I’ve visited Kilauea at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park many times over the past 30 years or so, taking family, friends and students to view the huge caldera and get a closer look at Mauna Loa, the world’s largest mountain and active volcano.

But there is something special going on right now, something drawing tourists from all over: boiling, spewing lava from the Halemaumau crater.

Halemaumau crater. 3 may 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The crowds were big and steady at Halemaumau crater on May 3.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

It’s not like those images from Mark Twain’s era in the 19th century, nor quite as spectacular as the Herb Kane paintings at the Jaggar Museum that overlooks the crater. And the lava lake is not spilling over the rim of the crater, as has been suggested in some media reports, but rather sometimes flowing or spouting over the rim of the lake and spreading fresh pauhoehoe onto the crater floor.

But it’s a bubbly, fiery show, especially in the evening, when the magma stands out even more and makes it seem as if you are watching “Journey to the Center of the Earth.”

Halemaumau crater

An iPhone 6 doesn’t do Kilauea justice, but it’s a good show nonetheless.

Chad Blair/Civil Beat

On Sunday, a double rainbow blessed Halemaumau not long before the sun went down. Then, a full moon provided another spectacle. Earlier in the day, a small explosion collapsed part of the crater wall.

Visitors ate it up, paying the $10 per vehicle at the entrance to the park and staying far longer than the time it takes to grab a perfunctory photo.

Tips: If you decide to visit, bring a jacket and binoculars. Also, be advised that you can’t drive around the crater like usual, as the road is blocked. (Check here for the latest developments.)

Kilauea summit

The active vent at the summit of Kilauea Volcano is located within Halemaumau, a crater within the volcano’s caldera. The lava lake within the summit vent was about 230 feet below the vent rim when this aerial photo was taken on March 6.


Afterwards, stop at Volcano House or the Lava Lounge and cafe at Kilauea Military Camp.

Boarding the plane in Hilo to head back to Honolulu Sunday night, I saw state Sen. Lorraine Inouye, who represents the Big Island. She was pleased to see that Halemaumau was proving such a wonderful attraction, and no doubt helping the local economy.

About the Author