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Top 10 Volcanoes in Hawaii

Explore Hawaii's volcanic wonders with our guide to the Top 10 Volcanoes. Ideal for travelers, learn about active sites like Kilauea, majestic Mauna Loa, and more.

Tobi Miles
July 1, 2022
Top 10 Volcanoes in Hawaii

Hawaii is an island which landscape was forged by Volcanoes millions of years ago and continues to be altered by active volcanoes today!

For tourists, it's a popular attraction to be able to come face to face with an active volcano, where lava flows in a sinister, yet captivating way!

For residents however, the Active volcanos of Hawaii provide a doomsday atmosphere, especially when the infamous Mount Kilauea erupted on the 3rd May 2018.


Volcano-National-Park-Hawaii-Lava-Pool (Top 10 Volcanoes In Hawaii/Hawaii Volcano Guide)

A river of Lava descended from the Volcano, as wide as three football fields which demolished everything in it's way. The river of lava even wen't over a highway and destroyed 700 homes!

Type of Volcanos in Hawaii?

Hawaiis main type of volcanoes are "Shield" volcanoes, these are characterised by low viscosity lava flows (flows easily). This gives the Volcanoes are broad profile and some of the largest volcanoes in the world are of this type and all the Volcanoes in Hawaii.

Active Volcanoes in Hawaii:

1. Mount Kilauea

Mount Kīlauea is the most notorious active Volcano in Hawaii! Located along the south east shore of the island, the volcano originated between 210,000 and 280,000 years old and rose above the sea level around 100,000 years ago.

It is the mostly recently active & considered one the most destructive Volcanoes in Hawaii.

Is Mount Kilauea still Erupting?

As an active Volcano Mount Kilauea, continues to erupt but at lower levels. It's currently on an eruption streak which started back in 1983!


Mount-kilauea-Hawaii-lava-flow (Top 10 Volcanoes In Hawaii/Hawaii Volcano Guide)

Has Mount Kilauea killed anyone?

Record shows Mount Kilauea has many violent eruptions. One such in 1790 killed 400 people making it the deadliest volcanic eruption in the United States.

Can you visit Mount Kilauea?

Kilauea volcano is a popular attraction, to visit you can take helicopter tours or drive part way and take a hiking trail.  According to the Tourism Authority the air quality is clean and safe on the island.

Driving?

Drive around Kilauea caldera and make a stop at Jaggar Museum.


Mount-kilauea-Hawaii (Top 10 Volcanoes In Hawaii/Hawaii Volcano Guide)

Hiking trails?

Head to the visitors centre for info on hiking trails.

Biking tours?

Check the visitors centre for walking and hiking trails. There are a series of great tours around the Mountain.

Check out the most popular highly recommended tours at Mount Kīlauea!

2. Mauna loa

What is the Largest Volcano in the World?

The largest volcano in the world is Mauna Loa on Hawaii's Big Island. From base to peak it measures in at over 17,000m (56,000ft).

This Volcano is around 600,000-1,000,000 years old and is one of the most ACTIVE volcanoes in the world! When it erupts it produces large lava flows which head towards the town of Hilo!


Mauna Loa-Volcano-Eruption-Worlds-Largest-Volcano (Top 10 Volcanoes In Hawaii/Hawaii Volcano Guide)

How Likely is Manua loa Volcano to erupt again?

Manualoa Volcanos has Erupted 33 times, since it's first well documented eruption back in 1843. Its last eruption was way back in 1984. According to USGS  it is likely to erupt again at some point in the future with very large lava flows predicted...there are monitoring the situation.

However, Maunaloa is a non explosive volcano and is pretty quiet at the moment so very suitable for tourism visits!

Has MaunaLoa killed anyone?

Mauna Loa has produced deadly eruptions in the past. The first well documented eruption which caused deaths was in 1846, where 77 people were killed! 46 of them from a Volcano activated tsunami & 31 from volcanic mudflows!


When Mauna Loa Volcano Erupts it produces vast, deadly rivers of lava! (Top 10 Volcanoes In Hawaii/Hawaii Volcano Guide)

Can you visit Mauna Loa Observatory?

If you wish check out one the most incredible places to to observe those star studded skies head to the astronomical Observatory on Mauna KEA this is a mountain next to Mauna Loa. Mauna Loa is an astronomical observatory but contains no telescopes!

Can you visit Mauna loa?

