Mauna Loa erupts: visiting the world's largest active volcano
Taking up over half the entire land mass of the Big Island of Hawaii, Mauna Loa is the largest active volcano in the world. And in November 2022, for the first time in nearly 40 years, it erupted again, with lava flows and the exotic-sounding Pele's Hair (strands of lava glass) creating breathtaking views.
Here are the top tips on how to explore this natural wonder.
Big Island, big volcano(es)
Located inside Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Mauna Loa is part of a group of five volcanoes that form the very structure of Hawaii Island: the tallest volcano in the world, Mauna Kea; the home of the famed Hawaiian fire goddess Pele (and also currently active) Kilauea; and two other smaller volcanoes, Kohala and Hualalai.
Mauna Loa covers over 2,000 square miles, and its newly reignited eruption of lava continues to add to its size — and help the volcano live up to its namesake meaning of "long mountain."
Best way to view
Mauna Loa attracts over one million visitors a year, and now that it's erupting again, it's even more of a must-see destination.
The best times to view the reddish-hued glow and rivers of lava flowing are at night or just before sunrise. But you'll need to plan carefully, as some of the areas around the volcano are now closed during its eruption. The main areas of the park are open but check for road closures (currently, Mauna Loa Road is closed to cars starting at Kipukapuaulu) as well as pedestrians as you head toward the summit.
During the closures, one of the best spots to see Mauna Loa is from the viewing areas along the aforementioned sister volcano Kilauea — and you may even get to catch a glimpse of a rare dual eruption of Kilauea's summit lava flows.
While in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, you can also explore more than 150 miles of hiking trails for adventures like trekking through lava tubes and over wild volcanic landscapes, including the famous Crater Rim Trail across Kilauea or the Sulphur Banks Trail and the Kilauea Iki Overlook.
Insider tips and where to stay
Remember that conditions can change rapidly, so always check the park website right before your visit for closure and safety updates, including air quality and viewing tips. You can also take a peek at the latest lava action ahead of your trip via the USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory webcam.
As for what to bring, make sure to pack warm clothes for night (and pre-dawn) viewing trips, plus rain jackets and flashlights (headlamps are great!). Stay at Outrigger Kona Resort and Spa, the closest resort to the volcano (less than a two-hour drive) and just 30 minutes from the Kona International Airport. It's also a great home base for other Hawaiian adventures, from night-swimming with manta rays to savoring the island's most crush-worthy superfruit.