Hawaii Eruption Information

Big Island Lava Viewing Guide - Where is the lava located in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park?

Hawaii Island Volcanoes

Hawaii Island Volcanoes (click to view entire chain)

Where is the Lava?

Hawaii Eruption Tracker & Updates

Kilauea volcano resumes erupting
Last Updated: January 27, 2023

If you're heading to Hawaii's Big Island, then one of the first questions you may have is, 'Where is the lava? I want to see lava! Wait, or is it magma?' First, yes, typically, it's lava you're looking for - lava is anything that's erupted from the volcano (to the surface), and it comes in two flavors, Pahoehoe and A`a. You can read more about the two lava types on our Hawaii Geology page. If it's still within the volcano, it's known as magma.

Photo above is a USGS photo of the 2022 Mauna Loa eruption by M. Patrick

Kilauea Eruption Updates

January 2023 - Ongoing

Lava has returned again to Halemaumau Crater in HVNP

Mauna Loa Eruption Updates

November 2022 - December 2022

After 38 years, Mauna Loa briefly erupted

Locating the Lava Flows

Now, to answer the question of 'where.' Well, the answer to that question depends on the mood of Pele (the Hawaiian Volcano Goddess). And Madame Pele is very unpredictable.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is open 24 hours a day, so your chance to see glowing lava (from near or far) is pretty good when the volcano is actively erupting (it's periodically erupting only at the summit in Halemaumau currently), especially when it's dark. Just look for the red glow. As always, the Park Rangers at the entry station are your best guide to current conditions - we advise all visitors to check in with them before exploring the park. 

Ultimately, in our opinion, even if you don't get to see any flowing lava in person, which you might not currently, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and the Big Island are well worth the time. 

— article continued below —

2023 Big Island Visitor Guides

If you're visiting the Big Island of Hawaii soon, be sure to download your copy of one of our updated 2023 Big Island Visitor Guides. We've updated both travel guides with a lot of new great information for potential visitors (and those who've been a time or two as well).

Select a 2023 Travel Guide
- 20 Pages -

Highlights

- 40+ Pages -

Essential

~ Trusted by Millions of Hawaii Visitors Annually ~

Lava Viewing Guide

Big Island Lava Flow

Locating the Lava Flows

Now, to answer the question of 'where.' Well, the answer to that question depends on the mood of Pele (the Hawaiian Volcano Goddess). And Madame Pele is very unpredictable.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is open 24 hours a day, so your chance to see glowing lava (from near or far) is pretty good when the volcano is actively erupting (it's periodically erupting only at the summit in Halemaumau currently), especially when it's dark. Just look for the red glow. As always, the Park Rangers at the entry station are your best guide to current conditions - we advise all visitors to check in with them before exploring the park. 

Ultimately, in our opinion, even if you don't get to see any flowing lava in person, which you might not currently, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and the Big Island are well worth the time. 

Kilauea & Volcanoes National Park Lava Viewing Guide

Separately, don't forget to review our Hawaii Safety Guide for the Volcano Area (and other important Hawaii safety tips).

2021-2022 Kilauea summit eruption

Kilauea 2021-2022 Summit Eruption

What's Happening Now at Kilauea?

Periodic Kilauea Eruption

Kilauea volcano, on the Big Island of Hawaii, is currently erupting at its summit. Current conditions are additionally included below.

Kilauea Eruption Timeline

Kilauea's eruption resumed on January 5, 2023.

The previous eruption that ended in early December 2022  was similar to the preceding Kilauea eruption, which was also confined to Halemaʻumaʻu crater and generated a lava lake; from December 2020 to May 2021. 

More information and a timeline of Kilauea's historical events are included below.

Kilauea 2023 Eruption Photos

Halemaumau Crater - Jan 6, 2023 at Sunrise :: Credit USGS

Halemaumau Crater - Jan 6, 2023 at Sunrise :: Credit USGS

Lava Fountains during January 2023 Eruption :: Credit USGS

Lava Fountains during January 2023 Eruption :: Credit USGS

Eruption in January 2023 - Credit: USGS

Eruption in January 2023 - Credit: USGS

Lava fills crater floor - Credit: USGS

Lava fills crater floor - Credit: USGS

Current Kilauea Conditions Summary*

If you're currently on the Big Island, this is a great time to witness the glow of an eruption up close on the summit; as usual, nighttime viewing is best. Dress accordingly, as it's 4,000+ ft in elevation at the summit of Kilauea, and it can get fairly chilly after dark. Below we've also covered What you can see during both the daytime and at night. We visited during the previous eruption in late August 2022, and the volcano was putting on a show. Views of the Milky Way are also incredible from and on the hike out to the lookout. Crowds peak around 7:30-8:00 pm, but by 10:00 pm, most of the lava spectators had left for the night.

