Hualālai is a dormant shield volcano that is located on the island of Hawaii and is one of five volcanoes that form the island. It reaches an elevation of 8,271 feet and is thought to have emerged from the sea about 300,000 years ago, making it the third youngest volcano on the island. Its shape is rough compared to younger volcanoes and it holds three rift zones that are covered with over one hundred cinder cones and spatter cones. Although it does not hold a caldera at its summit, it does feature a collapsed crater on one of its lava shields. Other notable features of this volcano include Puʻu Waʻawaʻa, a cone that reaches six miles in length and 1,220 feet in height, and North Kona slump, which is located on the west side of the volcano and extends into the sea. Both of the features were formed by slow moving lava.
During its shield stage, Hualālai produced tholeiitic basalt lavas that indicate that it formed underwater during part of this stage, which ended about 130,000 years ago. During its post-shield stage that began about 100,000 years ago, lava flows covered nearly eighty percent of the volcano’s surface. Although it is the third most active volcano on the island of Hawaii, it has only erupted three times in the past one thousand years. The most recent activity produced a series of earthquakes that occurred in 1929 and the volcano is thought to be capable of eruption within the next one hundred years. Its last eruption, which occurred between 1800 and 1801, produced alkalic basalt lava that reached the ocean. The lava flows destroyed two villages and was said to have only stopped when Kamehameha I cut of a piece of his hair and tossed it into lava.
The majority of Hualālai’s surface is covered by some type of vegetation, although some areas contain only volcanic rock. Grasses, ferns, and bushes are the most common types of vegetation found on the volcano, but some areas hold ōhiʻa lehua trees while others, including some small craters, hold vertical forests of Eucalyptus trees. There are many animal species on and near the volcano and the coasts are known to support fish and other marine life including the green sea turtle. The area holds many nature reserves including the Puʻu Waʻa Waʻa Forest Sanctuary on the northwest side of the volcano and the Honuaula Forest Reserve on the southwestern side.
Hualālai and its surrounding area has been inhabited for centuries and some structures still remain from the original inhabitants including remains of Ahu A Umi Heiau and an ancient settlement that is now the location of Kaloko-Honokōhau National Historic Park, Holualoa Bay, Keauhou Bay, and Kamakahonu were known retreats for one of Hawaii’s last kings, Kamehameha I, and a church that was built from crushed coral and lava rock in 1837 can still be seen.
Today, the area surrounding Hualālai is a popular tourist destination that offers visitors many vacation resorts and a golf course. Although hiking is popular on and around the volcano, most of the land is privately owned by Kamehameha Schools and others, but many hikers escape detection because laws restricting hiking are not often enforced. Despite the evidence suggesting this volcano could erupt in the future, the area is growing in popularity, which could lead to disaster in the future if proper precautions are not taken.
Image Caption: View of Hualalai southeast from Kuki`i Beach. Credit: J. Kauahikaua/Wikipedia