Is it safe to visit Hawaii Volcano National Park?

It’s just 30 minutes from our condo to the front gate of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The most visited spot on the Big Island and access to the world’s most active volcano. Your park admission is good for 7 days and when you stay close by you can enjoy multiple visits to this immense (300,000 acres) National park.

Following a lengthy closure due to months of hazardous volcanic and seismic activity at the summit of Kīlauea, the park reopened the following areas on Sept. 22, 2019.

Air quality is better than it’s been in decades and more sections of the park are opening all the time; check with the park rangers for up to the minute details.

•  Kīlauea Visitor Center (closes at 5 p.m.)
•  Hawai‘i Pacific Parks Association store at Kīlauea Visitor Center (closes at 5 p.m.)
•  Crater Rim Trail between Volcano House and Kilauea Military Camp
•  Sulphur Banks Trail
•  Crater Rim Drive to Steam Vents
•  Kīlauea Iki Overlook and parking lot
•  Devastation Trail and Pu‘u Pua‘i
•  Crater Rim Drive to Keanakāko‘i Crater, for pedestrians and bicyclists only
•  Mauna Loa Road to Kīpukapuaulu. The road will be open to pedestrians and bicyclists past Kīpukapuaulu
•  Sections of Escape Road from Highway 11
•  Chain of Craters Road

The Volcano Art Center Gallery and Kilauea Military Camp have also reopened; limited services are available at Volcano House.

The park has gone back to being open 24 hours a day.  Entrance fees went back into effect on Sun., Sept. 23. Areas not listed above should be presumed closed. There is no drinking water in the park.

Is it safe to visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park?

The National Park is a dedicated wilderness area and has certain inherent risks that are associated with natural areas. Fortunately, the threat level has been decreased as of October 5. With proper planning and visitor caution, it should be safe to enjoy the wonders of Kilauea’s recent large scale eruption.

Here is a recent update:

Volcanic Activity Summary:

Kīlauea Volcano has maintained a low level of non-eruptive unrest since the end of the lower East Rift Zone eruption and summit collapse in early September 2018. The past nearly 8 months without active lava at the surface of the volcano marks the longest time interval without eruption since the 17-month period between November 1979 and April 1982.

The total combined sulfur dioxide (SO2) emission rate from the summit, Puʻu ʻŌʻō, and lower East Rift Zone fissure vents is currently less than 100 tonnes per day, well below pre-2018 levels.

Seismicity remains relatively low and steady across the volcano. Although weekly earthquake counts are elevated above pre-2018 eruption levels, they do not reflect shallowing of magma that typically occurs prior to eruption outbreaks. Most of these earthquakes are aftershocks of the May 4, 2018, magnitude-6.9 Kalapana earthquake, and they will continue at declining rates. Earthquakes such as the March 13, 2019, magnitude-5.5 south flank event reflect ongoing south flank instability and are not a sign of renewed eruption potential.

Ground deformation continues, but at rates below those during the period of major eruptive activity in 2018. Deformation rates on the East Rift Zone and at Kīlauea’s summit are still higher than they were prior to April 2018, but have been slowly decreasing. The middle East Rift Zone between Puʻu ʻŌʻō and Highway 130 continues to show ground motion that likely reflects slow refilling of the deep rift zone. Deformation rates may remain high, as magma entering Kīlauea’s system is stored, rather than erupted. Motion on Kīlauea’s south flank is higher than before May’s magnitude-6.9 earthquake. This motion is consistent with increased sliding on Kīlauea’s décollement fault in a process called “afterslip,” which is expected following a large earthquake.


We’ll keep you updated as additional information becomes available. Enjoy, explore and visit the Big Island of Hawaii and Volcanoes National Park.

When are Free Admission Days for Hawaii Volcanoes National Park?

The National Park Service has designated the following fee free days for 2019:

Monday, January 21 – Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
Saturday, April 20 – Start of National Park Week/Junior Ranger Day
Sunday, August 25 – National Park Service Anniversary
Saturday, September 28 – National Public Lands Day
Monday, November 11 – Veterans Day

What’s next for Kilauea Volcano? An update from the USGS:

Since the early 1800s, when written records of Hawaiian volcanoes began, Kīlauea has had infrequent periods during which no lava erupted. The longest known eruptive pause was in 1935-1952, ending with eruption in the caldera.

Neither this 17-year pause, nor any other shorter pause, followed partial collapse of the caldera such as the collapse that occurred in the summer of 2018.

After partial caldera collapses in 1840 and 1868, lava returned to the caldera within days to a few weeks. The length of the current pause already exceeds those earlier post-collapse pauses.

Following partial caldera collapses, the first eruption outside the caldera took place on the East Rift Zone 17 years after the 1823 collapse, on the Southwest Rift Zone 28 years after the 1840 collapse, and on the Southwest Rift Zone 52 years after the 1868 collapse.

On the basis of these observations, we think it most likely that the next eruption of Kīlauea will take place in the caldera within a few years, and that the next eruption on one of the volcano’s rift zones will be in a decade or longer. This prognosis assumes a return to Kīlauea’s general style of behavior for the past 200 years.

There remains the possibility that Kīlauea’s behavior may return to the dominantly explosive 300 years preceding the early 1800s. Monitoring and ongoing analysis by HVO may be able to determine in advance which style of behavior will eventually prevail, but it is currently too early to tell.

Importantly, current monitoring data do not suggest a return to eruptive activity or summit collapse in the coming months. However, Kīlauea is one of the most active volcanoes in the world, and additional eruptions will occur. Residents and visitors should remain informed of the volcano’s status, learn about long-term hazards, and understand how alerts and warnings of volcanic activity are distributed.