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Kilauea Volcano Eruption: Yes, The Hawaiian Islands Are Still Safe For Travel

With so many of our partners and friends located in Hawaii, it’s hard for us to sit back and let the news of the Big Island’s Kilauea volcano go unedited.

Instead of relying on a Google search or newscaster to update us on the status of Hawaii tourism, we decided to get the perspective of those that know it best: local tour and activity operators.

What we found is that their opinion matches that of the Hawaii Tourism Board; the Hawaiian Islands are just as safe (and wonderful) as ever.

The only major change the eruption has brought travelers? Lower prices and fewer crowds. Get the whole story below.

Is it safe to travel to Hawaii?

Waipio Valley Big Island Hawaii

As a tourist visiting any island in Hawaii, there is absolutely nothing to worry about. Apart from the area in immediate proximity to the volcano, flights are operating as normal, air quality is largely unchanged and tourism infrastructure is solidly in place.

In other words; unless your plans explicitly included a visit the Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, which has been closed until further notice, your travel plans will be entirely unaffected by the current events.

Big Island—things to know:

  • On May 17th, the Hawaii Tourism Board stated that “There is absolutely no reason for visitors planning a trip to the Hawaiian Islands to change or alter their leisure or business travel plans.”
  • The USGS has issued a red alert for aircraft flying into or out of the immediate area, cautioning them to pay attention to hazardous ash and rock debris emerging from the caldera. Air quality surrounding the caldera can be hazardous due to ash plumes and gaseous emissions.
  • The USGS anticipates more activity. Be aware that there may be more volcanic activity, although any resulting hazards will be contained to the immediate area surrounding the caldera.

The alerts issued by the USGS are relevant only to the areas directly surrounding the caldera. Towns as close as neighboring Kona, a popular tourist destination on the opposite side of the Big Island, remain unaffected by the recent volcanic activity.

With all of this taken into account, the Hawaii Tourism Board encourages travelers to follow through with their travel plans. In fact, supporting Hawaii tourism—an industry that so many local families and businesses depend on—is the best thing you can do for those affected.

And it might not be a bad choice for your budget either.

As Chris of Kailani Tours Hawaii pointed out, “There are some incredible deals to be had right now. Lines are shorter, traffic is better, restaurants have availability and I’m sure everyone is willing to make a deal right now.

There couldn’t be a better time to take advantage of everything there is to see on our beautiful island!”

Even for Kailani Tours Hawaii, which is known for their volcano and lava tours, there’s still plenty to show off. They’re taking travelers to visit Hawaii Island’s famous lookouts, valleys, and waterfalls. And their “expert guides are really having fun exploring the island with smaller groups and creating more personal experiences with our guests.”

For Big Island tour operators whose tours don’t intersect with the volcano, it’s just another day in paradise. Jim Redekopp of the Hawaii Vanilla Company, which sits just an hour drive away from the volcano, says “We are still full speed ahead. The Big Island is huge, so we’re still open for business and looking forward to spoiling you when you arrive.”

The Hawaii we all dream of is still in session. Warm water, long stretches of beach, colorful reefs, canopy ziplines, ATV rides—all of it open for business.

The breakdown on Kilauea

hawaii kilauea volcano

After weeks of seismic activity, new fissures and lava flow, the Kilauea volcano erupted on the morning of May 17th, releasing a massive ash plume that rose 30,000 feet above the summit.

Photos of the massive plume served as a dramatic reminder of Hawaii’s roots as an island chain formed by a volcanic hot spot. And as a result, businesses on every island were hit with mass cancellations as tourists canceled their plans to visit the Aloha State.

Yet for most locals, Kilauea’s awakening is just a part of life in Hawaii. After all, Kilauea is one of the world’s most active volcanoes and has been erupting continuously since 1983.

How has the volcano affected Hawaii locals?

Napali Coast Kauai

While the Hawaiian Island are unarguably safe for travelers, the recent events have been difficult for those located at the heart of the affected areas.

However, the USGS has been anticipating the eruption, and thus been very meticulous with safety precautions. As a result, all residing in close perimeter to the volcano were safely evacuated, and no deaths or major injuries are tied to the recent eruption.

Coincidentally, for the Big Island of Hawaii, the effect of media reports has proved more damaging than the actual physical eruption of the Kilauea volcano.

As mentioned by Chris Paterson, “Sensational media reports a few weeks ago all the way up to today painted a very inaccurate picture of what’s happening on the Big Island.

Only 10+ of 4000 square miles were impacted by flowing lava.”

He mentioned that “as a tour operator, we see this as a local issue whereas the media took it as an international incident. I suppose it depends on your perspective.”

Still, Chris and his team are staying positive, using the downtime “to take stock, recharge and spend time with friends and family. We know that a busy summer is ahead so we’ll be well-rested for when the busy season cranks up again.”

And for the rest of Hawaii? The state as a whole is largely unshaken by Kilauea, meaning your island trip demands the same safety advice as always: be cautious, be respectful and enjoy all the Aloha that Hawaii has to offer.