Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park has opened a new viewing platform for visitors who want to see lava flowing directly into the ocean, after an incident on New Year’s Eve when the former viewing area collapsed into the ocean.
The new spot has opened at what is called the Kamokuna ocean entry, where lava is pouring into the water. The ocean entry has drawn tourists since earlier this year, when the lava began to pour, creating new, but unstable, land. Park rangers have had concerns about the area since the lava began to flow, noting that the land created by the lava hitting the water – called lava deltas – are prone to collapse.
The new viewing area has been opened after a two-day closure caused by a large lava delta collapse, which lead to blasts of volcanic rock and a thick plume of debris and gas. The new viewing area is located about 900 feet east of a cascade of lava pouring into the ocean, meaning visitors can see the molten rush as it descends into the water from a safe distance.
The spot has been assessed by park rangers and USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory scientists to make sure it is safe. The spot is marked with white rope lines and signs to point out closed areas. And staying out of the closed areas is important – after the New Year’s Eve collapse, five people walked beneath the white rope lines and into a closed area. Fifteen minutes after rangers made them come back to safety, the spot collapsed into the ocean.
Scientists are estimating that most of the 26-acre lava delta is now gone, along with more than four acres of the coastal cliff area, which included the former lava viewing site.
Thankfully, the new viewing spot is actually closer to the east entrance, about a 4.2 mile hike on the gravel emergency access road. This entrance is open daily from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. From the park, or west side, visitors can hike out from the Coastal Ranger Station at the end of Chain of Craters Road, about five miles one-way, according to NPS. That entrance is open 24 hours a day.