MaunaLoa is a very popular tourist destination, which attracts over 2 million visitors annually to the Volcanoes National Park. While here you can experience over 150 miles of hiking trails and walks through lava tubes!


Mauna Loa lava tubes volcano (Top 10 Volcanoes In Hawaii/Hawaii Volcano Guide)

3. Hualalai Volcano

Hualālai is the third most active volcano on the Island of Hawaii! Just after Kīlauea and Mauna Loa. The other big 2 have erupted over 150 in the past 1000 years whereas Hualālai has only done so 3 times.


Hualalai volcano hawaii (Top 10 Volcanoes In Hawaii/Hawaii Volcano Guide)

Will Hualaiai Erupt Again?

According to the Hawaii Volcano Centre: Despite is being over 200 years ince Hualaiai last erupted it is very lkely to erupt again! The good news is the alkaic style eruptions are much less explosive than neighbouring volcanos Kohala & Mauna Kea.

How tall is Hualālai?

Hualāla's peak is 8,271 feet above sea level.

Can you visit Hualalai?

Yes, Hualalai summit can best be seen by helicopter tour over the area or a hike. There is also a Kona Coffee Plantation tour, which shows you how the unique landscape is perfect for coffee.

Insider Tip:

Head down in the early morning for clear skys. If hiking or on a helicopter tour.

How to get to Hualalai's Summit Driving?

Hualalai's Summit can be reached by taking the Kailua Kona Hywt 199 NNE continuing north.

Driving directions?

After one mile take right onto Kaloko Dr and ascend on the infamous hill drive. After aroud 6.5 miles uphil turn left onto Huehue St and head another 7-1- miles to the end of the road.

Can you hike up Hualalai?

Hualalai’s summit area is HIKERS HEAVEN! During your trek you can see lots of volcanic craters, lava rocks and even some lush vegetation! Highlights include the ruby red O’hia Lehua trees which are endemic to Hawaii and large groups of Eucalyptus trees close to the summit.

The hiking route follows the road directions to the summit craters. There is a footpath on the right, which you can follow.


Hualalai-Volcano- (Top 10 Volcanoes In Hawaii/Hawaii Volcano Guide)

Insider Tip: Private Land Issues!

Most of the hiking routes to Hualalai's summit pass through land owned by Bishop Estates. Unfortunately they regularly deny hikers to climb the peak. So if you see a notice be aware that you may be trespassing so enter at your own risk!

Best Resorts in Hualalai?

Four Seasons in Hualalai is arguably the best luxury resort and is very popular. Surrounded by a perimeter of white sandy beaches & a theatrical black lava backdrop. This is the perfect resort for a luxury island adventure!


Hualalai Luxury Resort Four Seasons (Top 10 Volcanoes In Hawaii/Hawaii Volcano Guide)

4. Mauna kea

Mauna Kea is the highest volcano in Hawaii at 4,207.3 m above sea level making it the highest peak in the state.


mauna-kea-Volcano-Observatory-Hawaii (Top 10 Volcanoes In Hawaii/Hawaii Volcano Guide)

Is Mauna kea Active?

Mauna Kea is a dormant volcano, which last erupted over 4600 years ago! However, even though dormant many scientists believe it may erupt gain at some point in the future.  Heading to the the top of the summit is a bucket list experience you have to try!

Mauna Kea Observatory Guid


Driving up to Mauna Kea Observatory Hawaii  (Top 10 Volcanoes In Hawaii/Hawaii Volcano Guide)

Can you drive to Mauna Kea Observatory?

Yes, Maunakea is one of the few places on earth where you can rive from sea level to 14,000 feet in around 2 hours! Altitude sickness is a major possibility, so take precautions.

Do I need a 4wd for Mauna Kea?

It is advised by Mauna Kea Visitor centre to use a 4 wheel drive, but not a necessity. Many sedans take the road up regularly, but you have to be careful. You must take Saddle Road  which runs across the big island of Hawaii.

Then turn off abut half way and make the ascent to Mauna Kea. The road up to the Mauna Kea Visitors centre is paved with a 17% gradient. Afterwards there is a dirt road, which is advised you use a 4wd for but no one will stop you.

