Halemaʻumaʻu Overlook

Our records indicate Halemaʻumaʻu Overlook has closed. If you believe this is in error please let us know.

Halemaʻumaʻu Overlook information

On March 18, 2008, Halemaʻumaʻu Crater shattered a quarter-century of silence with a huge steam-driven explosion that scattered rocks and Pele's hair (strands of volcanic glass) over 75 acres. A series of explosions followed, widening a 300ft vent in the crater floor, which as of early 2011 continued to spew a muscular column of smoke. The vent bubbles (but doesn't spurt) molten lava.

In 1823, missionary William Ellis first described the boiling goblet of Halemaʻumaʻu, and this prodigious sight attracted travelers from all over the world. Looking in, some saw the fires of hell, others primeval creation, but none left the crater unmoved. Mark Twain wrote that he witnessed:

"Circles and serpents and streaks of lightning all twined and wreathed and tied together…I have seen Vesuvius since, but it was a mere toy, a child's volcano, a soup kettle, compared to this."

Then, in 1924, the crater floor subsided rapidly, touching off a series of explosive eruptions. Boulders and mud rained down for days. When it was over, the crater had doubled in size – to about 300ft deep and 3000ft wide. Lava activity ceased and the crust cooled.

Since then, Halemaʻumaʻu has erupted 18 times; it's the most active area on the volcano's summit. During the April 30, 1982 eruption, geologists only realized something was brewing when their seismographs went haywire that morning. The park service quickly cleared hikers from the crater floor, and before noon a half-mile fissure broke open and spewed 1.3 million cubic yards of lava.

All of the Big Island is Pele's territory, but Halemaʻumaʻu is her home, making it a sacred site for Hawaiians.