Below, we'll post additional updates on the eruption that began in January 2023, where you can additionally read about all of Kilauea's recent eruption events.

Activity Summary: Current conditions, updated daily, can be found on the USGS site.

*Activity Summary, Summit Observations, and Lava Lake Observations courtesy of the USGS and/or NPS

What can you see in the day?

  • Visitors arriving at HVNP during the day can view the volcanic gas and steam from the eruption within Halemaʻumaʻu crater. Koaʻekea (white-tailed tropicbirds) are often observed flying above the crater.
  • The eruption is visible from Kaluapele, the summit caldera, along open areas of the rim. Lava fountains are only visible from the south caldera rim near Keanakākoʻi Overlook. Avoid crowds and traffic by visiting this overlook during the day.
  • Weather conditions such as fog and rain may obscure eruption views at any time. Be prepared.

What can you see at night?

  • The massive lava lake consisting of molten rock casts an incredible reddish-orange glow into the surrounding dark sky. The glow reflects onto the gas plume wafting out of the volcano, and to any clouds above Halemaʻumaʻu crater. The jagged crater walls are additionally illuminated, showcasing the scars dating to the 2018 summit collapse.
  • The bursting spatter cone and lava lake is visible from the south rim along Old Crater Rim Drive after a moderate (roughly one-mile from the nearest parking lot) hike over a paved (former Crater Rim Drive) highway; though some off-road walking is required to get to the final overlook (roughly 300ft off the pavement). For easier viewing, the lava lake is occasionally visible from Kīlauea Overlook, and along Crater Rim Trail near that area.
  • Bring a flashlight during your visit! Weather conditions such as fog and rain may obscure eruption views.
Halemaumau as seen from Keanakako'i Overlook in late August 2022

Halemaumau as seen from Keanakako'i Overlook in late August 2022

Follow HVNP for additional updates

This situation is rapidly evolving and the Hawaii Volcanoes Observatory will continue to issue statements when more information is available to the public. For now, you can receive ongoing eruption updates by following the social media accounts of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (FacebookInstagram, and Twitter).

  • View the live cameras located at the Kilauea summit.
  • Additional updates can be found on the Hawaii Volcanoes National park website.
  • Animated GIF of the latest webcam footage from the current eruption

Additional video footage and imagery, of the current eruption at Halemaumau Crater in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, can be found below.

Noteworthy Events at Kilauea Volcano

Click any link below to learn more...

This section will be updated accordingly.

Eruption resumes in Halemaumau Crater

January 2023 - Ongoing Eruption

Kilauea volcano is erupting. At approximately 4:34 p.m. HST on January 5, 2023, the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory detected a glow in Kilauea's  summit webcam images, indicating that the eruption has resumed within Halemaʻumaʻu crater in Kilauea's summit caldera, within Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park. 

We will continue to post updates above, on this page, as the eruption continues.

Kilauea 2023 Eruption Photos

Halemaumau Crater - Jan 6, 2023 at Sunrise :: Credit USGS

Halemaumau Crater - Jan 6, 2023 at Sunrise :: Credit USGS

Lava Fountains during January 2023 Eruption :: Credit USGS

Lava Fountains during January 2023 Eruption :: Credit USGS

HVNP October 2021 Eruption

Halemaumau in October 2021

More activity in Halemaumau Crater

September 2021 - December 2022 Eruption

The 2021-2022 eruption within Halemaumau Crater started about 20 minutes after 3 p.m. Wednesday - September 29, 2021; all lava was confined within the crater. The eruption came after a day of increased earthquake activity at the volcano and summit.

The eruption from September 2021 - December 2022 was confined to Halemaumau crater, within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.  As of December 9, 2022, Kilauea was no longer erupting. Lava supply to the Halemaʻumaʻu lava lake ceased based on lava lake levels and the behavior of the crater floor.

At the time of the last eruption, HVO did not see any indication of activity migrating elsewhere on Kilauea volcano  and expects the eruption to remain confined to the summit region.

Kilauea summit eruptions over the past 200 years have lasted from less than a day to more than a decade.

The eruption slowed in early December 2022, coinciding, but likely unrelated to, the eruption of neighboring Mauna Loa. As of approximately December 9, 2022, Kilauea was no longer erupting.

