An impressive nocturnal light display that began early this month at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park may be responsible for an uptick in travel to the Big Island and the park. With Hawaiian national park visitation down significantly, even the smallest boost in visitation is something to be welcomed.
More people have flown to the Big Island on Hawaiian Airlines this past week. High atop Kilauea’s caldera rim, Volcano House reports that nighttime restaurant trade is up and so are room reservations. Eco-tour company Hawai'i Forest and Trail says it might add a nighttime volcano tour. These and other bits of anecdotal information, such as the hundreds of people gathering each night at the Jaggar Museum overlooks, suggest that the latest of nature’s light shows at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is attracting more visitors to the park and giving the Big Island’s hospitality industry a chance to part them from some of their money.
At the center of attention is a vivid, spectacularly beautiful glow that has been seen each night this month from various vantage points in the park, the closest public one being the Jaggar Museum overlooks (1.2 miles away). The source of “the glow,” as it has come to be known, is a lava-filled vent in Kilauea’s Halema'uma'u Crater. What spectators see is not the hot lava itself, but rather the illuminated gas plume rising from the vent. The glow disappears during the daytime, when the gas plume is simply opaque white in appearance.
The level of the lava in the crater fluctuates a bit on a day to day basis, and so does the brightness of the noctural glow. At some point the glow will finally disappear or diminish to uninteresting levels. Unfortunately, there’s no way of knowing when that might happen.
People who want to see the glow for themselves should be sure to get updated information (including weather conditions and visibility) before going to the park. To see daily reports on the status of Kilauea volcanic activity, as well as relevant maps, photos, and webcam images, visit this USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory site.
The Jaggar Museum has been staying open until 9:30 p.m. to accommodate the big crowds (exceeding 400 at times) that have been showing up each night to see the glow. If the park’s entrance kiosk is open, visitors lacking passes must pay the usual park admission fee ($10 per vehicle).