Thurston Lava Tube

Lit up Lava Tube called Nahuku

The Thurston Lava Tube definitely qualifies for inclusion in our Featured Attractions here on the Big Island! It is located in the heart of the Hawai’i Volcano National Forest.

Nahuku Entrance

The Thurston Lava Tube is a 600 foot naturally formed cave-like “Lava Tube” that has long been dry and has a walking trail through it with electricity to light your way.
Lava Tubes are created by hot molten lava that continuously flows rapidly and the surrounding edges harden. They flow like underground rivers and pop up to the surface sometimes and drains which leaves a hallowed out cave after the earth cools. Most of these flows will go all the way down to the ocean and seal themselves up as the flow recedes. The majority of these caves are small and long. Usually only a couple of feet wide and often many miles long. The Thurston Lava Tube is an exception.

Kilauea Lava Flow

The amount of lava coming out of the Kilauea volcano will vary from 250,000 to as much as 650,000 cubic yards every day. To give you an idea of how much that is, you could resurface a twenty mile section of a 2 lane road with that much lava… every single day.

Lava field from the 1800's appears still hot
Kilauea has been continuously erupting since 1983. The amount of lava that has come out of the volcano could pave a four lane freeway around the world 5 times!

Bridged entrance into Nahuku

The entrance to this featured 500-year old cave natural attraction is 1.3 miles from the Pu’u Pua’i Overlook in the Volcano’s National Park. There is a $10 per Car or $5 per person fee to enter the park. When traveling from the Pu’u Pua’i Overlook, there is a change in climate zones from a moonscape-like desolate surrounding to a very lush green Fern treed jungle. The Thurston Lava Tube will be on your right, parking is to the left. There is a 20 minute hike on a paved pathway with substantial stair climbing.

Hāpu'u ferns

The trail is about .33 miles through strikingly beautiful Native Hāpu’u ferns the size of a house! There are benches to rest and take in the beauty and sounds of what you would expect out of a jungle from story books. Lorrin Thurston, lawyer, politician, and businessman born and raised in Hawai’i, located this Lava Tube in 1913 and it was named after him. Getting to the entrance, after going through the fern forest you will come to a bridge leading you into the 600 foot long tunnel. The entrance of the tube is over grown with vibrantly green foliage.


Once inside the tunnel, the 40 feet ceilings will impress you. The lighting is great and you can explore the lava walls and see minerals and flow marks. A certain section of the tube you will walk on the last remnants of lava before the tube dried, like walking on a frozen creek. In the Hawaiian language, the tube is called Nahuku. We will continue to explore other ares of the park and keep you posted! If you liked this post and would like to see more, like us on Facebook or follow our Twitter account. We have lots of exploring to do here on the Big Island!



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