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Traveling to Hawaii During the Kilauea Eruption

Don't let hot lava ruin your trip. Except for a confined area, most of Hawaii remains open for business.

Here’s the good news: You don’t need to cancel your upcoming vacation to the Aloha State. (Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau (IHVB)/Paul Zizka)

Don't let hot lava ruin your trip. Except for a confined area, most of Hawaii remains open for business.

Yes, the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii’s Big Island is erupting. The lava started flowing in early May, and last week, the U.S. Geological Survey changed the advisory warning on Kilauea to red status, warning that a major eruption is imminent or underway.

But here’s the good news: You don’t need to cancel your upcoming vacation to the Aloha State. The rest of the island chain is untouched by lava, ash, and poor air quality, and of the Big Island’s 4,028 square miles, less than ten are currently affected by the eruption. In fact, if you didn’t have a trip booked, now might be a good time to plan one, thanks to reduced visitor numbers, killer last-minute deals on flights, and a chance to help out relief efforts.

Here’s what you need to know about visiting Hawaii right now.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Is Closed

You can’t visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park right now, which is closed indefinitely as a safety precaution. But if you were set on seeing a national park during your trip, Haleakalā on Maui is a fine substitute, and flights there from the Big Island run daily. Haleakala means House of the Sun, and watching the day break from atop the 10,023-foot summit is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Be sure to reserve a spot, as it can get crowded.

Kona and Hilo Remain Unaffected

If you’ve already planned a trip to the Big Island, chances are you’re staying on the Kona Coast, the isle’s most popular tourist spot. About 100 miles away by road and literally on the opposite side of the island from the eruption, the region has reported no change in air quality. Hilo, another popular tourist town, is closer to the volcano—approximately 40 miles away—but there’s still no impact from the volcano as of now.

You Can Get a Glimpse of the Eruption

The air space over the volcano is closed, so scenic helicopter tours are a no-go, and you can’t get close enough on the ground for a good look due to safety issues. But if you’re a lava chaser, you’re in luck. You can see the glow of lava splatter from the sea. Lava Ocean Tours departs from Hilo twice daily in a high-speed boat for 90-minute dawn and dusk tours of the volcanic coast on the easternmost tip of the island. Plus, the company is currently offering discounted rates of $150.

Getting There Is Cheap

All airports on the island of Hawaii are open and operating with no interruption. Plus, airlines have stellar discounts right now to remind people that the islands are open for business. Alaska Airlines has flights from Oakland or San Jose, California, to Kona for just $219 each way, and Hawaiian Airlines has deals from the mainland to the whole chain. If you already booked a ticket with them and want to reschedule or reroute, they're also offering a one-time reservation change without extra fees.

Nearly All Lodging Remains Open

Those who rented a vacation home in the Puna area near the volcano or were planning to stay at Aqua-Aston Hospitality’s Volcano House, located within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, will need to make alternative plans. Aqua-Aston will happily offer a refund or transfer you to one of more than 40 other properties, including three on the Big Island, like the beachfront condos at Aston Kona by the Sea (from $180). Otherwise, hotels around the Big Island would all love to have you.

You Can Help Relief Efforts

More than 1,800 residents of the Big Island have been evacuated from their homes, and local businesses are doing their part to help. You can chip in, too. At Merriman’s Waimea, a restaurant in the quiet town of Waimea, $2 from every dessert sold goes to the local nonprofit spearheading relief efforts. And if you book a tour online with Sky-Line Eco Adventures, which offers a zip-line over a 250-foot waterfall in Hawaii’s Akaka Falls State Park, you can add a donation that will go directly to a relief fund.

Filed To: Hawaii / Big Island / Volcanoes National Park / Travel
Nicolas Henderson/Creative Commons )

San Marcos, Texas

Billed as the world’s toughest canoe race, the Texas Water Safari, held each June, is a four-day, 260-mile jaunt from the headwaters of the San Marcos River northeast of San Antonio to the small shrimping town of Seadrift on the Gulf Coast. There’s no prize money—just bragging rights for the winner. Any boat without a motor is allowed, and you’ll have to carry your own equipment and overnight gear. Food and water are provided at aid stations along the way. Entry fees start at $175 and increase as race day approaches.

The Ring

(Courtesy Quatro Hubbard)

Strasburg, Virginia

The Ring is a 71-mile trail running race in early September along the entire length of Virginia’s rough and rocky Massanutten Trail loop. To qualify, you need to have run a 50- or 100-mile race before the event and win a spot through the lottery system. Entry is free. Complete the run and you’ll become part of the tight-knit Fellowship of the Ring and be eligible for the Reverse Ring, which entails running the trail backwards in the middle of winter.


(David Silver)

Santa Fe, New Mexico

Each spring, competitors gather in Santa Fe’s historic plaza with a simple goal: be the first to reach 12,308-foot Deception Peak, 17 miles and 5,000 feet of elevation gain away. Competitors run or bike the first 15 miles to the local ski area before transitioning to their waiting ski-touring setups for the final push to the top. Time stops only when they’ve skied back down to the tailgate in the resort’s parking lot, which is funded by the modest entry fee of around $25. To add to the sufferfest, some participants sign up for the Expedition category, in which they strap their skis, skins, boots, and poles to their bikes for the long ride up. Start dates vary depending on snow conditions, but look for the event page to be posted on Facebook in late March or early April.

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