The Not-So-Obvious Tourist Destination in Hawaii

Many people think that Hawaii is all about beaches and luaus.  While these two are exciting in their own right there is one natural item that is often forgotten – the volcano.  Not all the volcanoes in Hawaii are active.  Some of them are while some lay dormant, allowing tourists and locals to hike one of them.  In either case, these are three of the most popular volcanoes in Hawaii that can be seen up close or as far as away as comfortable.  Come see them to believe them.

  1. Kilauea – It is an explosive volcano located on the Big Island.  It continuously erupts and has been since 1983 (don’t worry the lava won’t spread to major parts of the city).  It is a site to see from a distance because it puts out an aerial display that has to be seen live in order to believe it. The active volcano here makes for wonderful tours.
  2. Halekala – Located in Maui, this volcano rises above the clouds.  It is a day trek to the peak of the volcano. Translated as “house of the sun”, this volcano has literally thousands of visitors to it each year.  They can hike, climb, bike, or even take a jog up and down the volcano.  It is also a great place to catch the sunrise and sunset here.  It is so popular that they created a national park around it. Going here is on many people’s dream sheets. On the volcano itself tourists can view tropical areas that include things like waterfalls and streams.
  3. Leahi (Diamond Head) – This is a fantastic scene up close.  This crater is a landmark in Hawaii (located in Oahu).  It has formed in a course of over 100,000 years and was responsible for building up Oahu the way it is today. It is an inactive volcano, but today tourists can hike it and look down into the crater.  It’s a pretty amazing site with a lot of history behind it. Leahi lies on the shores of Oahu and if lucky, tourists can see perfect views of Waikiki, and the south shore.

Hawaii is filled with volcanoes.  Many of them are inactive but hold a lot of history behind them.  Volcanoes are synonymous with Hawaii, not beaches and luaus, though both are great to go for vacation.  Next time you are in Hawaii be sure to check out one of the many volcanoes. It will be an experience that you won’t forget.


Shield Volcanoes

The Hawaiian volcanoes are not like the tall, cone-shaped volcanoes that young people model in their science projects. These volcanoes are called “shield volcanoes.” They are named so because of their broad shield-like profiles. They do not erupt violently, sending pyroclastic ash miles into the air, as Mount St. Helens did in 1980. The eruptions of shield volcanoes are consisted of fluid, low-viscosity lava that can flow for long distances. These volcanoes may appear more flattened rather than the tall, conical mountains most people picture when thinking about volcanoes. Despite their flattened shape, these volcanoes can be massive in size. A good example of this is Mauna Loa which is the most massive mountain on Earth measuring at 18,000 cubic miles.

Currently, three of the Hawaiian volcanoes are classified as “active.” Active volcanoes are currently erupting or have a likelihood of erupting in the near future. The three active Hawaiian volcanoes are Mauna Loa, Kilauea, and Lo’ihi. Mauna Loa last erupted in 1984. Kilauea has been continuously erupting since January 1983 releasing 250,000-650,000 cubic yards of lava daily. Lo’ihi has been erupting underwater since 1996, forming the newest Hawaiian island that should emerge from the water in about 250,000 years.

A large area (377 square miles) of the big island of Hawaii is established as a National Park. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is Hawaii’s number one attraction. The park includes 150 miles of hiking trails through a variety of landscapes including volcanic craters. There is a museum, a walk-in lava tube, and also two active volcanoes in the park. In this park you can actually watch Kilauea’s lava flows meet the Pacific Ocean.


Hawaiian Valcanoes

It is well known that the Hawaiian Islands were formed by volcanoes. The chain of Hawaiian volcanoes is also referred to as the Emperor seamount chain. Most volcanic activity on the Earth occurs on or near tectonic plate boundaries, but the chain of Hawaiian Islands are nowhere near these areas. So how did volcanic eruptions form the islands? Hawaii is located over a “hotspot” in the Earth’s crust. This “hotspot” is constantly releasing magma from inside the Earth’s mantle through a mantle plume. The location of a mantle plume is fixed and does not move like the tectonic plates of the Earth’s crust. Because of this, as the plates on the crust move over time, a chain of island volcanoes are formed. The oldest of the Hawaiian Islands is Nihoa. It is located the furthest from the mantle plume and is approximately 7.5 million years old. The volcanoes that are closest to the plume are still active today. There are also future islands being formed by underwater volcanoes. The newest of these is Lo’ihi Seamount that is forming 3,000 feet below sea level. Here is a list of some the Hawaiian volcanoes:



Millions of Years Old

Hawaii Mauna Loa 0.1-0.5
Hawaii Kohala 0.06-0.45
Maui Haleakala 0.41-0.86
Maui West Maui 1.2-1.6
Kahoolawe Kahoolawe 1.0
Lanai Lanai 0.81-1.5
Molokai East Molokai 1.3-1.75
Molokai West Molokai 1.5-1.8
Oahu Post Errosiona l0.03-1.3
Oahu Koolau 1.8-2.6
Oahu Waianae 2.2-3.8
Kauai Koloa 1.41-1.43
Kauai Makaweli 3.5-4.1
Kauai Napali 4.4-5.7
Nihoa Nihoa 7.5