Hawaii volcanoes are known as “shield” volcanoes, gently sloping mountains produced from a lot of very wet, fast-moving lava flows. Each island is made up of at least one primary volcano.
These volcanoes primarily erupt a type of rock, known by geologists and vulcanologist as basalt. When in a “molten” state, basalt produces the fluid lava that you see running down the mountains and valleys.
The Big Island, though, is home to five major volcanoes: Kilauea, Mauna Loa, Mauna Kea, Hualalai and Kohala. Mauna Loa is the largest active volcano on earth. But Kilauea is the most active volcano in terms of how much lava it erupts each year.
On the Big Island, Kilauea, which ancient Hawaiians believed was the physical manifestation of the fury of the mountain goddess, Pele, is Hawaii’s most active volcano. It has added 550 acres of coastal land since eruptions beagan in 1983. Hot rivers of molten orange lava, flowing downhill can be seen most any evening of the year.
The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, two hour’s drive from Kona and five hours from Kohala, can be the highlight of your vacation. Open year round, one can explore the many aspects of Kilauea volcano. Much of the best hiking on the Big Island is found within this park. And a visit to the park will give you an up-close view, since you can’t really see the mountain from anywhere else on the island Visit Hawaii Volcano National Park
In addition to Kilauea, two other Hawaii volcanoes are active. Mauna Loa, which last erupted in 1984; and Loihi, which erupted in 1996. But for an up-close look at volcanoes, the Kilauea volcano is where you want to be. It is sometimes referred to as the “drive-in” volcano.
Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea, also on the Big Island of Hawaii, stand more than 13,700 feet high. Both have frequent snowstorms during the winter. Mauna Kea even has year-round snow fields near its pinnacle. Imagine being able to ski in Hawaii!
When you move along the island chain from Big Island in the south, where volcanoes are more active, to the northwest part of the chain, the volcanoes become older — and less active. Hualalai, with its last recorded eruption occurring in 1801; and Haleakala, which last erupted way back in 1790! Waianae is also considered inactive. Plus, the two primary volcanoes that make up the island of Oahu have not erupted for well over a million years! Click here for more information on Hawaii volcanoes.