Popular lava tube tours return to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

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Ranger Jay Robinson leads a tour of Puapoo lava tube in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Ranger Jay Robinson leads a tour of Puapoo lava tube in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Photo Credit: NPS/Stephen Geiger

Kicking off a year-long centennial anniversary celebration this January, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park has launched a slew of special events for 2016, including the return of a hugely popular guided hike through Puapoo lava tube.



Earlier this month the park partnered with the nonprofit Friends of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (FHVNP) to offer weekly guided hikes into the centuries-old geological formation. Requiring a reservation made at least one week in advance, officials are describing the excursion as a “challenging adventure,” limited to 12 people ages 7 and up.

“We asked our public how they’d like to celebrate the park’s centennial anniversary, and the resounding answer was to bring back an opportunity to explore Puapoo lava tube,” park superintendent Cindy Orlando said in a statement. “With our Friends’ group, we are able to offer visitors an unparalleled adventure into the depths of Kilauea volcano.”

Friends of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park offers weekly guided hikes through Puapoo lava tube.
Friends of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park offers weekly guided hikes through Puapoo lava tube. Photo Credit: NPS/Stephen Geiger


Not recommended for inexperienced or claustrophobic hikers, the four-mile trek into Puapoo features a 500-foot change in elevation and participants must be able to climb down a 15-foot ladder into the lava tube. The outing also requires a fair amount of scrambling over large rocks, walking on uneven terrain in minimal light, and time spent walking in a crouched position under a low ceiling.

Each hiker will be provided a helmet with a headlamp, a flashlight and gloves.  

The caves and lava tubes within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park are incredibly sensitive and fragile, according to park officials, so just about all of them are closed to the public. The only regularly open exception is Nahuku, or the Thurston Lava Tube.

Nearly as large as Nahuku, Puapoo is home to some magnificent lava formations, including  “lavacicles, driblet spires, lava lines and flow ripples,” and is described by park officials as “one of the most ornate lava tubes in Hawaii.”

Largely intact today because access is restricted, Puapoo’s entrance is draped in native rain forest, providing a good opportunity to spot endangered, endemic Hawaiian forest birds such as the apapane, omao and amakihi.

Ranger-guided treks through the Puapoo lava tube last about three hours and are $30 for adults and $25 for ages 7 to 12.

Visit www.fhvnp.org/institute/nps-pua-poo-lava-tube-tour.

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