Hawaii Island’s volcano Mauna Loa towers over the landscape like a titan, creating a fickle mix of weather – steamy rain and dark clouds.
However, on your visit to Paradise, otherwise known as the Hawaiian archipelago, do not let the vagaries of the weather out you off visiting Mauna Loa. Mauna Loa is a shield volcano so its eruptions do not require evacuation of the island. It is about 100km south of Kailua-Kona, Hawaii Island’s second largest city. It is surrounded by tropical, organic coffee farms, resorts, and macadamia nut plantations.
Driving there, you will see a a melting pot of towns settled by Japanese former coffee farmers, hippies, retirees and migrants. You get the feeling that despite Mauna Loa taking the spotlight on the Island, the communities surrounding the volcano are what is really undiscovered Hawaii.
We booked a volcano tour to see Mauna Loa erupt. The tour takes you through several old lava flows, as well as visiting a steam vent. The steam rifts regularly billow out lots of water vapour because of the water that breaks down the volcanic rock following eruptions.
Steam vents at the base of Mauna Loa.
Volcanic National Park where Mauna Loa is situated.
Besides visiting the steam vents, another great part of our tour was retracing the directions of of old lava flows through the tunnels in the rock in Volcano National Park. The tunnels are called lava tubes and give you a fascinating feeling of what happens once the volcano starts shooting out lava. The lava tubes are large tunnels of volcanic rock and with the lights illuminating the rock face, the tunnels are like the mines from shoot’em’up Westerns.
You can walk down a lava tube to follow in the footsteps of a volcanic eruption!
Traversing the lava tube at Hawaii Island.
Once you reach the summit of the volcano, you should hope to the high heavens to see the volcano rock ‘break’. The breaking of the rock means that Mauna Loa will erupt and spill its red entrails again over the land of Hawaii Island. The resulting magma (known as lava once it leaves the volcano) inspires you with awe and something that no words can describe with justice.