Visit Hawai’i: You’ll be fine

The view from Jagger Visitor Center in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. Glowing lava in the caldera makes an evening visit spectacular. Image by DeWaine Tollefsrud

First the cracks appeared in local streets in a corner of Hawai’i, often accompanied by earthquakes that rattled nerves. The fissures widened, local officials put metal plates over them and warned residents to stay away — something big was happening. Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, where a cauldron of bubbling molten rock simmered all day and night within view of visitors, became less of a tourist attraction and more of a scientific headquarters. Would she, or wouldn’t she? She, of course, is the goddess Pele, who controls Kilauea and all the other volcanoes central to the Hawaiian Islands existence. 

The air smelled of sulphur, and then the lava came. First to Leilani Estates along the East Rift Zone, then farther, toward the Puna district, site of a previous flow in the 1950’s. That was a month ago. 

Images are horrifying and captivating. More than 50 homes have been lost, roads and routes ruined, and it is clear that an entirely new plan needs to be made for this little corner of the Big Island. 

But you should still visit Hawai’i

According to recent reports, tourism is down as much as 50% in some places, mostly, residents and tourism industry pros believe, because we’ve managed to sensationalize Kilauea as a monster volcano destined to cover the entire 4,028 square miles with liquid death. 

Let’s take a deep, cleansing breath and discuss this. 

Of all the islands, Hawai’i is our favorite. Lush jungles, rocky shorelines, sandy beaches, and an incredible connection to a culture that places the spirit of aloha in the center of everything. 

And that’s why you should go. 

There’s a wealth of activities not affected by the volcano, lava, or poison gas. In fact, most of the activities the average Big Island visitor enjoys are far from the hazard zone. Take a look at this map, below, provided by Big Island TV. 

This graphic provides perspective regarding the recent eruption of Kilauea volcanoe on Hawaii’s Big Island. Image courtesy Big Island TV.

Yes, visitors should be vigilant, especially within the realm of not attempting to enter closed areas, or even driving toward them, for the sake of a social media winner. Lives are being affected in dramatic and tragic ways, so just don’t.

You can help by visiting the rest of the island. Head up to Hawi and view waterfalls, try a zipline, or just chill in the middle of this tiny little funkytown. Hit up Spencer Beach Park along the sandy West Shore, where we love to relax among the locals, sharing our beach toys and laughs with other folks. Kona has had troubles with “vog” this morning, a thick, sulfur-fog mix that relies upon the trade winds to blow it away, but even so, activities like snorkeling, swimming, and taking in the historic sights are still on. 

My friend Dewaine Tollefsrud, part-time Alaskan, most-of-the-time Hawai’i resident owns HoloHolo Adventures in the Puna District. He says people should come to the Big Island, “without hesitation.” 

“The area affected is so small,” he told me, “and so far away from all the fantastic opportunities on the Big Island.” 

Tollefsrud also said that the Hilo side of the island is indeed open for business. Our favorite farmers market is located there. A fabulous museum that teaches about tsunamis is right downtown, and is worth visiting. The botanical gardens, Coconut Island, and Rainbow Falls are not far away either. 

Red Lehua blossoms glow in the bottom of Kilauea Iki crater. Do not pick them, or face the wrath of rainfall. Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

Go Hawaii, the official tourism authority of the islands, is ready to help visitors navigate a safe and enjoyable Big Island experience. 

Go Hawai’i, indeed. 





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