar. I did look at your pages, which were very helpful, and the pictures helped give a better idea of how it will be. You only live once, right?
    (Ms. 5'2")

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  • RE: seeing the lava flow at night

    by bayash Online Now Feb 24, 2005 at 7:23 PM

    We just returned from the Big Island. You don't need a guide to get to the lava flow. You drive to the end of Chain of Craters Road where there is a temporary ranger station. They will tell you where to find the lava flow. They have placed markers on the lava to follow. It is a very rugged 1-1/2 mile hike over lava. Plan on it taking over an hour to get there. Bring lots of water and a flashlight with extra batteries. Wear long pants to protect yourself if you fall. Leave early in the afternoon to allow plenty of time. If you are not able to hike out there, after sunset you can see the lava flowing down the mountain from the temporary ranger station. They have a scope set up for a closer look. It is awesome!

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  • RE: RE: seeing the lava flow at night

    by bayash Online Now Feb 24, 2005 at 7:34 PM

    The hike is very rugged. I made it most of the way but it was getting dark, so I had to turn back, and I didn't have a flashlight. (I'm in my 50's and had my hip replaced 1-1/2 years ago.) However, for me it was worth it just to see it from the temporary ranger station flowing down the mountain. I would definitely do that--no hiking required--certainly safe. If you fall on the lava at night, odds are no one will come to get you. During the day there is a ranger out where the lava is flowing. They will not take you out there, though they will tell you how to get there. The rangers are very informative and tell you what to look out for. Just wear good shoes, long pants, jacket if you'll be out there at night, one flashlight per person with extra batteries, lots of water.

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    RE: seeing the lava flow at night

    by frank_delargy Online Now Feb 28, 2005 at 8:16 AM

    I flew out to see the lava last weekend (Feb 22) . It was fantastic. I could only stay over Saturday night and I stayed at Arnott's and was going to use his tour if it was available, but they didn;t do one on Saturday. Lucky for me, because it was pretty easy to get to the lava and I don't really see the point of coming back when it gets dark, that's when it gets interesting.
    You have plenty of details in the previous posts.. about 1 1/2 miles in is right. That includes about 2/4 of a mile on paved road.
    Bring an extra flashlight and 2 bottles of water. Hiking shoes are important. There is a barrier along the coast that you can use to guide you back at night. That and the fact that there will be 100;s of other people with flashlight out there creating a nice lighted trail.
    Best time to go is about an hour before sunset, to enjoy the daylight views then hang out watching the lava flow into the ocean. There will likely be some places away from the ocean where the lava will be at the surface.. ask people how to get to them. If they are not there, you may need to hike significantly longer to get within touching distance of lava flow.

    There were folks in the 70's out there hiking around when I was there. You go as fast as you feel safe going.
    I do have a picture of me poking the lava on my Hawaii Big Island page. I stopped on the way and got a walking stick on the side of the road from Hilo.
    Enjoy!!

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  • RE: RE: seeing the lava flow at night

    by lewicki Online Now Feb 28, 2005 at 3:32 PM

    Hi all,
    just wanted to say thanks again for all the input. It's very helpful. Anyone know if the moon will be out around March 30? Anyone have a favorite daytime volcano park tour?

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    RE: RE: seeing the lava flow at night

    by rohinimol Online Now Mar 2, 2005 at 6:41 PM

    Lewicki i'm piggy-backing on your post, i hope you don't mind - so this is a question not an answer.

    I was just wondering if the people who stayed at Arnott's liked it?

    Like you Lweicki we were thinking of taking the guided tour at Arnott's.

    Thanks

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    RE: RE: seeing the lava flow at night

    by frank_delargy Online Now Mar 2, 2005 at 8:47 PM

    I stayed in the 'Deluxe' Room, so for me it was more like a laid back hotel/motel. It was clean and friendly. There was a dog barking in the area and at one point in the night it seemed like a pack of them were running around outside my room. Not a big deal, but not as quiet as it could be. Location is great , very close to a public beaches and some very sparsely used shoreline.
    A lot depends on where you want to go and what you want to take advantage of in the way of tours. I didn't use their tours, but for me that seems to have been a plus.
    Frank

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    RE: RE: seeing the lava flow at night

    by rohinimol Online Now Mar 3, 2005 at 11:07 PM

    Thank You - we might skip the tour..infact now we're thinking of flying to Kona instead of Hilo so that we can go Whale watching as well. *sigh* i'm getting a little stressed now :-)

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    RE: RE: seeing the lava flow at night

    by frank_delargy Online Now Mar 5, 2005 at 8:57 AM

    Volcana is only about 100 miles from Kona airport.. don't go to the big island and not see the lava flows.. Even though it's the big island, it isn't really BIG.

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  • RE: RE: seeing the lava flow at night

    by lewicki Online Now Mar 5, 2005 at 4:45 PM

    Wow, just read another report of a Arnott's tour on another forum and it was very negative. Four of 7 people turned back. The guide was trying to make them run. This is not for us. There has to be another alternative, but I am having a hard time finding one. Some of the tours actualy start in Kona and want to charge us the full rate even though we will be in Volcano Village. Some are 10 hours long and include other things like a candy factory, with less time at the volcano park. So, I'm still looking for a tour that does what Arnott's does, but at a reasonable pace. There are 4 of us and we are willing to pay 60 to 80 dollars each for a guide for 4 or 5 hours. Help!

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    RE: RE: seeing the lava flow at night

    by diver-x Online Now Mar 6, 2005 at 8:50 AM

    Wow, that's very odd. I've never done a tour with Arnott's but I've heard a lot about them and nothing bad until now. I find it hard to believe the guide would allow people to turn back on their own for a night tour - and even harder to believe they were running in the lava field at night. Even with a good flashlight, I just don't think it's possible. There are no paths. The ground is too uneven and too many obstacles. I don't see how anyone could sustain even a slow jog for very long. Maybe in daylight, but not in the dark. I think it might be worthwile to contact Arnott's and ask them about this. I suspect if you tell them up front what kind of pace you expect, they could accommodate you.

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    RE: seeing the lava flow at night

    by bamajerry Online Now Mar 8, 2005 at 9:04 AM

    Just returned from Hawaii and we took the hike down to see the lava flow at night. Let me say this "long" "Trecherous" hike does not adequately describe this little adventure. Unless you are in good shape and your knees and ankles are very sound I "would not" advise this trip. Also the lava at night is very decieving, it appears to be just over the next hill but you never seem to get there. It was a beautiful sight but once the trail ends you are left with a couple of miles of lava "boulders" to manouver up over and around. There are no markings for the last couple of miles and you are left to just wander toward the red glow! Once again it was a spectacular sight but a very tiring and painful expereience. I highly recommend the Blue Hawaii "circle of fire" Helicopter tour it is a bit pricy but you get a great viex of the volcanoes and lava flows.

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