 



 

View from the Keanakako'i Overlook in late 2021. Credit: NPS Photo/J.Wei

View from the Keanakako'i Overlook in late 2021. Credit: NPS Photo/J.Wei

Eruption in Halemaumau Crater (Credit: USGS)

Eruption in Halemaumau Crater (Credit: USGS)

Two of the many spattering sources within Halemaumau (Credit: USGS)

Two of the many spattering sources within Halemaumau (Credit: USGS)

September 29th 2021 Eruption at Halemaumau Crater (Credit: USGS)

September 29th 2021 Eruption at Halemaumau Crater (Credit: USGS)

HVNP Lava Lake Map

Lava lake statistics through May 7, 2021 (Click for full size) - via USGS

Lava returns to Halemaumau Crater

December 2020 - May 2021 Eruption

After the huge changes that occurred with the 2018 eruption and subsequent summit collapse, some had speculated that Kilauea would not erupt for a significant period of time. Pele had other plans, however.

At approximately 9:30 p.m. HST on Sunday - December 20, 2020, the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) detected a new glow within the Halemaumau crater at the summit of Kilauea Volcano.

Within Halemaumau, an eruption had commenced at Kilauea's summit caldera. Previously, as noted below the caldera had been filling with a green-ish water lake, but that quickly disappeared, as lava has once again made an appearance inside of the crater. Within one week, what had been a history-making lake of water was replaced by a nearly 600-foot deep lake of molten lava.

  • Animated GIF of eruption first occurring on December 20, 2020

A magnitude 4.4 earthquake additionally hit about an hour after the volcano began erupting. By the morning of 12/21/20, two of the three initial fissure vents on the wall of the Halemaumau crater were feeding a growing lava lake.

The eruption paused in late May 2021, after several months of activity in the Halemaumau crater.

 



 

2020-2021 Eruption Images

Halemaumau Crater at Kilauea Volcano
Credit: USGS/M. Patrick

Credit: USGS/M. Patrick

Credit: NPS/A. LaValle

Credit: NPS/A. LaValle

Credit: NPS/J. Wei

Credit: NPS/J. Wei

Credit: NPS/A. LaValle

Credit: NPS/A. LaValle

Lava Lake

Kilauea's Lava Lake - Credit: USGS

Development of Water Lake in 2019

On August 1, 2019, USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory (HVO) scientists confirmed a growing pond of water in the recently enlarged Halemumau crater. Initially, it appeared as small, separate turquoise ponds, but over time, the small ponds united and began to grow dramatically. For a period of time, the depth of the growing lake was increasing several inches per day.

In the space of just over one year's time, a persistent lake of lava had vanished in a dramatic collapse, only to be replaced by the first lake of water to be recorded at Kilauea in modern history.

Over the course of its relatively short lifespan, the lake grew to be approximately 160 feet (49 m) deep. That's taller than a 10-story building, for reference. The lake also changed color due to the precipitation of iron-sulfate minerals and SO2 being dissolved into the water.

 



 

2018 East Rift Zone Eruption

Kilauea caldera has undergone a tremendous amount of change over the last decade, and prior to the eruption in December 2020, had not been very active since 2018. See the maps immediately below to get an idea of how volatile the years between 2009 and 2018 were at the park or explore this geo-narrative by the USGS about the 2018 eruption.

In the first days of May 2018, the lava lake that had existed in Halemaumau crater for almost a decade began to drain away. Magma moved from the summit of Kilauea to the Lower East Rift Zone, marked by a series of earthquakes. On May 3rd, the first fissures opened up in the subdivision of Leilani Estates and the massive eruption of 2018 began to unfold in lower Puna.

With less magma left to support the summit, the Halemaumau crater began to collapse. Every 28 hours, on average, the ground within the summit caldera of Kilauea sank with dramatic collapse events. By the end of the 2018 eruption, the Halemaumau crater had sunk by 1,600 feet (488m), and its diameter more than doubled.

Halemaumau Crater Changes from 2009 to 2018. Provided by the USGS.

Halemaumau Crater Changes from 2009 to 2018. Provided by the USGS.

2018 Eruption - Source: USGS

2018 Eruption - Source: USGS

Activity circa 2018 East Rift Zone Eruption

Prior to 2018, you could just as easily have witnessed lava flows chewing on Chain of Craters Road as you could view a steam plume from afar. Kilauea is a living, breathing volcano with a mind of its own.

Kilauea's oldest lava flows are dated between 210,000 and 280,000 years ago. Those flows are considered generally young, geologically speaking, for an active volcano.

For the last one thousand years, Kilauea's ongoing eruptions have dramatically shaped the southeast portion of the Big Island of Hawaii. 

The most recent 100 years of volcanic activity at Kilauea can be divided into seven distinct eruptions.

Summaries are provided below from the USGS website:

Mauna Loa 2022 Eruption

Mauna Loa 2022 Eruption

Mauna Loa Eruption

What's happened?

