On the Big Island of Hawaii, there is a town called Kalapana that was almost entirely covered by lava in 1991. The flow is still active today and can be viewed just outside of town. We wanted to check it out, but ended up with a totally different spectacle.

The goal of the hike was reaching active lava flow, so we woke up and left long before dawn, hoping the glow would be still visible in the dark by the time we’d get there. But luck wasn’t on our side and we saw none…although just a few days earlier the lava was flowing on the surface right next to the road.


We walked for about 3 hours, trekking through a field of rocks that were once molten and then hardened again. We came very close to an active lava tube, and stood on land that looked like it was liquid only a few hours ago. At the tunnel’s entrance the rocks were still warm and made crackling noises every now and then. It was unsettling: sitting on a rock and not only hearing, but also feeling the cracking and popping coming from the ground under you and all around. The lava tube was easy to find due to a patch of fog hanging directly above it, possibly formed because of the warm air. That fog is simple to spot during both day and night.

Even with no fresh lava visible, it was amazing — walking on the rock field and greeting the sunrise, especially since I rarely get to do that and usually mostly see sunsets.

And then the sun was up, and after a short shower we saw a rainbow! And a very impressive one at that — to be correct, there were two, and both were very bright. The best thing was that they appeared to be coming right out of the ground nearby, something neither one of us has seen before. Perhaps it was because of increased visibility with the black lava dominating the background. Or perhaps the Hawaiian gods have allowed us to enjoy another beautiful view instead of the one we didn’t get to see.


The rainbow looked like it was only a few meters from us. You could clearly see the colorful stripes fade away against the black lava background. We sat around for a while, not wanting to leave, but eventually had to get going. There was a 2-hour hike ahead of us, and trekking on lava while the sun is high becomes significantly harder: the heat is unbearable, and eyes will get tired very fast. Madam Pele must have not been willing to receive any guests that day…

We did get to witness active lava on many other occasions. We watched it move, fall into the ocean and even got to poke it with a stick. But that is a story for another time.

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