Thurston Lava Tube

Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park

"Most of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park remains closed due to increased and damaging earthquakes, corrosive volcanic ash, and continuing explosions from Halema‘uma‘u, the summit crater of Kīlauea Volcano." Read More from the National Parks Service.

Round Trip Mileage: 1/3 mile

Elevation Gain: 0’

Gear: Standard hiking gear. Don't forget a raincoat. This hike begins at 4000' above sea level, so expect cooler conditions. Bring light sources if you plan to visit the lava tube when the lights are off (see below).

Weather: NOAA forecast for Nāhuku

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Map: Topographical Map of Nāhuku

Overview: Nāhuku is a great short diversion while driving along Crater Rim Drive. This isn't much of a hike but more of a short stroll. This lava tube is paved and lighted providing a safe and easy way to visit. A lava tube forms when low viscosity lava forms a hard crust that thickens and forms a roof over the still-flowing lava. Lorrin Thurston, a local newspaper publisher, discovered Nāhuku in 1913. Nāhuku formed 500 years ago.

As of early 2018, the National Parks Service installed a new lighting system in Nāhuku. To allow visitors a more authentic experience, the lights are kept off from 8pm - 10am each day. Visitors must carry their own light sources before 10am and after 8pm when visiting Nāhuku. Headlamps are recommended - cell phone lights will not be sufficient to stay safe.


Getting to the Trailhead: Find the entrance to Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park a few miles to the west of the town of Volcano Village. Pass through the entrance and drive straight ahead for less than 100 feet and turn left onto Crater Rim Drive. Follow Crater Rim drive for a few miles until you reach the large parking area for Kīlauea Iki and Nāhuku (Thurston Lava Tube). This is a popular area and sometimes fills up quickly. If parking is full, turn around and drive 1/4 mile back toward the Visitor Center and find another overflow parking lot. Nāhuku is busiest from 10am-2pm.

The Hike: From the parking area,  walk across the road on the designated pedestrian crosswalk. Find the entrance to the lava tube and walk the 600 foot long cave. Ascend a few stairs and loop back to the parking area through beautiful rainforest.