The Mauna Loa volcano, located on the Big Island of Hawaii, recently erupted on Sunday - November 27, 2022. The eruption, which was the first in nearly 40 years, was relatively small and caused no damage to nearby communities or infrastructure. The eruption was preceded by several weeks of increasing seismic activity, as well as ground deformation and elevated sulfur dioxide emissions. The HVO had placed the volcano on "watch" status shortly before the eruption, indicating an eruption was likely. As of December 11, 2022, the eruption has concluded.

As noted above, the eruption was relatively small, and no evacuations were necessary. No major highways were damaged, though initial concerns were that Saddle Road (Daniel K. Inouye Highway) might be impacted. Fortunately, it never was impacted by the lava flows. The lava flow was not close enough to any populated areas or infrastructure to cause any damage.

The recent eruption is a reminder of the power and unpredictability of volcanoes. Mauna Loa is one of five active/dormant volcanoes in the Hawaiian Islands and is the largest active volcano on Earth.

Latest Mauna Loa Developments
Updates provided by the USGS

Current daily updates on the status of the Mauna Loa Eruption can be found on the USGS website.

See the USGS eruption map to visualize the current eruption location, or view these incredible USGS photos of the recent Mauna Loa eruption.

Mauna Loa Eruption Maps

USGS Mauna Loa eruption map

USGS Mauna Loa eruption map

Lava channel on Dec 4th - USGS

Lava channel on Dec 4th - USGS

Mauna Loa Fissure 3 - Dec 4th - USGS

Mauna Loa Fissure 3 - Dec 4th - USGS

Closeup View of Fissure 3 Mauna Loa - December 1st. Credit: USGS

Closeup View of Fissure 3 Mauna Loa - December 1st. Credit: USGS

Fissure 3 on Mauna Loa's Northeast Rift Zone - December 1st. Credit: USGS

Fissure 3 on Mauna Loa's Northeast Rift Zone - December 1st. Credit: USGS

Mauna Loa eruption on Nov. 30th - Credit: USGS

Mauna Loa eruption on Nov. 30th - Credit: USGS

Mauna Loa eruption on Nov. 30th - Credit: USGS

Mauna Loa eruption on Nov. 30th - Credit: USGS

Mauna Loa Lava Fountains - USGS

Mauna Loa Lava Fountains - USGS

Northeast Rift Zone Eruption - USGS

Northeast Rift Zone Eruption - USGS

Mauna Loa Eruption - USGS

Mauna Loa Eruption - USGS

Mauna Loa Lava Fountaining - USGS

Mauna Loa Lava Fountaining - USGS

Hike to Lava on Big Island

Hiking to Lava

Lava Viewing Guide

Hiking to Lava

Check THIS SITE for updates on lava flows and Kilauea activity. We've also included some maps below to generally help provide you an overview of the park and where the lava might be located during your visit. Just remember, this is an active living and breathing volcano and things regularly change, the maps are always out of date for that reason to some extent.

If the flows have recently been near the surface within the Park and IF it's safe to access (check with the Rangers), it's pretty easy to locate the lava yourself - so don't feel like you HAVE to join a tour to experience a lava flow. Before heading out, be sure you've prepared accordingly - dress appropriately with the right footwear for your adventure; be sure to keep water with you at all times, it can be easy to get dehydrated on the lava fields. Sunscreen is also your best friend on this part of the island.

As always, remember that lava flows outside the Park's boundary are on private property and you should not explore these locations without a guide who has permission to properly access the property.

Kilauea Volcano Tours

Our recommendation for Kilauea & lava tours is to contact Scott and Becky at The Volcano Van. They offer amazing tours of Kilauea, including several tours that depart from Kona.

Volcano Helicopter Tours

View Lava from Above

Helicopter Volcano Tours

Another great option is to take a helicopter tour over Pu`u O`o for a look into the bowels of the earth. While that too could change tomorrow, as lava has a mind of its own - a helicopter tour is your BEST opportunity to see lava.

Our recommendation for helicopters tours is to fly with Safari Helicopters. They have some amazing tours over the volcano that are perfect for experiecing Kilauea from above.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Overview Maps

 ~ Click to enlarge any map ~
Crater Rim Drive (before the 2008-2018 summit eruption)

Crater Rim Drive (before the 2008-2018 summit eruption)

HVNP Overview (showing lava flows through 2010)

HVNP Overview (showing lava flows through 2010)

2018 Lava Flow in Puna

2018 Lava Flow in Puna

Napau Crater Trail

Napau Crater Trail

2023 Big Island Visitor Guides

If you're visiting the Big Island of Hawaii soon, be sure to download your copy of one of our updated 2023 Big Island Visitor Guides. We've updated both travel guides with a lot of new great information for potential visitors (and those who've been a time or two as well).

Select a 2023 Travel Guide
- 20 Pages -

Highlights

- 40+ Pages -

Essential

~ Trusted by Millions of Hawaii Visitors Annually ~

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