HILO, Hawaii -- In and around this sleepy town there are several
interesting geologic formations caused by old lava flows from the
nearby Mauna Loa volcano. They are worth taking the time to see.
Two of these attractions are the Boiling Pots at Wailuku State
Park and the Kaumana Caves.
Both places can be seen in under two hours, but it is worth
The Boiling Pots are a series of giant pools in the Wailuku
River just downstream from Peepee Falls.
The pots are extremely dangerous to swim in because there are
holes in their bottoms that can suck a person under when the water
is high after a heavy rain.
Still they are marvelous to look at.
The pots were formed when lava flows ran down an existing river
bed that already had carved pools into the ground.
The lava flows simply cooled in the shape of the river pools, and
when the water returned, it eroded the jagged lava into smooth
The Boiling Pots are a good example of "columnar jointing,"
which is the result of cooling lava that forms vertical cracks with
five and six sides. The water pots are not only the shape of a
former river pool where lava settled in but also a result of the
effects of cooling lava.
At the Boiling Pots there is a large grassy area with rest rooms
and room to have a picnic.
The Boiling Pots are about a mile and a half past Rainbow Falls
-- another site worth seeing -- on Waianuenue Avenue. Waianuenue
Avenue runs straight from the center of Hilo.
The street can be used to access the Boiling Pots, Rainbow Falls
and Kaumana Caves.
The Kaumana Caves are about four miles up Kaumana Drive. Kaumana
Drive veers off to the left of Waianuenue Avenue, coming out of
The caves are on the right hand side of the road, and from the
small parking lot look like a depression in the ground and nothing
There is a cement stairway leading down to the caves. The caves
are more accurately described as giant lava tubes.
The tube on the left hand side is worth exploring for an hour or
more if you are equipped with a good flashlight and closed-toed
After scrambling over some rocks in a part of the cave where the
ceiling comes down fairly low, the tube opens up and resembles a
The tube was formed by a gigantic 1881 lava flow, also from
The flow cooled on the outside and formed a hard outer crust
while molten lava continued to pour through the middle of the lava
When Mauna Loa turned off its fountain of lava to this
particular tube, the remaining hot lava flowed out of the tube and
left the inside hollow. Then the tube was covered on the top by
more lava, dirt and vegetation, so now it is underground.
The ceiling is about 50 feet high and the walls are at least 20
The tube is very dark, so the flashlight is really a
The tube seems to go on forever, and it's possible to walk quite
a long way inside.