HILO, Hawaii — The spectacle of glowing-hot lava spewing from Hawaii’s Mauna Loa has drawn thousands of visitors and is turning into a tourism boon for this Big Island town near the world’s largest volcano.
Hotels around Hilo have been booked full in an otherwise slow season for businesses. Helicopter tours of Mauna Loa, which began erupting Sunday after being quiet for 38 years, are also in high demand by tourists and journalists.
“Right now, it’s boomed,” said Marian Somalinog, who staffs the front desk at the Castle Hilo Hawaiian Hotel. “We’re sold out until after Christmas.”
She attributed the increase to people wanting to watch the rivers of bright orange molten rock gush from Mauna Loa, a shield volcano whose name means “Long Mountain” in Hawaiian. You can see the glow of the volcano from some parts of the hotel.
This time of year is normally a slow season for Hawaii’s travel industry, falling between the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.
But this week thousands of cars have created traffic jams on Route 200, known as the Saddle Road, which connects the cities of Hilo on the east side of Hawaii Island and Kailua-Kona on the west side.
Volcanic flows pose a future threat to that main artery but are currently still several miles (kilometers) away and not a danger to any communities. This allows people to enjoy the sights without being in danger. Tourists and locals are in the crowds, many snapping photos and taking selfies.
Somalinog hasn’t bothered to join them, however.
” “The traffic is insane,” she stated. “It’s not worth it.”
At Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, spokeswoman Jessica Ferracane said many visitors know about Mauna Loa but aren’t aware that Kilauea, a smaller volcano, is also erupting — and that they can see both from multiple spots near the latter’s caldera.
“That hasn’t happened since 1984. Ferracane stated that it’s an extraordinary time to visit the park.
Although the number of people visiting the park hasn’t increased significantly since Sunday’s Mauna Loa eruption, Ferracane expects that it will rise in time for next week’s normal season patterns.
Saddle Road, which is outside the park, might not remain a prime viewing spot for long. It is being pushed towards by the red-hot volcanic lava.
Ken Hon, scientist in charge at the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, said the flow has “slowed considerably” and on Thursday was 3. 3 miles (5. 3 kilometers) south of the highway. He said that it could take at most a week for it to arrive.
” We don’t know where the lava flows will eventually go,” Hon stated. A blockage would cause problems for commuters from Hilo, and the other areas of the island’s eastern side where housing costs are generally lower, to the jobs at the western side which is home to large beach resorts.
Unless some sort of bypass is constructed, commuters would need to take coastal routes to and from Kailua-Kona, adding at least a couple hours of drive time each way.
Gov. David Ige has issued an emergency proclamation to allow responders to arrive quickly or limit access as needed. The governor stated that lava could cross the highway and the Hawaii National Guard would be able to help with alternative routes or plan.
Mauna Loa last erupted in 1984. The current eruption is its 34th since written record keeping began in 1843. Its smaller neighbor, Kilauea, has been erupting since September 2021.
McAvoy reported from Honolulu, and Selsky reported from Salem, Oregon.
The post Hawaii volcanic eruption brings tourism boom during slow season was first published on Associated Press .