Bike to the Kalapana Lava Flow

Kalapana Volcano Parking

Hands down, one of the coolest things I have ever done. A short bike ride followed by a strenuous hike to an active lava flow.

When we chose to visit the volcanic big island of Hawaii, we knew that seeing an active lava flow was a must do. We decided to go at sunset and into the evening, as the lava flow would be spectacular under the dark night sky - we were right. 

Start by driving to Kalapana, south of Hilo, on the east coast of the big island. You will arrive at the parking area at the end of the road, where there will likely be an attendant depending on how busy it is. The parking stretches for about 4 miles down that road.

We received great advice to rent bikes as the walk itself to the lava flow is approximately 6 miles each way. The walk in and out would have been quite extensive, and probably taken away from the experience. Riding bikes across the gravel road was a breeze. 

After riding your bikes down the gravel road towards Volcano National Park, you will near the "bike parking" area - this is where you can't take bikes any further, and must travel by foot. 

To the left, you can walk down 100m or so to the ocean where you can see the lava flowing into the ocean at a distance of about a mile. I was actually quite disappointed by the view of this on the day we were there, as it was quite far away and actually on the other side of the point. 

The other option is to walk to the right at the end of the gravel road, where you walk over some very new lava beds. The first 15 minutes you will be in awe of the landscape and the unique textures in the rock. After the novelty wears off, it is a 45-1hr slog over the remaining lava beds. (the path is not marked, you just need to follow those in front of you)

Once you reach the lava flow you will be surprised at how free you are to explore. You could literally jump into the lava if you were so inclined (not recommended). You get so close that you actually feel the heat coming up through your rock and through your shoes - it is not for the faint of heart! 

The reward is worth every step. Seeing molten rock slither its way across the landscape is unlike anything I have ever seen. Some very cool pictures to be had if you have a camera that is decent in low-light as well. 

The trek back is exactly the same as the trek there - a slog. We also found that as we were the last ones up at the lava flow for the evening, that it was quite difficult to find our way back to the bikes as we had no oncoming hikers as points of reference. We did wander slightly off course, but eventually found our way back. 

This is a MUST DO on the island of Hawai'i

*note, the lava is not always guaranteed to be flowing, and you should check in at https://www.nps.gov/havo/index... for the latest conditions.  

Pack List

  • Good walking shoes - the lava is incredible sharp and rugged
  • Camera
  • Tripod (if going at night)
  • Water
  • Rent a bike
  • Snack - it is a long hike
  • Sunscreen if you are going during the day
Show More
RT Distance 13.2 Miles
Elevation Gain 150 Feet
Activities Cycling, Chillin, Photography, Hiking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Year Round
Trail Type Out-and-Back
Features
Easy Parking
Groups
Scenic

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

One of the Coolest Things I Have Ever Done

Hands down, one of the coolest things I have ever done. I walked to see the lava entry.

Insane But Awesome

My brother and dad did this trek together but I backed out last minute because I was worried about how strenuous the trek would be and when they got back I found that I was right. The bike ride in was an easy 4 miles and then another 2 mile hike in and 2 miles back and then 4 miles uphill back on the bike. Needless to say they were EXHAUSTED. But they said seeing the lava itself was one of the most incredible things, albeit extremely dangerous. There was nothing marked off and the lava flow looked a lot like all of the other rock on top so you had to be very careful where you stepped or you would be stepping in lava. This adventure is definitely for the adventurous.


Please respect the places you find on The Outbound Collective.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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