Visitors swarm to Kalapana lava flow
HILO, Hawai'i — County officials estimate as many as 7,000 to 8,000 people used a newly opened access road Saturday to visit the lava flows at Kalapana, and that about 2,000 more arrived Sunday despite a lull in the lava flow through the area.
Big Island Mayor Harry Kim said the crowds that swarmed into the area caused some tension in a community unaccustomed to large numbers of tourists, but said the problems were "minimal."
"Remember, this is their home. That's what I try to make people understand. ... This is their home and we are infringing in their home," Kim said.
One landowner became upset at trash left behind by visitors, and a tourist suffered minor injuries when she tripped and fell on the trail, county officials said.
The lava flow to the ocean stalled Sunday, but appeared to be picking up again yesterday, with a large steam plume reappearing at the site of the ocean entry, county officials said.
The lava access road will continue to open at 2 p.m. each day this week, and will close at 10 p.m. The last cars will be allowed in the gate at 8 p.m. so that state and county workers can clear the area by the time the area closes.
To get there, travel south from Hilo on Highway 11 to the junction with Highway 130 at Kea'au. Take Highway 130 past Pahoa until the highway ends at the access road to the lava viewing area.
After parking along the two-mile access road, walk to the trailhead and then hike about a half-mile over old lava to the viewing site. Bring water and a flashlight for night viewing.