An update on the 2018 Kilauea volcano eruption in Leilani Estates (Puna / Pahoa area)
Updated March 30 2019
Aloha. As you likely have not heard, the Kilauea Volcano here on the Big Island stopped erupting in August, 2018. Last summer, some national and international news made it sound like the whole island was blowing up. That was never true! Other than a relatively small area near Pahoa, the vast majority of the island is just as you remember it--or as you hope it will be on your first visit.
The eruption was apx. 70 miles / 110 km from our house, and everything was, and is, normal here. A map is below, along with some Q&A about the current situation. We would appreciate you letting your friends and family know that all is normal in Hawaii, and there has never been a better time to visit!
Q: Is it safe to visit the Big Island of Hawaii?
A: It is as safe as ever.*
Q: Should I cancel my trip to Hawaii?
A: Absolutely not. The vast majority of Hawaii Island is business as usual. The airports are open and island life is idyllic as ever for residents and visitors.
Q: Was the 2018 event a new eruption?
A: Not really--Kilauea erupted continuously from 1983 to 2018. The recent eruption was just an ongoing part of that trend, it just moved to a different part of the volcano's well-known system--and a neighborhood that is well-known as one of the highest volcano risk zones in the world (and in our opinion, should never have been built int he first place).
Q: What has changed?
A: Many things:
The "glow" and lava lake which visitors viewed from the Jaggar Museum in Volcanoes National Park is no longer there. The lake sank into the earth, and the surrounding walls of the crater have gradually been slumping and falling into the crater hole. Check out this very cool USGS video showing Halemaumau Crater at present.
Pu'u O'o vent (which was not publicly accessible) has ceased erupting after 35 years.
New vent area: Lava WAS erupting and flowing in an area called the East Rift Zone, which exists under part of Lower Puna. This area was a known ultra-high-risk zone, and yet people chose to build houses there (and worse, the government gave them permits to do so). The recent lava flowed almost entirely from an opening called "Fissure 8."
Kapoho Bay is gone. The entire bay, including the Champagne Ponds and tide pools are all completely gone. The lava has created over 800 acres of new land where the famed bay and vacation area was.
Volcanoes National Park is open, but with some differences. Some trails and back-country areas of the Park remain closed while rangers address safety issues. But don't let that stop you from visiting--there's tons of safe, lava related activities outside the "official" national park. The whole island could be a national park! The reasons for park closure include infrastructure damage due to thousands of localized earthquakes when the volcano was erupting. The Park has to repair those areas and ensure they are safe for visitors.
Q: Could Kilauea's lava come through the ground at Kona Guest House?
A: No. There are two mountains between the house and Kilauea. Neither of them show signs of imminent eruption.
Q: Can visitors go see the current eruption?A: No. There is no longer an active eruption, Fissure 8, in Leilani subdivision is not yet available for close-up viewing.
Q: Is there lava flowing into the ocean or on the hillside where people can hike to it or see it from a boat?A: No. There is currently NO HOT/RED lava visible anywhere on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Q: Why are housing subdivisions built on one of the world's most dangerous eruption zones?
A: Greed on the part of the developers, naivety/blinders. on the part of the buyers. This article explains it.
Q: How is the air quality?
A: Excellent. It almost seems we can see Tokyo.
Are there earthquakes at the house?
A: We feel earthquakes on occasion, and not just during this current eruption. The 6.9M quake in early May pf 2018 was felt everywhere on the island. We have felt only one earthquake since--said to be an aftershock of the May 2018 earthquake.
Q: Are other parts of the island closed--i.e. Mauna Kea, Kona beaches, Green Sand Beach, Pololu Valley, etc.?
A: No--the vast majority of the island is open and accessible as usual.
Q: Is it busy in Hawaii this time of year?
A: Hawaii is popular all year 'round, and the weather tends to be lovely--often cooler than some mainland locations in the summertime! C'mon over! Aloha!
*We make no guarantees of safety or security--the planet is dynamic and alive... whether you visit Hawaii or Mexico or Japan or countless other places, Mother Nature is ultimately in control. We feel our location is as safe as at any normal time. End of disclaimer!
Background image: Halemaumau Crater September 2018, courtesy US Geological Survey.