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Getting Up Close & Personal with the Fire Goddess: Part II

Editor’s note: This is the second entry in a two-part series on volcano tours in Hawaii. The first is available here.

There are all sorts of ways to get up close and personal with nature in Hawaii. You can lounge on the beach and watch the waves crash, or become one with the waves by surfing them. You can hike through the beautiful parks, or go climbing up a cliff face. But there’s only one way that allows you to come face to face with one of the earth’s most dynamic, destructive forces: a lava hike.


No, you’re not actually hiking on lava. But on the Big Island, Kalapana Cultural Tours does take visitors inside Kilauea, the world’s most active – and Hawaii’s youngest – volcano. There, guides who’ve experienced the volcano’s destructive power firsthand lead you deep into this simultaneously mesmerizing spectacle of lava-borne regeneration.

So what, exactly, have the guides experienced of Kilauea? Since the 1980s, eruptions have destroyed much of the Kalapana District, where the guides are from. According to the USGS website, an ongoing eruption that began in 1983 has been the single biggest contributor:

By December 2012, flows had covered 125.5 km2 (48.4 mi2) with about 4 km3 (1 mi3) of lava, and had added 202 hectares (500 acres) of new land to K?lauea’s southeastern shore. Lava flows had also destroyed 214 structures, and resurfaced 14.3 km (8.9 mi) of highway, burying them with as much as 35 m (115 ft) of lava.

And yet, the locals stayed to share their knowledge of the power of the fire goddess, Tutu Pele. As you might expect, this lava tour isn’t for the feint of heart, nor is it for people with recent physical injuries. It’s an arduous trek across volatile, uneven terrain, and Kalapana Cultural Tours requires you bring certain supplies and equipment, such as water, covered shoes, and long pants.

Still, the payoff at the end of this journey is worth all of the effort and risk.

Kalapana Cultural Tours

Address: 12-5038 Kalapana Kapoho Rd.

Pahoa, HI. 96778