Before Kilauea Erupted – An Elegy to Puna, Volcano and Hilo

While jotting down our memories of Hawaii, I glanced at the Map and realized that many places that we visited dont exist anymore. Pele has been reclaiming her land.

Day 1: Hilo

As we stepped out of the airport, we were greeted by a light drizzle. Hilo was a far cry from bustling Honolulu. The rains and greenery lulled us into a state of Zen.

The city has a quirkiness to it – art, free spirited souls, eye grabbing tattoos, home brewed kombucha. You can feel the vibe in the air!



We stopped at Pineapple’s for a quick bite. The food was forgettable, the perky women in the restroom were not.

Perky Pineapples!


We drove through the hinterlands – rolling fields and orchards- with not a soul in sight to reach The Inn at Kulaniapia Falls. The 20 minute drive to the place is really beautiful…..and makes you philosophical.



The Inn at Kulaniapia Falls has a private waterfall all to itself. It’s cut off from civilization and is powered by hydroelectricity.   We had a beautiful view from our balcony of Kulaniapia and were lulled to sleep by the gurgling water.


Day 2: Kapoho Tide Pools, Ahalanui Hot Ponds

We planned our day’s itinerary over breakfast -served with the gorgeous Kulaniapia in the background.

Before we left the place, the romantic in the husband took me on a spin on his paddle-board. The water was freezing – but the memories were well worth it.

Hawaiian paddle-boarder taking his girl out for a spin

We waved our goodbyes and headed to Lower Puna.

Our first stop was the Kapoho Tide Pools. Sadly, these pools no longer exist because of the volcano eruption.

These are shallow pools sheltered from the ocean. It’s like snorkeling in a large bathtub.

Relaxing in the Hot Pond at Ahalanui


After an hour here, we packed our bags and headed to my favourite place in Hilo – Ahalanui Park. Ahalanui has a large hot pond adjoining the ocean. The water is heated by magma from the volcano. We spent a couple of hours soaking in the warm water and watching the waves break. A gentle breeze wafted the sound of music from a local band to our ears.

At 6PM, we reluctantly left the place and made our way to the Kilauea Lodge in Volcano

Day 3: Exploring an Active Volcano – the day it decided to erupt

At 3 AM, we were up and headed to the Kalapana Lava Viewing Area with our guides.

With the aid of flashlights, we started our hike over miles and miles of lava that had cooled down. Hiking over cooled lava is like hiking over shards of glass. The terrain is uneven and you can easily hurt yourself.

At 7AM, we felt a slight tremor beneath us – a small earthquake! Since this was volcano territory, and earthquakes were not uncommon, we decided to continue our hike.

The first rays of the sun showed us that we were hiking in an alien land – acres of black lava around us. We were exhausted, tired and out of breath…..but since we had come so far, we kept climbing up.

We finally saw vents of steam ahead of us. The rocks around us were warm. As we turned a corner, we saw lava pulsing and slowly emerging out of a rock. The sight was humbling…we were witnessing creation.

Tired but happy at getting to witness lava, we turned back and made our way down. The hike down seemed to be even more strenuous – we now had the sun beating down on us mercilessly.

At 11AM, we finally reached the start of our hike and were greeted by a worried Civil Defense. The Lava viewing fields had been cordoned off because of unusual volcanic activity that morning. We were lucky to have made it out alive. The volcano started erupting the next day.

We reached the Kilueau Lodge and collapsed in bed for the next 5 hours. The outdoor Jacuzzi was a welcome luxury and soothed our aching joints.

That night, we drove to the Jaggar Museum to view the Lava Lake in the Halemaumau Crater. We huddled together in the darkness, watching the mesmerizing dance unfold in front of us – red, hot angry lava bubbling and exploding in the distance. We should have known that Pele was waking up from her long slumber.


Day 4: Puna Black Sand Beach and Drive to Kona

In hindsight, we had been very lucky with timing. Had we planned our trip a day later, we would have missed everything – the volcano would have been cordoned off and Lower Puna would have been off limits because of earthquakes.

Not knowing what would unfold in the next few days, we blithely made our way out of Volcano and drove to Kona – safer ground.

On the way, we stopped at the Punaluu black sand beach and spotted some large sea turtles.



A month after our visit, the volcano continues to erupt and has displaced hundreds of residents in Lower Puna. Many of the places we visited dont exist anymore. And the fate of the Jaggar Museum and Hawaii Volcanoes National park hangs in balance as the Halemaʻumaʻu Crater widens and reclaims land around it.

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