Kilauea Volcano: What Visitors Need to Know

One of Hawaii’s most popular attractions, Kilauea, located in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, has been an active volcano since 1983 and is a popular draw with residents and visitors alike who want to see Mother Nature at work. Most of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is currently closed until further notice. On the Big Island, the weeks-long eruption activity of Kilauea Volcano is causing some visitors to change or even cancel their travel plans to the Hawaiian Islands, just as the busy summer travel season begins. The latest reports have Hawaiian authorities calling for more evacuations, after several homes in the Leilani Estates housing development were destroyed by lava flows on Friday night. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, a total of 82 homes have been destroyed to date due to volcanic activity on the Big Island.

Earthquakes In The Summit Region

The U.S. Geological Survey is also reporting that several earthquakes struck the Big Island near the volcano on Friday, including one tremor measured at a magnitude of 4.4 on the Richter Scale. “Earthquakes in the summit region continued at a moderate rate overnight,” wrote the USGS in an update. “The earthquakes and ash explosions are occurring as the summit area subsides and adjusts to the withdrawal of magma.” No tsunamis were triggered by the seismic activity, according to the USGS. While the news is dire for a number of localized residents, the destruction is contained to a 10 square mile area on the east side of the island, largely away from many of the island’s other popular visitor destinations. While major carriers serving Hawaii, including American, Hawaiian and United, have extended their originally announced waiver periods on change fees for anyone flying to/from Hilo or Kona until at least May 31, the Hawaii Visitors Bureau is asking travelers to “do their research” before they change or cancel their vacation plans.

No Reason For Most Travelers To Change Plans

“The bottom line is that there is no reason for travelers to avoid making their vacation plans in the Hawaiian Islands due to safety concerns because of Kilauea volcano,” said Hawaii Governor David Ige. “Visitors will be welcomed with open arms and treated to the hospitality, aloha, warmth and natural beauty that is found everywhere in Hawaii. The only area to avoid is lower Puna where the eruption is ongoing.” George D. Szigeti, president, and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority echoed the governor’s sentiment in a recent statement. “We understand the concern some travelers may have about coming to Hawaii while Kilauea volcano is so much more active at this time,” said Szigeti. “But we encourage everyone to do their research and rely on trusted federal, state and county resources that are providing truthful, accurate information about what is taking place in Hawaii. Those who do will find that coming to Hawaii is a smart decision to enjoy a wonderful summer vacation.” For travelers concerned about air quality, the State Department of Health Director Dr. Virginia Pressler has said air quality in the Hawaiian Islands is also safe, except in the affected area.

Air Quality Safe

“The air quality for the vast majority of the Hawaiian Islands is clean and healthy,” said Dr. Pressler. “The emissions from Kilauea volcano are a non-factor for Oahu, Maui, Molokai, Lanai, and Kauai. The weather is beautiful and warm with cooling trade winds everywhere in Hawaii and is exactly what travelers expect when coming here for a relaxing and fun vacation experience. This includes Hilo, Pahoa and the Kona and Kohala coasts on the island of Hawaii. “The areas where precautions are required for people are in lower Puna where lava is flowing and downwind from there on the island of Hawaii, particularly if they have respiratory problems. Because of heavy emissions of vog, as well as occasional bursts of ash plumes from the Kilauea summit, the southeast portions of the island are also routinely experiencing concerning conditions. Those visiting areas south of Hilo should stay alert for air quality updates, especially when wind conditions change. Fortunately, when trade winds are blowing, the vog and ash routinely move in a southwesterly direction and out to sea away from the Hawaiian Islands.” Governor Ige also noted that Hawaii’s air quality is being closely monitored by scientists, meteorologists and the Hawaii State Department of Health, who all agree that the air quality is safe for residents and visitors in the Hawaiian Islands, except in the affected areas. More information about air safety can be found at the State of Hawaii Interagency Vog Information Dashboard.