Nahuku Thurston Lava Tube: Exploring the Subterranean Wonders of Hawaii’s Volcanic Legacy

Of all the fascinating places to visit in Volcanoes National Park, Nahuku Thurston Lava Tube is a spectacular place to visit and easy hike around this attraction. A short trail that covers a lush canopy of tree fern trees, ohia and other native plants brings you to the opening of this iconic lava tube that was created over 500 years ago.

Nahuku (meaning Proturbances) Thurston Lava Tube is again open for this wonderful hike through the forested canopy and short trail into the lava tube walk.

Nahuku Thurston Lava Tube
Explore the Nahuku Thurston Lava Tube in Volcanoes National Park

Where is thurston lava tube located?

Thurston Lava Tube, also known as Nahuku, is located in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island of Hawaii. The exact address is:

Thurston Lava Tube (Nahuku) Hawaii Volcanoes National Park Hawaii, USA

It’s a popular attraction within the national park and offers visitors a chance to explore a unique lava cave formed by past volcanic activity. It’s easily accessible from the park’s main visitor center and is a fascinating natural wonder to explore.

Nahuku Thurston Lava Tube

Nahuku Thurston Lava Tube formed through a fascinating geological process that is characteristic of volcanic activity. It originated during a volcanic eruption when a river of molten lava flowed through the area. As the outer layers of the lava cooled and solidified, the inner portion continued to flow, leaving behind an empty channel. Over time, the lava tube gradually formed as the molten lava drained out, leaving behind a hollow cave-like structure. The specific shape and size of the lava tube were determined by various factors such as the viscosity of the lava, the speed of the flow, and the surrounding geological conditions. Today, Nahuku Thurston Lava Tube stands as a captivating testament to the dynamic and awe-inspiring forces of nature.

An authentic lava tube experience

There is lighting inside the lava tube for safety measures but if you really want to have an authentic experience going through the lava tube the lights are off from 8pm to 10am daily. You can bring your own lights and not just your cell phone to get some illumination and safely go through the lava tube. Or you can easily walk through after 10am with the lights lighting up the tube.

How to get to the Nahuku

Forest setting to Nahuku lava tube

How to get to the Nahuku Thurston Lava Tube

From the main entrance of the park, turn left to the Chain of Craters and the Crater Rim Road and drive down a few miles to the parking entrance which is small and fills up quickly after 10am. You can also park at the Kilauea Iki trail parking and walk the short-forested trail to the entrance of Nahuku. From the parking area, walk across the road to the trailhead and view of the forest canopy area and walk to the right down the trail to the bottom of the canopy which is a steep descent to the valley floor area and short walk to the lava tube entrance.

Total hike coverage 1/3 mile from the Nahuku parking lot

From Kilauea Iki Parking – 1.5 Mile or 2.4 Km walk round trip

From Kilauea Iki Parking
Views to Kialuea Iki

Kilauea Iki Trail
Kilauea Iki Trail

History of Nahuku

Formed with 2000 Fahrenheit lava that eventually created the lava tube which is only 500 years old. Nahuku means proturbances that refers to the drippings that originally hung from the ceilings but were taken out as souvenirs with visitors since the lava tube was discovered in 1913. Lava tubes in Hawaii are formed with rising lava eventually forming the walls and ceilings to the fast-flowing lava that eventually empties out and leaves a hollow lava tube structure. The lava tube is only 600 feet long on the first leg which is lit, there is another lava tube extension but this is not lit and typically the opening is locked from any access.

There are ecosystems that actually live in this environment so please do not try to touch the ceilings and walls, roots and other living organisms in the lava tube.

History of Nahuku

Types of flora that you’ll find around the Nahuku Thurston Lava Tube

Around the Nahuku Thurston Lava Tube, you will encounter a diverse array of flora that has adapted to the unique volcanic environment. Despite the harsh conditions, certain plants have managed to thrive in this lava-formed landscape. Here are some types of flora you can expect to find:

