After exploring the Kīlauea Iki Overlook and the majestic views of the Kīlauea Iki Crater, we stopped to check out the Thurston Lava Tube (Nāhuku).
We purposely did this Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park attraction early in the day because the parking area isn’t very big, it’s one of the most popular stops in the entire park, and we didn’t want to get stuck behind a huge group from a tour bus. Thankfully when we visited the Thurston Lava Tube, it was still early enough that there weren’t tons of people and we hard most of the lava tube to ourselves!
The 0.4 mile Thurston Lava Tube loop trail leaves from the parking area, passes through a dense, green, fern-covered forest, across a small bridge, and through a remarkable 400 foot long, 500 year old lava tube.
This area of the park experiences heavy rainfall so the forest surrounding the lava tube is thick and green and gorgeous. A concrete path zig-zagged through the forest and into the lava tube where the ground turned to flat, hard-packed dirt. By simply waiting a few minutes, the crowd in front of us exited the tube and we were able to enjoy our walk alone and snap some photos with no one else around!
About The Thurston Lava Tube
A lava tube is created when the outer crust of a lava flow hardens while the inner lava continues to flow. Once the flow stops and continues out of the hardened outer crust a lava tube remains.
The Thurston Lava Tube is named for Lorrin Thurston, a local newspaper publisher who discovered the tube in 1913. At the time, the roof of the lava tube was covered with stalactites, however, over the years souvenir collectors have removed them.
This Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park attraction is open 24 hours a day. During the day it is lit, making it easy to walk through, but between 8:00 pm and 10:00 am, the lights go off and it dark. If you want to walk through in the dark, go ahead! Just be sure to bring your own flashlight.
Know Before You Go
- The Thurston Lava Tube is located 0.5 mile from the Kīlauea Iki Overlook and 2.5 miles from the Kīlauea Visitor Center on Crater Rim Drive in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park.
- Walking the Thurston Lava Tube takes you on a 0.4 mile loop trail through a lush rainforest and a 500 year old lava tube.
- Restrooms are available near the entrance to the trail.
- Arrive early in the morning to avoid huge crowds, a full parking lot, and tour buses.