Right now is a very special time in Hawaii. Kilauea Volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii started erupting again at the end of September, sending lava into its summit crater adjacent to the visitor center in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
While that’s obviously news in itself – check out the photos here – the good news is two fold:
1) The lava has thus far remained completely contained within its summit crater, meaning it is causing no harm or property damage.
2) It is erupting in a place where it’s possible to be seen from the rim of the crater, nearly 2,000 feet above.
Lava is not able to be seen with the naked eye in all eruptions (for example, the December 2020 eruption), which is why we consider that last part really good news.
The bad news? There’s no telling how long it will last. The surface lava could be visible for a couple months (or longer), or it could peter out within a couple weeks.
So, if you have the chance to go and see it, now is the time. Here’s where you should go to view it:
How to See the Lava During the Day
Currently, as of this writing, there is only one place where you can look down and see the physical lava pouring out of the earth: The Keanakakaoi Overlook.
Reaching this point requires about a mile walk along a paved road. The view is from a long distance (the crater is about 1,800 feet deep), but you can see the fountaining of the lava with the naked eye. Bring binoculars or a camera with a long zoom for an even better look.
How to See the Glow at Night
At night, there’s more options to experience the lava. The Keanakakaoi Overlook is still the only place to see the lava itself, but there are many viewpoints from which you can see the lava’s “glow,” or reflection of its light as it burns at 2,000 degrees.
The overlooks include the Volcano House, Kilauea Overlook, and Uekahuna, among others. All can be driven to and do not require significant walking. Bring a flashlight to help you find your way along the walking paths.
Watch the Lava From Home
If you can’t make it to Hawaii, you can still get a glimpse of what’s going on from home. Check out the USGS’s daily blog with chronological photos and videos, or view the live stream webcams that showcase the summit crater.