Is Big Island Hawaii Safe for Travel?

On May 3rd, 2018, the Kilauea Volcano on the south side of Big Island Hawaii erupted, & a 6.9 earthquake on May 4th, 2018 further exacerbated the damage already caused by the eruption.  Since then, the volcano has been continuously erupting, causing many visitors to question: is Big Island Hawaii safe for travel right now? 

Is Big Island Hawaii Safe for Travel Right Now? Girl Who Travels the World

Mauna Kea’s beautiful beach is on the northwest side of the island ~ & is unaffected by the eruption.

It turns out, my own family found themselves asking that very question a few weeks ago.  Every June, they head to the Big Island for family vacation: it’s become something of a tradition.  They all love snorkeling, & the Big Island is one of the more affordable Hawaiian Islands for a getaway.  But this year, with Kilauea’s constant eruptions, they had to decide whether it was worth it or not to visit the Big Island. 

The short answer is: they are on the Big Island right now, & have been sending me pictures all week.  After considerations, they decided to the benefits outweighed the risks.  Through their photos & firsthand experience this past week, I’ll show you what it’s like to travel to the Big Island Hawaii right now.

Is Big Island Hawaii Safe for Travel Right Now? Girl Who Travels the World, Hawaii Volcano Map

On this map, you can see how physically far away Kilauea is in the far right corner, from the resorts on the upper left side of the island. And not to mention: two MASSIVE volcanoes stand between them: Mauna Kea & Mauna Loa.

“We have heard from people around the world concerned about Hawaii’s welfare and want to reassure everyone that this is limited to a remote region on the slopes of Kilauea volcano. Everywhere else in the Hawaiian Islands is not affected.”

– Hawaiian Governor, David Ige

Map of the Big Island

Before we look at current photos of the Big Island, let’s take a look at a map of the island ~ so we can see just how far away the eruptions & most heavily affected areas are from popular tourist spots like Kona & the northern resorts, like Mauna Kea, the Four Seasons, & Mauna Lani Resort.  Areas that have been heavily affected, & NOT suitable for current travel are: Pahoa, Puna, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (which has been closed since the eruption).

Leilani Estates

Kona

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

Four Seasons

Mauna Lani

Beach 69

Two Step

Is Big Island Hawaii Safe for Travel?

The major concerns with current travel in 2018 to the Big Island is not necessarily potential evacuation (unless in the southern part of the island), but rather, respiratory problems due to poor air quality.  Two main issues can occur in terms of air quality:

Vog = Smog or haze containing volcanic dust & gases, including sulfur (found mainly in Hawaii).  Basically, “volcanic smog.” 

Laze = A combo of “lava” & “haze,” it forms through chemical reactions, as hot lava boils seawater to dryness.  The plume that is created is an irritating mixture of hydrochloric acid gas (HCl), steam, & tiny volcanicglass particles (which can be very dangerous). 

Is Big Island Hawaii Safe for Travel Right Now? Girl WHo Travels the World

Both “vog” & “laze” have been created by these eruptions & can pose respiratory risks. If you stay north of Kona, these risks should be mitigated. Photo By: SPACE.

Both “laze” & “vog” can create lung, skin, & eye irritation.  But as you can see from the photos below, neither are reaching the northwestern-most part of the island, near Waikaloa.  Kona’s air quality can be affected, mainly because of the island’s tendency towards south-westerly winds (which wrap up & around the bottom of the island).  Hilo, though closer in proximity to the eruptions, has little problem with air quality ~ as the winds don’t typically blow in that direction. 

Bottom Line: My family went as far south as Captain Cook this past week; & my nephew, in particular, suffers from asthma.  I asked the whole family if anyone experienced difficulties breathing, or respiratory issues ~ & they all said “no.”

Is Big Island Hawaii Safe for Travel?

The following photos of Big Island Hawaii were taken this past week.  You’ll see that air quality in the north-western part of the island, is near-perfect.  But as you get further south, especially past Kona, the air gets considerably hazier, as the south-westerly winds can blow some of the “vog” & “laze” up & around the bottom of the island.

Is Big Island Hawaii Safe for Travel Right Now? Girl Who Travels the World

Clear blue water & sky at Beach 69, on Big Island Hawaii.


Is Big Island Hawaii Safe for Travel Right Now? Girl Who Travels the World

Coffee-tasting & plantations are open for business on the Big Island.


Is Big Island Hawaii Safe for Travel Right Now? Girl Who Travels the World

Northern beaches are unaffected by air quality issues. Photo taken on June 12th, 2018.


Is Big Island Hawaii Safe for Travel Right Now? Girl Who Travels the World

Last year’s clear view (in 2017) from the Coffee Shack, near Captain Cook. This is the furthest south my family ventured this year.


Is Big Island Hawaii Safe for Travel Right Now? Girl Who Travels the World

This year’s view (in 2018), taken last week, from the same location at the Coffee Shack. Clearly, the air quality suffers the further south you get on the Big Island.

Is Big Island Hawaii Safe for Travel?

Though Kilauea’s eruptions have been devastating for the southern part of the Island, an unintended “side effect” for visitors to the Big Island right now is the ability to see this spectacular, yet scary show from a VERY safe distance, like up on top of Mauna Kea, at their world-renowned observatory. 

Is Big Island Hawaii Safe for Travel Right Now? Girl Who Travels the World

Volcanic action & the Milky Way visible from the top of Mauna Kea. Photo by: Steve Ransome. Taken on June 16th, 2018.


Is Big Island Hawaii Safe for Travel Right Now? Girl Who Travels the World

The moon, as witnessed from the Mauna Kea Observatory, on June 16th, 2018. Photo By: John Bertram.


Is Big Island Hawaii Safe for Travel Right Now? Girl Who Travels the World

A view of the lava action in 2017, at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (which is currently closed). Photo By: John Bertram.


Is Big Island Hawaii Safe for Travel Right Now? Girl Who Travels the World

Triple lava flow action at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park in 2017.

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Is Big Island Hawaii Safe for Travel?

Final Thoughts: If you don’t have major respiratory issues, & intend to stay in the resort areas of Waikoloa Village, Kona, or even Hilo ~ then not only is the Big Island safe for travel, but you’ll be able to get some AMAZING deals on hotel & airfare.  And, if you feel like taking an adventure to the top of Mauna Kea, you just may be able to capture some once-in-a-lifetime photos of a major event in Hawaii’s history.

Mahalo!

xoxo Noelia

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