Best place to see the lava

Update: Kīlauea is not erupting. The eruption that began on September 10, 2023 has ended. No lava fountains, flows, or glow are visible at this time.

Kīlauea Caldera is located in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park at Halemauamau Crater and is easy to access!

For the best viewing location, head to Waldron’s Ledge Lookout. 

Halemaʻumaʻu Crater is the only location on island that is currently experiencing volcanic activity at this time.

Please see below for helpful viewing tips.

For the best lava viewing spots, here are some tips that will ensure you have the best experience and adventure.  Plan to view it at night or in the early morning hours, otherwise you are pretty much missing out. Also be sure to check the weather conditions before you start your journey. Thick cloud cover may result in limited to no visibility of the glow, lava or crater.

Waldron Ledge Overlook is the best place to see the lava.

  • Waldron Ledge Overlook

    • Duration: 15 minutes each way
    • Length: Less than 1.0 mile
    • Difficulty level: Easy
    • Description: For the best viewing experience and to actually see lava, we highly recommend Byron’s Ledge Overlook. Parking is located at the Visitors Center or the Volcano House.
    • We highly recommend evening or early morning sessions. The evening viewing hours can be rather crowded, but we promise everyone will have a great experience, depending on weather conditions. A few things to bring: binoculars, sweater, pants, drinks and snacks, flashlight. 
  • Crater Rim Drive to Keanakako`i Overlook 

    • Duration: 48 minutes
    • Length: 2.1 miles 
    • Difficulty level: Easy
    • Description: The second best place to view Halemaʻumaʻu Crater, take a beautiful stroll through the arid landscape and lava fields. Follow the road and watch for the “viewing area” signs that will lead you off the road to the lookout. Crater Rim Drive once completely circled around Kīlauea Caldera.
    • The road was closed after the 2018 volcanic eruption at Halemaʻumaʻu Crater, which collapsed part of the road into the crater. The old collapsed road can be viewed on a clear day from the Volcano House, see if you can find it! A few things to bring: rain jacket, covered shoes, water, flashlight.
  • Kīlauea Overlook

    • Duration: 5 minute walk
    • Less than 0.25 mile to the viewing area (difficulty level: Easy)
    • Description: This is the third best place to view the glow and potentially some lava in the evening or early morning hours. It is also a great location for an up-close viewing of Halemaʻumaʻu Crater.
    • The Jagger Museum is closed, due to structural damage that it incurred from the 2018 eruption. However, the trails leading up to the museum are still accessible. A few things to bring: sweater, pants, rain jacket, flashlight. 

Please visit: Hawaii Volcanoes National Park for more information on the best lava viewing spots. 

Waldron Ledge

Keanakakoi Crater Overlook

Kīlauea Overlook

Mauna Loa Eruption

Enjoy this beautiful footage courtesy of the insanely talented Andrew Hara, and music by Ikaika Marzo.

 

 On November 27, 2022, Mauna Loa, the second-largest mountain on Hawaii Island, and the largest active volcano in the world erupted after remaining dormant for almost 38 years. The last eruption occurred in 1984 and lasted for about 20 days. The glow from the eruption of Mauna Loa can be seen from Hilo, Kona, Ka`u, and parts of Kohala. However, to see the volcano in person, we have outlined some of the most recent updates and tips to ensure you have a great experience! 

Best place to see the lava

Travel along the Daniel K. Inouye Highway, locally known as Saddle Road. Viewing opportunities are available for about 4.5 miles of the highway, which runs parallel to the eruption. For the best viewing, plan your adventure at night. You won’t see as much detail and lava during the day.

Also, check out our Best Lava Viewing Spots – Big Island Reviews.

Things you need to know before you go

Parking along the shoulder of the highway is strictly prohibited. Parking fines are $1,000 and are strongly enforced for your safety. To avoid being fined, parking is available at the Gilbert Kahele Recreational Area which will remain open 24 hours a day until further notice. Security guards are on site from 6:15 p.m. to 6:15 a.m. daily. As this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to partake, traffic in this area has tended to be very congested, and parking may be difficult to find. This is especially true in the evening hours directly after sunset. We recommend arriving an hour or two before sunrise for the best, and most relaxing experience. Please remember that this is a major highway, so be cautious and alert during your visit.

 

Hikers

If you are up for a quick hike, we recommend the Puu Huluhulu Trail (Saddle Road). A quick up-hill hike to the top of the cinder cone boasts some of the most spectacular views of the lava flow. Parking: There is limited parking, it is located directly at the base of the hill. Finding the trail: Walk toward the trailhead sign located at the base of the hill, there is a small metal gate slightly to your left which provides you with access to the trail. Follow the goat trail to the top of the cinder cone. Be sure to stay on the dirt trails to ensure you don’t get lost.

Tips

Viewing from this location is extremely busy in the evening and parking is very limited. For the best viewing times and easy parking, we recommend an early morning session. An hour or two before sunrise should allow for easy access and you will more or less have the mountain to yourself. Check the weather before you go and plan on bringing shoes with tread, warm clothes, a flashlight and water. It doesn’t get much better than enjoying a cup of coffee while watching the volcano before sunrise!

 

Photo Credit: DLNR

Safety First

As this is an active volcano, we highly recommend that you visit the County of Hawaii Civil Defense for the most up-to-date information regarding access, volcanic activity and hazards.

 

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