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Hawai’i’s Mauna Loa Erupts: What to Expect for Travel

by Aoife O’Riordan

Nov 30, 2022

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eFlyer Lead

Mauna Loa, the world’s most active volcano, erupted for the first time in nearly 40 years this past Sunday. The Hawai’ian volcano, located on Hawai’i Island, last erupted in 1984, when lava came within just 4.5 miles of Hilo. Scientists believe the lava flow of this most recent eruption could threaten Hilo and its populated areas.

For those planning to travel to Hawai’i soon, Hawai’i Tourism Authority states there is no need to change any travel plans at the moment. That said, this may change in the coming days depending on different factors.

Some airlines already implanted changes in response to the eruption. Southwest Airlines suspended all flights and operations in Hilo. Additionally, Southwest Airlines and Hawaiian Airlines offer travel waivers for those with upcoming flights to different destinations in Hawai’i. Hawai’i Island’s two major airports — Hilo International Airport and Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport at Keāhole — are operating normally at the time of this release.

Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park also closed several areas of the park, including roads to the volcano and caldera. The park does remain open to visitors aside from these specific closures. The state expects visitors to flock to the volcano; however, as the aftereffects of the eruption die down.

The Hawaiian Department of Health warns locals and travelers of worsening air quality in the coming days, as well. The department advises people potential health hazards like airborne ash, sulfur dioxide and volcanic smog might increase. Strand-like glass fibers formed by the eruption’s gas can potentially travel downwind in the next few days, and people might experience short-term effects like coughing or shortness of breath.

Major resort areas of Hilo and the Kohala Coast do not lie immediately downslope from the eruption and do not have any current emergency orders. The Hawai’i Department of Tourism recommends visitors staying in communities downslope of the volcano have emergency preparedness plans in place should an evacuation be ordered. The department also urges visitors in short-term vacation rentals to contact their hosts for more information. The other islands, including Maui, O’ahu, Lanai and Ni’ihau, are not impacted by the eruption and continue operating as normal.

Do you have upcoming travel plans to Hawai’i? Have your travel plans been affected in the past from a volcanic eruption? Do you plan to visit Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park in the next year? Tell us your thoughts. Email us at [email protected]. Please include your full name and location.

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