P'u'u 'O'o Ocean Entry - Hawaii

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In an effort to gain respite from the falling water of Waipi'o Valley we decided to visit the flowing lava of the Pu`u `O`o vent of Kilauea Volcano on the south side of the big island. We qualified ourselves for a backcountry permit at the Visitor's Center at Volcano National Park and then hiked into Napau Crater and camped overnight within a mile of  Pu`u `O`o. We shared the campsite with a Danish volcanologist and his wife, and a local photographer named Jamie and her husband. All night long, about every 45 minutes, Pu`u `O`o roared like a Boeing 747 at takeoff, and we could taste the acid rain and feel it burning in our eyes.

We returned a few days later to visit the Ocean Entry of the lava flow about 6 miles further south and 3,000 feet lower. When the lava contacts the seawater it hardens immediately and dams up the tube. After a minute or so, the pressure builds up and causes a small explosion throwing rock, lava, and steam into the air and forming a cinder cone about 30 feet high. The steam plumes are thousands of feet high and can be seen from anywhere on the south coast, even from South Point, 60 miles away. As it gets darker, the explosions become a brilliant pyrotechnic display.

Here is the secret for getting the best view of the volcano (or anything else on the Big Island for that matter): Stay at the Dolphin Bay Motel in Hilo, visit the motel's incredible garden to gain an understanding that you are in a very special place, and then go ask John for directions.