As one of the most famous Hawaii attractions, Kilauea has been erupting continuously since 1983 at a volcanic cone called Puu Ou Crater. In the Spring an eruption buried hundreds of houses and covered roads in a remote location on the east side of the island. It also created a plume of volcanic smog (vog) that fouled the air, dulled the skies and scared away tourists and a half a billion dollars tourist dollars.
When the eight mile long flow and the earthquakes one of which registered 6.9 stopped, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, country roads and state parks reopened and visitors are starting to return. They are drawn be good airfares and room availability.
On April 30, 2018, the floor of the Puu Oo crater collapsed. Its lava lake as well as the one in Halemaumau Crater drained, sending the lava to the volcano’s eastern flank. Twenty-four fissures then erupted spewing fountains of lava. Earthquakes at the summit occurred daily.
Several black sand beaches were created. The largest one at Isaac Hale Beach Park attracts now hundreds of visitors a day. One U.S Geological Survey scientist said the activity produces a visually spectacular landscape and a story to match.
The volcanic smog is now gone and the entire island has the clearest blue skies not seen in decades. Although lava cannot be seen up close or glowing from a distance, it could be seen again if Kilauea erupts again.
The 505 square mile Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which was closed early May to late September due to a series of strong earthquakes, is now back on its 24 hour a day schedule. An earthquake fracture is visible on the hike to Keanakakoi Crater Rim drive. Visitors are not allowed past this point.
The most dramatic changes are in the Halemaumau’s crater. The lava lake is lost and the size of the crater has quadrupled. In some places, it is 2000 feet deep, almost ten times its previous depth.
There are new beaches, one at Isaac Hale and another huge one at 4-Corners.
Most of the parks facilities and trails are now open such as the Stream Vents Trail, Sulphur Banks Trail, Devastation Trail, Puu Loa Petroglyphs Trail, the back country trails and Chain of Craters Road to the Holei Sea Arch.
Several trails, roads and overlooks are still closed however, and there is no timeline for their reopening.
Other Hawaii attractions like the Thomas A. Jagger Museum, which displayed artifacts and cultural exhibits, had severe structural damage and its future is undecided. Many of the historic items are now in storage except for some on loan to the Pahoa Lava Zone Museum. On display are artworks by the late Herb Kane illustrating the history and culture of the Hawaian and Polynesian islands and a few exhibit props explaining the geology of beaches and magna chambers. Along the side of the museum items are its own displays of photos and videos from the 2018 eruption, geological specimens of Pele’s hair and Tears and even a beehive that was turned to stone.
The best closeup view of the enlarged Halemaumau Crater is now from a nearly mile long hike to Keanakakio Crater off Crater Rim Drive. That section of road was closed after the crater erupted in 2008 but reopened in 2011. But it now has cracks in the road from recent earthquakes.
A new cultural park will open in Pahoa, where visitors can get a deeper understanding of the significance of the volcano. It will have Hawaiian games, hula, canoe carvers and storytellers.
Still closed within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park are the Iliahi Trail, the Byron Trail, Waldron Ledge, Kilauea Iki Trail, Mauna Iki Trail, Thurston Lave Tube, Crater Rim Drive west of Kilauea Military Camp and west of Keanakakoi Overlook, most of the Crater Rim Trail and most of the Kau Desert Trail.