HAWAII VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK – One of the most ornate lava tubes in Hawaii, formed by Kīlauea volcano centuries ago, will soon be open for hiking reservations as a part of the national park’s centennial year celebration.
The challenging ranger-guided adventure into Puapo‘o lava tube is not recommended for inexperienced or claustrophobic hikers, and will be limited to 12 people, ages seven and up, park officials say. Puapo‘o is now only the second lava tube to be open to hikers. The first and best known is Nāhuku, more commonly known today as Thurston Lava Tube.
“We asked our publics how they’d like to celebrate the park’s centennial anniversary, and the resounding answer was to bring back an opportunity to explore Puapo‘o lava tube,” said Park Superintendent Cindy Orlando.
Puapo‘o is nearly as large as Nāhuku, and park officials say its magnificent lava formations include lavacicles, driblet spires, lava lines and flow ripples. “The entrance to the cave is cloaked in native rainforest,” reads a park press release, “and Hawaiian birds including ‘apapane, ‘ōma‘o, and ‘amakihi can be seen and heard.”
The fascinating features of Puapo‘o remain largely intact because access is restricted, park officials say. All other caves and lava tubes in Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park are closed to the public “due to the sensitive and fragile nature of cave resources.”
The park offers a word of caution: “The challenging four-mile (6.4 km) trek into Puapo‘o is not recommended for inexperienced or claustrophobic hikers. There is a 500-foot elevation change, and hikers must be able to climb down a 15-foot ladder into the lava tube, scramble up and over large rocks, and walk on uneven terrain with minimal light. Hikers will also have to walk in a crouched position for about 25 feet under a low ceiling. A helmet with headlamp, flashlight and gloves are provided.”
The park or its nonprofit partner, the Friends of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park (FHVNP) through its Hawai‘i Volcanoes Institute, will offer the weekly guided hikes starting on March 2nd. “With our Friends’ group, we are able to offer visitors an unparalleled adventure into the depths of Kīlauea volcano during our 100th anniversary,” Park Superintendent Orlando said.
The Puapo‘o hikes will last about three hours and cost $30 per adult and $25 for youth seven to 12. Proceeds support Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. For dates, information and reservations, visit the FHVNP website.