Roughly one year after closing due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Thurston Lava Tube, also known by its Hawaiian name of Nahuku, has reopened to the public at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
Park staff have created a new one-way walking trail, a half-mile loop that winds through native rainforest, into the lava tube and then back through the rainforest.
“We are excited to again share the incredible experience of walking through native rainforest into a lava tube that was formed during a Kilauea eruption more than 500 years ago,” Hawaii Volcanoes National Park superintendent Rhonda Loh said in a statement. “The one-way flow reduces social distancing conflicts in the cave and on the trail, and we are relying on visitors and our community to recreate responsibly. Please wear a mask when physical distancing cannot be achieved.”
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Nahuku is open 24 hours and is lit from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. It is recommended to bring a flashlight or headlamp when visiting after dark.
The lava tube has only seen one brief period of public access in the past few years. Nahuku was closed following the May 2018 eruption and summit collapse of Kilauea. During the eruption, large rocks were dislodged in the ceiling, and new cracks appeared. After testing was done and safety measures were implemented to ensure the tube was stable and safe to enter, it reopened in February 2020. Then the pandemic arrived, and it closed once again the following month.
Nahuku was first publicized in 1913 by Lorrin Thurston, a Honolulu publisher and supporter of establishing the park. Nahuku means “the protuberances” in Hawaiian, possibly referring to the lava stalactites that once covered the ceiling but were taken by souvenir collectors.