Hawaii Travel

Hawaii Kilauea Volcano – History and Fun Facts

Are you planning to go on a vacation with family or friends? You may want to visit the beautiful islands of Hawaii and go on a unique tour of the majestic Kilauea volcano. Kilauea is the most active among the five volcanoes that form the island of Hawaii.

Hawaii is the 50th and youngest state of the United States of America and is the only US state located outside the Americas. It is a volcanic archipelago nestled in the Central Pacific Ocean. Kilauea is one of the most popular tourist spots in Hawaii.

Hundreds of islands form the volcanic archipelago. The eight main islands are Kahoolawe, Kauai, Lanai, Maui, Molokai, Nihau, Oahu, and the island of Hawaii. The last is often called the “Big Island” to avoid confusion with Hawaii, the state.

The History of Kilauea Volcano

  • Kilauea is one of Earth’s most active (if not the most active) volcanoes. It rises 4,190 feet (1,227 meters) above sea level. The volcano is located on the southeastern side of the Big Island of Hawaii and comprises about 14 % of the island’s land area.
  • Kilauea is a shield-type volcano, meaning it has a broad, gently sloping cone (resembling a warrior’s shield). Shield-type volcanoes are considered as the largest volcanoes on Earth. It is just one of the five volcanoes that make up Hawaii.
  • The last known volcanic eruption was on January 3, 1983, and has been ongoing up to this day; that is more than 30 years and counting! The short eruptions produced thick lava flows that usually cool before reaching the coast. On July 1983, the lava made its advance toward the Royal Gardens subdivision, destroying homes in the exclusive village.
  • Kilauea’s most destructive eruption happened in March 1990, burying structures with 50 to 80 feet of lava. On March 3, 2012, or after 29 years, the last house standing in the Royal Gardens subdivision was finally abandoned by 61-year-old Jack Thompson. He was evacuated by helicopter as he watched his home being engulfed by hot lava.
  • The first documented eruption of Kilauea occurred in 1823, roughly the same time when the volcano was first observed. Since that time, Kilauea has erupted 61 times, making it one of the most active volcanoes on Earth. Scientists say that in the last 11,700 years, Kilauea may have erupted 95 times.
  • The Kilauea volcano has a large summit caldera (which measures 4 x 3.2 km) with a central crater called Halema’uma’u. A caldera is a sinkhole-like depression on the surface resulting from emptying the magma chamber and the eventual collapse of the volcano’s center. According to Hawaiian legends, it is the home of Pele the fire goddess.
  • There are five volcanoes on Hawaii’s Big Island:
  1. Kilauea – one of the most active volcanoes on the planet, erupting since January 3, 1983.
  2. Mauna Loa – largest volcano on Earth.
  3. Mauna Kea – if elevation below the sea is counted, this can be considered as the tallest mountain in the world.
  4. Hualalai – lies on the western side of the Big Island.
  5. Kohala – an extinct volcano that is still part of the island of Hawaii


hawaii-kilauea-volcano-history-and-fun-facts-1Fun Facts about the Kilauea Volcano

  • Where did it get its name? Kilauea is a Hawaiian word that means “spewing” or “much spreading” because of its constant lava flows. The age of the volcano is between 300,000 to 600,000 years old (that is young for a volcano).
  • Kilauea is the youngest of the five volcanoes on the Big Island of Hawaii. For many years, it was thought that it was only a part of its giant neighbor, the Mauna Loa volcano. Research conducted shows that it is an independent volcano with its own magma-plumbing system.
  • In July 1934, then US President Franklin D. Roosevelt came to Hawaii. He was the 1st ever president to visit the volcano’s crater. To appease the fire goddess Pele, the president made an offering of ohelo berries. Apparently, it was not effective, as the volcano erupted two months later.
  • The first Hawaiians lived along the shores of the island, where food, water, and other resources were plentiful. Local species of birds became a staple food source. Human settlements had a significant impact on the ecosystem, such as the extinction of some animal species and the introduction of foreign plants and animals.
  • Despite the dangers associated with the volcano, it still supports a living ecosystem. Much of it can be found at the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. It is home to a variety of bird species, hawksbill sea turtles, ferns, vines, and trees.
  • Because of its location more than 2,000 miles from the nearest landmass, it is one of the most isolated places in the world. A majority of the species living on the island are endemic, meaning it cannot be found anywhere else on the planet.
  • Like other Hawaii volcanoes, Kilauea formed as the Pacific tectonic plate moved toward the Hawaiian hotspot in the earth’s mantle. Kilauea started out as a submarine volcano, slowly building itself up thru a series of explosive eruptions 50,000 to 100,000 years ago.
  • The five volcanoes of Hawaii are considered sacred mountains. In Hawaiian mythology, Wakea (the sky father) married Papa (the earth mother), giving birth to the islands of Hawaii. Kilauea symbolizes the body of Pele – the goddess of fire, wind, lightning, and volcanoes.
  • The famous crater of the volcano is called Halema’uma’u, “hale” meaning house, and “ma uma u” meaning a type of fern. Legend has it that the rain god Kamapua’a, a rejected suitor of the fire goddess Pele, built a house of ferns on top of the crater to prevent her from escaping and causing eruptions. But he failed, and the volcano kept on erupting.
  • To prevent an all-out war between the two, the other gods proposed a truce and divided the island between them. Kamapua’a got the moist windward side, while Pele received the drier Kona or leeward side. 

Popular Tourist Spot


Kilauea is one of the most famous tourist spots in Hawaii. It became a tourist attraction from the 1840s onwards, with local businessmen putting up hotel chains, including the Volcano House – the only hotel located within the borders of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Kilauea is a popular tourist attraction, visited by 2.6 million people annually. The Kilauea Visitor Center is located near the park’s entrance. Another famous tourist attraction is the Thomas A. Jaggar Museum which offers the best view of the volcano.

You can find lodging in the Volcano House and the Volcano Village. Tourists can go hiking or avail of guided ranger programs. Access is through the Hilina Pali Road, Chain of Craters Road, and Crater Rim Drive.

Enjoy The Magnificence of the Kilauea Volcano

Consider visiting the beautiful islands of Hawaii and be treated to a rare and magnificent sight – the Kilauea volcano. It is one of the most active volcanoes in the world and one of Hawaii’s most popular tourist spots.

The best time to view Kilauea is just before dawn. The Hawaii Volcanoes National Park offers hiking trails for tourists who want to explore the landscape and experience Mother Nature’s majestic beauty.

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