Were we completely crazy moving to the Big Island right after the Kīlauea eruption and was it even safe? Before making the move we wanted to know just how safe it was to live on an island where magma was spewing out. Well, we ended up moving here and now own a piece of real estate on the side of the active Hualālai volcano!
The vast majority of the Big Island of Hawaii is outside of immediate danger from a volcanic eruption making it relatively safe. There are a total of 9 Lava Zones on the island of Hawaii with Zones 1 & 2 with the highest risk of volcanic activity. Lava Zones 3 – 9 are at a much lower risk either due to distance, topography, lower frequency of eruptions or a combination of such factors.
Is it Safe to Live in a Place that Has “Lava Zones”?
Kind of scary thinking that we live in a place that has Lava Zones to tell us just how safe or unsafe it is to live there. But once you get past the initial shock it isn’t really all that scary.
Marla & I live in Lava Zone 4 on the side of an active volcano. That volcano’s name is Hualālai. In fact, we live in the Hualālai Vistas subdivision, here in Kona.
Is it strange living on the side of an active volcano? Sure, I would say so. Actually, we didn’t even realize the house we wanted to buy was on an active volcano until after we were under contract. And, as you might imagine were a bit worried when we first found out.
Doing what I do, I turned to researching it to determine just how much of a risk it was to move forward with our home purchase and live on the side of an active volcano.
Hualālai is the third most active volcano on the island of Hawaii. The only two volcanoes more active in Hawaii are Kīlauea and Mauna Loa.
Hualālai last erupted in 1801 which seems like a long time ago. And for us humans, it is. But in terms of the Earth’s history, not so much. Considering Hualālai reached sea level more than 300,000 years ago 218 years ago seems like nothing!
Hualālai between the late 1700s and 1801 generated lava flows that reached the ocean. In fact, Kona International Airport sits on top of that lava flow!
If they built an airport on top of the lava flow of an active volcano I’m betting they did their research to ensure it was a safe place to invest millions into building an airport.
That would be reason #1 I feel safe living on an active volcano.
Is it Safe?
Hualālai is in the post-sheild stage of activity which means it has moved off the hot spot. This means there is a lower level of magma being produced and less frequent eruptions. The main reason is that only large pockets of magma are able to make it to the surface and have to do so quickly to avoid solidifying along the way.
If Hualālai were to erupt it is likely to to be concentrated at the summit.
That would be reason #2 I feel safe living on an active volcano.
Mauna Loa Volcano
Mauna Loa is the largest volcano on Earth! The most recent eruption occurred in 1984 and has erupted 32 other times since 1843. Clearly more active than Hualālai but not nearly as active as Kīlauea.
Eruptions from Mauna Loa are quite different than the possible eruption from Hualālai. Mauna Loa produces large amounts of basalt flows. This puts Hilo right in its crosshairs when it erupts again. The last eruption in 1984 came within just 4.5 miles of Hilo which is why these areas are in Lava Zones 1 & 2.
Kona, where we live, is located on the other side of the island of Hawaii.
That would be reason #3 I feel safe living on an active volcano.
Kīlauea is the most active volcano in Hawaii almost continuously erupting since 1983. But that stopped in the most recent eruption in 2018. During that eruption, which was the largest in the last 200 years, the lava lake drained and summit collapsed.
As of right now Kīlauea is not erupting and there is no molten lava or lava glow to be seen.
During the most recent eruption in 2018 resulted in the temporary closure of part of the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. In addition, due to lava fountains and flows Hawaii’s largest natural freshwater lake was destroyed. Kapaho, Leilani Estates, Lanipuna Gardens, and Vacationland Hawaii were all devastated by the eruption with 716 dwellings destroyed by lava.
All of these areas are in Lava Zones 1 & 2.
Just like Mauna Loa, Kīlauea is located on the opposite side of Hawaii.
And that would be reason #4 I feel safe living on an active volcano.
Don’t Piss Off Pele!
Let me be very clear before I piss off powerful Pele!
We have full respect and appreciation for her power. We realize that at any moment Hualālai could erupt and that we may be in danger of a lava flow.
Being in Lava Zone 4 we feel the risk is low enough to live here. Here’s how I look at it. I am in the same Lava Zone as the town of Kailua-Kona and the Kona International Airport. Now, that doesn’t mean that an eruption wont occur or that it is not possible for it to reach my home, Kailua-Kona or the airport, but is fairly unlikely.
Safest Part of the Island of Hawaii
If you are looking to live on the Big Island of Hawaii and want to reduce, or eliminate, your risk of volcanoes than you’ll want to stick with the north side of the island.
Due to the massive size of Mauna Kea which would stop any lava flows and the fact that it has not erupted in over 6,000 years makes north Hawaii your best bet.
One of the most popular areas to buy a home in the north area of the Big Island is the Kohala Coast. This is where we stayed when we brought out entire mortgage team out to see Hawaii in 2017. If you want to live on the Big Island because of all it has to offer but want to steer clear of volcanoes this might just be the perfect spot for you.