Head deep into the rainforest to walk in this ancient tunnel carved from lava and marvel at the astonishing power of nature.
Venture into the lush rainforest of Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park and walk a trail rich with tropical plants to reach Thurston Lava Tube. This incredible natural wonder is a testament to the strength of the volcanic forces which shaped the Hawaiian Islands. A dramatic tunnel created by the movement of molten lava, the tube is big enough for an adult to easily walk straight through it.
When lava flows in large quantities, the outer part cools and hardens first while the inner part keeps flowing, often resulting in a tube or tunnel shape. In the case of Thurston Lava Tube, known as Nahuku in Hawaiian, the tunnel is an astounding 600 feet (183 meters) in length and in places over 20 feet (6 meters) tall. The tunnel’s existence was first recorded in 1913 by Lorrin Thurston, a local newspaper publisher. Although many other lava tubes have been found on the Big Island, this one remains a particularly impressive example of this natural phenomenon.
From the entrance to the Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, set out by car or on foot on the 2-mile (3-kilometer) route that leads to Thurston Lava Tube, which is located on the Kilauea Volcano. Breathe in the heavy, rich air of the park, created by the dense foliage that curls over and around the trail. Listen for the calls of birds and the rustle of animals on the move. Chances are high of spotting something interesting along the way.
Oversized ferns and ʻōhiʻa lehua trees with huge red blossoms close in from all sides. It may seem as if a dinosaur could come crashing through the dense foliage at any time. Animals that really do live in the park include everything from geckos to seals to owls. Set aside a whole day to explore not just the lava tube, but the incredible landscape that surrounds it. Many visitors even camp here overnight.
Thurston Lava Tube is easily accessible, even with children. Reach it more quickly by parking at the lot by Kīlauea Iki. From here, the walk to the tube is half a mile (1 kilometer), but it’s no chore to walk a path this beautiful.