Big Island Caves

Exploring caves on the Big Island is a treat for any visitor, and you'll want to reserve some space on your itinerary for it if possible. Most of the caves on the Big Island were formed by lava, and they are also known as lava tubes. Lava tubes form when a river of lava splatters, creating walls and ceilings that are left behind to cool once the last of the lava passes farther downhill. Some of the Big Island caves are small, stretching only a few yards, while others continue for miles and boast high ceilings. It can get pitch dark inside the Big Island caves, and among the highlights of many cave tours here is the moment when everyone turns off their headlamps and flashlights. When the lights are on, intricate shapes and colorful mineral deposits provide plenty to look at. All the while, dripping water creates a soothing sound as it splashes into the puddles below.

In addition to exploring inland lava tubes on a Big Island vacation, you can also explore various sea caves. Most of the Big Island coastline is relatively rocky, and caves are often formed where lava meets the sea. These lava-rock Big Island sea caves can be visited on kayaking adventures, and you can also explore them while snorkeling or scuba diving. Kayaking into a sea cave is a delight, as the pinkish color of the walls and the bright blue ocean water combine to create an astonishing setting. Farther below the surface, the underwater Big Island sea caves offer mysterious realms where interesting creatures are known to reside. The Ulua Cave off the Kohala Coast is one of the top Big Island sea caves for scuba divers to visit, and Keauhou Bay, which can also be found on the island's west side, is among the top places to explore sea caves that are found along the shoreline. Tours of the Big Island sea caves are easy to book on the island's west coast, and they usually involve kayaking and snorkeling.

Back on land, the Big Island caves at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park are among the easiest to get to. The Nahuku Cave, which is also known as the Thurston Lava Tube, is a great place to introduce yourself to the geology of lava tubes, and the flat rock floor and illuminated interior along part of the tube make for easy going. There are also dark areas and tricky footing along parts of the Nahuku Cave, so you can take on that part if you're feeling adventurous. The Kula Kai Caverns and the Kilauea Caverns are among the most highly visited caves on the beautiful Big Island, so you might look for a tour of them as well. The Kula Kai Caverns are found on Mauna Loa's lower slopes, and guided tours of these underground lava tubes generally involve a light walking tour followed by a more difficult spelunking adventure. As for the Kilauea Caverns, they feature the Kazamura Lava Tubes, which form one of the most extensive cave systems in the world. Stalactites and stalagmites can be viewed inside the Kazamura Lava Tubes, and you can actually stand inside an active volcano when exploring them.

When you book a tour of one of the caves on the Big Island, spelunking equipment will be provided for you. This equipment includes flashlights, hard hats, and gloves. Headlamps are sometimes provided as well. Wearing long pants is recommended when you enter the Big Island caves, unless you are snorkeling or scuba diving, as the cooled lava formations can be sharp in spots. You will also want to make sure that you have a good pair of hiking boots or shoes. Sandals and flip-flops are definitely not recommended. Another beneficial item to bring when exploring caves on the Big Island is a waterproof jacket. Cave temperatures here can dip into the lower 60s, and dripping water is prevalent in many spots. Last but not least, those who are exploring the Big Island caves should remember not to touch or remove anything. Once cave formations are damaged, they are damaged for good, and stealing crystals and other things from the caves only diminishes the experience for those who come after you.

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