Located along Crater Rim Drive in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, the Thurston Lava Tube is a 500-year old cave which was once the conduit for a river of lava. Today the site is a popular visitor attraction.
This massive subterranean lava tube is lit with electric lights and is an easy walk that begins with a descent through the lush growth of the rainforest. Colors leeched from the rocks and strange formations on the hardened lava rock walls provide an interesting trip through this underground geological wonder.
In the forest around the lava tube listen for native birds amidst the huge ferns and mossy tree trunks. The red apapane bird is often seen in this area feeding on the bright red ohia lehua blossoms.
The Thurston Lava Tube is named after newspaper publisher Lorrin Thurston, the grandson of a Protestant missionary, who is said to have “discovered” it in 1913. The tube is also known by its Hawaiian name, Nahuku, which means “The protuberances.”
The hike leading into the forest and through the lava tube is about 1/3 mile (.5 km) in all, taking about 20 minutes to walk at a leisurely pace.
Not far from the lava tube in Volcanoes National Park along Crater Rim Drive is the Kilauea Visitor Center, Volcano House Hotel and Jaggar Museum. Not far from the entrance to the park is Volcano Village offering shopping, dining and lodging.