Tips for driving up to Mauna Kea:

  • Check the summit weather report before driving.
  • Head to the visitors centre first for extra info.
  • Service you car before driving, check oil, water & fuel.
  • Once you leave the cost there aren't any gas stations, so make sure you have enough & bring extra just in case.
  • If you break down while heading up, pull over to the side & put the parking brake on.
  • When coming down hill use a lower gear and engine breaking to keep the cars speed under control. Try not to use the brakes only.
  • Most rental companies have in their contract that you must not take their cars off road. This is incase you breakdown and they need to collect the car. They will fine you big time if they find out. The good news is the only way they would is if you broke down & then had to call them.
  • Harper Rental is a company which allows you to drive up to Mauna Kea, so you have a couple of options.

How many telescopes does it have?

Mauna Kea Observatory has twelve facilities with thirteen telescopes!

Insider Tip: Check Summit Road Conditions before you set off!

Can you hike up Mauna Kea?

If your an experienced, fit hiker you can hike up Mauna Kea. You must take the Mauna Kea Trail, (Humuʻula Trail). This hiking route takes you from the Onizuka Center for International Astronomy to the summit of Mauna Kea!


mauna-kea-volcano-hiking (Top 10 Volcanoes In Hawaii/Hawaii Volcano Guide)

Its pretty gruelling though, with the average rounded trip taking 8 hours. At 13,200feet the trail finishes and you must take the last mile on the road.

5. Loihi - Submarine Volcano

Lōihi Seamount is an active Submarine Volcano & Hawaiis youngest! It is located just 35km of the south east coast of Hawaii, with the summit 975m below sea level.


Lohi Underwater Volcano (Top 10 Volcanoes In Hawaii/Hawaii Volcano Guide)

It has been erupting since 1996 and is gradually emerging so many researchers believe it will break to the sruface at some point adding a new island to the Hawaii fire Chain!

How long will it take Loihi to surface?

Don't hold your breath, resarchers believe it will take between 10,000-100,000 years to finally surface.


Lohi Submarine Volcano Hawaii (Top 10 Volcanoes In Hawaii/Hawaii Volcano Guide)

What does Loihi Mean?

Loihi means Long tall

6. Kohala Mountain

Kohala is the oldest volcano on the island of Hawaii. Experts estimate it is 1 million years old and is so old it has experienced the reversal of earths magnetic field over 780,000 years ago! Its last eruption was 120,000 years ago and is thus considered a dormant volcano in Hawaii.

Can you hike Kohala Mountain?

You can hike Kohala mountain & its lush valleys, popular routes include:

Pololu Valley hike:

This is a 2.5 miles round trip and is pretty easy. Take the steep hike down the tropical cliff and towards the black sandy beach below. This is a great place to bring a picnic.

How to get there?

Head to the end of Akoni Pule Hwy (270) to come to Pololu Valley.

Waipi'o valley Hike:

A 6.5 mile round trip of medium difficulty. This hike will take you down 800ft  to the valley of the kings! Where you can enjoy lush greenery, waterfalls & black sandy beaches.

How to get there?

Take Hwy 240 to the end (as if coming from Honoka’a) park your car at the parking there. Then Waipio Valley Lookout is just a short walk way.

7. Haleakala

Haleakalā otherwise known as the East Maui Volcano is a gigantic shield volcanos. Which forms over 75% of Maui island in Hawaii. The tallest peak of Haleakalā, is at 10,023 feet, and called Puʻu ʻUlaʻula.

On the east of Maui is Mauna Khalawai Island otherwise knwo as the West Maui Mountains.


Haleakala Volcano Hawaii. Source: Gettyimages (Top 10 Volcanoes In Hawaii/Hawaii Volcano Guide)

Haleakala Sunrise Tour?

To experience the true beauty of Halekala it's  recommended you take a memorable sunrise tour! This can be a guided hiking tour or a bike tour. There is also the popular zipline adventure tour! Click the widgets below for more details & to book.

8. East Molokai Volcano

The East Molokai Volcano, is otherwise known as Wailau after Wailau Valley. It is an extinct volcano which takes up nearly 70% of Moloka'i island in Hawaii.

Molokai's highest peak is called Kamakou, which stands at 4,961 feet (1,512 m). West Molokais shield volcano is Mauna Loa, the largest in the world! Thus lots of people tend to forget about is nearly 500 feet little brother.


Aerial view of Maui Coast, Hawaii (Top 10 Volcanoes In Hawaii/Hawaii Volcano Guide)

Can you stay in Molokai?

Molokai is not usually for your average Hawaii tourist. It's very quiet, traditional and rural.

