Destinations, Family Travel, General

Hawaii Volcano: Is it safe to go to the Big Island?

Hawaii Volcano: Is it safe to go to Hawaii?

 

When you think of Hawaii, what comes to mind? Pineapples, palm trees, hula skirts and sunshine are likely high on the list.

When I think of Hawaii, I think of Randall – my friend who moved there many years ago and now runs a Guest house in Kona with his husband. I think of my first “Da Poke Shack” meal and of how awesome it was to stand in Volcanoes National Park and see that telltale red glow in the distance.

Hanging with my pal Randall at the Aloha Theatre. He doesn’t usually dress like this. He was starring in a fantastic play at the time of my visit.

So when  news broke that Kilauea – a Hawaii volcano –  had erupted, I immediately went to find word that my people (and poke) were safe.

My beloved Da Poke Shack. Yum.

Turns out I had little to fear.

Despite what has been reported on much of the news, most of Hawaii is fine. While there is one particular area that has been disrupted by the flowing lava, most of the island – and the rest of the state – are as they’ve always been.

Hawaii Volcano | Why you Should Visit Hawaii

The short story, according to my friends on the ground:  If you were planning to visit Hawaii, you should. And if you weren’t, you should.

Here’s why:

Like the Caribbean islands affected by last year’s hurricanes and the cities around the world who have suffered tragic terrorism attacks, tourism destinations (and the people whose livelihoods depend on them ) suffer when we tourists suddenly get cold feet.

The guy who sells the roast pork on the route to Hana suffers despite being an island away. And so does the shopkeeper whose pineapple prints you swooned over in Kauaii.

That’s a tough pill to swallow in situations when there’s a real reason to be fearful. Tougher still when authorities are telling us there isn’t any indication of danger beyond a very specific zone.

Recently, I had a chance to sit down with Erin Kinoshita, a representative of the Hawaii Tourism Board, at a conference in Denver. I asked her to explain for me in layman’s terms exactly what is happening and she used a map to explain just how small an area of the state is impacted. It’s about 10 square miles in area and about 100 miles from the popular tourist destination areas.

A release from the tourism representatives on island was similarly worded:

There has been considerable coverage of Kilauea’s ongoing eruption on the island of Hawaii, and some of it is inaccurate. The Island of Hawaii Visitors Bureau has been aggressively communicating that the Kilauea activity is limited to the Summit and a very small part of the island of Hawaii – less than 10 square miles. We continue to be concerned for our friends in the affected area. At the same time, to minimize the economic damage across our islands, it’s important to let the world know that it is safe to visit the island of Hawaii and all the other HawaiiIslands. For the most up-to-date information, please check: hawaiitourismauthority.org/news/special-alert/.

 

This map makes the point too:

As authorities point out, the volcano would have to pretty much set its sights intentionally on your  vacation to create any reason for tourists to fear; It would have to make its way across the waters to affect the rest of the Hawaiian island chain.

Moreover, it is distinctly south of the other islands. So even if you were afraid to go to Big Island, you can see from the maps that you can still happily and safely enjoy the other island destinations.

My friends on island tell me even reports of VOG are (here comes the pun) overblown.

“The ash is being blown by trade winds away from the other islands,” Kinoshita points out.

And from the Tourism Authority release:

“Kilauea volcano has been erupting for the past 35 years (since January 1983). Lava has reached the ocean on several occasions.”

I took this photo at Volcanoes National Park two years ago. Yup. The volcano has been doing its thing for about 35 years.

Finally, consider this: There is still no travel advisory in place to the state.

That is not to say that locals are completely unaffected. As I set this to publish there is news that people in that area directly around the volcano are struggling to get out of the area.  Lives and property are definitely at risk. My heart goes out to them and the people who are risking life and limb to save them.

But to hear the people of Hawaii tell it, cancelling your travel plans won’t change that. Hawaii is open and welcoming your visit. They need it now more than ever.

Worried things might change? Keep your eye on these sites for more information:

HawaiiTourismAuthority.org

GoHawaii.com

NPS.gov/havo

 

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