  1. ‘Ōhi’a Lehua (Metrosideros polymorpha): This iconic Hawaiian tree is known for its vibrant red flowers and is considered a symbol of strength and resilience. ‘Ōhi’a Lehua can often be spotted growing amidst the rocky lava fields surrounding the lava tube.
  2. Hapu’u Ferns (Cibotium spp.): These large, lush ferns add a touch of greenery to the volcanic landscape. Hapu’u ferns have adapted to grow in the nutrient-rich soil that accumulates in crevices and cracks of the lava rock.
  3. Silver Sword (Argyroxiphium spp.): Although not as common around Nahuku Thurston Lava Tube, the Silver Sword is a unique and striking plant found at higher elevations in the volcanic regions of Hawaii. It has long, silvery leaves that form a rosette shape, and it is considered a rare and protected species.
  4. Various Mosses and Lichens: In the damp and shaded areas of the lava tube and its surroundings, you may observe various mosses and lichens clinging to the rocks. These organisms contribute to the ecosystem’s delicate balance, adding texture and color to the volcanic terrain.

It’s important to note that the flora around Nahuku Thurston Lava Tube may vary depending on the specific location, elevation, and microclimate. Exploring the area will provide you with a firsthand experience of the unique plant life that has adapted to thrive in this volcanic environment.

Thurston lava tube

Details to the Nahuku trail and Thurston lava tube

There are low ceilings in the lava tube be careful and watch for ceiling and curved surfaces to the lava tube

There can be standing water from moisture collecting in the tube, be careful off pooling and some slick surfaces on the walkways

Low light conditions in the lava tube from 8am to 8pm timeframe or bring additional lighting with you

If you want to extend your hike, park at the Kilauea Iki parking lot and hike through the forested rim trail to the trailhead for the Nahuku entrance.

There are restrooms available close to the entrances to the forest trail area to use.

It is a descent to the valley floor and stairs leaving the lava tube so it is not accessible for those with mobility issues.

Dress in layers, it could be cooler in the rain forest section and entering the lava tube compared to the rest of national park.

Thurston Lava tube 3

Exit to Nahuku Thurston Lava Tube

Other places to explore and posts around Ka’u and Volcanoes National Park

There’s so many fascinating places to explore and also hike around around the national park and the outside areas. You’ll be inspired to visit and spend more time with these fantastic places to visit on the south side of the island.

Visit Volcanoes National Park now

Lava eruptions at Volcanoes National park

Visiting Volcano Village in Puna

Visit a green sand beach at Papakolea

Visit to South Point at Ka Lae

A visit to Na’alehu in the Kau district

Black sandy beach at Punalu’u

Volcanoes National Park

Where to stay around Volcanoes National Park

There is camping and limited cabin stays in the park, but there are more inns and Air Bnb locations close by in Volcano Village. Most of the stays at the village are at small mom and pop inns and Air Bnbs or private home rentals. Check out the best reviewed sites here.

Aloha Junction Bed and Breakfast – well located in the village in an old plantation home with nice comfortable rooms, great service and breakfast

Hale Ohia Cottages – a classic home and bed and breakfast with gorgeous grounds, cottages and service in the village

Aloha Crater Lodge – located close to the park within a lush rainforest, cozy, peaceful, comfortable and priced well for the area.

Check out these top reviewed hotels on Trip Advisor here for more details, availability and prices.

Have you been to Nahuku Thurston Lava Tube?

Have you been to Nahuku Thurston Lava Tube?

Please share your thoughts and other recommendations in the comments below with your recommendations.

Conclusion to visiting Nahuku Thurston Lava Tube

Visiting Nahuku Thurston Lava Tube is a captivating opportunity to explore the underground wonders shaped by volcanic activity. Walking through the dimly lit passages, you witness the unique formations and textures that bear witness to the Earth’s raw power. It’s a chance to appreciate Hawaii’s volcanic history and immerse yourself in the intriguing forces that shape our planet. Don’t miss this unforgettable experience that showcases the remarkable beauty and geological significance of Nahuku Thurston Lava Tube.

Thanks for visiting today and checking out this post on Nahuku Thurston Lava Tube. I hope you are inspired to plan a visit and enjoy these wonderful attractions. If you enjoyed the images and post, could you please share it with any of the social media buttons located around the post.

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Meet Noel Morata

Noel Morata is the creator of This Hawaii Life along with a small team of contributors. Living on the Big Island and traveling regularly to the neighbor islands, Noel and team actively search and share the latest information and updates to Hawaii travel, food, adventure and various lifestyle activities on the islands for your planning and vacation. Aloha and enjoy This Hawaii Life.