Hikes in Molokai?

Halawa Valley:

One of the most scenic hikes in Molokai is Halawa Valley. On this hike you will catch glimpses of waterfalls, lagoons etc. It will take you from the ocean to the waterfall.

Best transport around Molokai?

The easiest way of getting around Molokai is to rent a car. There are two agencies, Molokai rental Car and Island Kine.

9. Oahu Island - Diamond Head

Oahu island is made from two volcanoesWaianae and Koolau. Koolau is a massive basaltic extinct volcano on the east of the island. With it's last eruption around 2.5 million years ago!

The crater is called Diamond Head, located in Honolulu. It is the home to many hiking trails and even some old military forts.


honolulu-hawaii-diamond-head. Source: Art Wager / Getty Images (Top 10 Volcanoes In Hawaii/Hawaii Volcano Guide)

Hiking up to Diamond Head:

Diamond head crater is a popular symbol of Hawaii & Waikiki and was declared a national landmark in 1968. Thus, its a must experience hike.

The hike is a moderate 1.5 mil (2.2km) hike up a narrow trail with a few steep staircases and dark tunnels on the way!

En route to the top there are various lookout posts where you can take a break and enjoy the picturesque views of Waikiki Beach, and Honolulu.

Insider Tips:

  • Head up on a clear day, this gives you the best chance of spotting Molokai and Lanai in the distance.
  • The whole trek takes between 30-50 mins, and there is not much shade so bring sunscreen, water and a sun hat.
  • To avoid the crowds & midday temperatures, set of early in the morning.!

The park opens form 6Am to 6PM and has an admission fee of $1 per person or $5 per car. You could also opt for a Diamond head tour, which leaves from Waikiki and includes transport there & back.

10. Oahu Island - Waianae

The Waianae Range rises aorund 1.2km above sea level, making it taller than neighboring Koolau volcanoWaianae is also the oldest of these two Oahu volcanoes.

Hiking at Waianae:

Popular Hiking trails include;

Ka'ala Hiking Trail

Its a challenging 7 mile round trip and takes between 4-6 hours depending up the number of breaks you have. This will take you to an elevation of 34000 feet.

The hiking trial Starts off on a concrete incline walk for about a mile then dry light elevation through the woods. Before heading along another few steep inclines. The viewpoint is behind the big air traffic radar (looks like a golf ball!)


Waianae Mountain Range Hawaii (Top 10 Volcanoes In Hawaii/Hawaii Volcano Guide)

Insider Tip:

People go hunting in the area so remember to sign in!

Location: 85-1759A Waianae Valley Rd, Waianae, HI, USA\

Puʻu O Hulu

This is  great sunrise or sunset hike it takes between 30-45 min and is rocky windy and steep at points. For the Google maps directions see:

Maili Pillbox

This is a steep climb which takes around 45mins to get to the top. Be aware, you may have to use your hands in some places.

Recommended Bucket list 
Tours:

There are a variety of tours & activities you can try in Hawaii. At Town & Tourist, we only recommended tours with providers we know are well established, have great reviews & offer a truly memorable experience!

The best ones can sell out fast though, so book well in advance. Click the widget below for further details.

Tips for visiting Active Volcanos in Hawaii?

Tip 1: DON't get too close to the LAVA! stay on the designated pathways and avoid risky areas. Newley made areas of cooled Lava can collapse into the sea without warning!

Tip 2: Wear proper Sturdy footwear. No flips flops or poor quality shoes. The lava rocks are sharp.

Tip 3: Don’t breathe the mist where the lava meets the sea. This is made up from microscopic shards of glass which if breathed in can damage your lungs.


Hawaii-volcano-sea-lava-dangers-tips (Top 10 Volcanoes In Hawaii/Hawaii Volcano Guide)

Tip 4: Bring a jacket. Even though Hawaii has a warm climate as you ascend higher the temperature will cool.

Tip 5: If you aim to head up to a summit at sunrise or sunset, make sure you don't need a reservation as these are popular times for tour groups.

Tip 6: Check the weather conditions at the park and summit before you travel..

Tip 7: Drink lots of water. It can get really warm near the lava fields.

Tip 8: Wear Sunscreen and bring a hat. The sun can be stronger at the top of the summit.

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Tobi Miles
Article updated:
March 28, 2024
A nomadic wordsmith savoring the world's flavors and penning stories that turn every journey into an epic.
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