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Kaumana Caves Park

Updated on October 14, 2015
Kailua-KonaGirl profile image

June is from Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, but is currently residing in New York. She loves to cook naturally with plants from her garden.

Kaumana Caves Are A Great Place for Cave Explorers

The Kaumana Caves are actually lava tubes that are a fabulous place for the casual tourist and for the more advanced spelunkers to explore.

The lava tubes are located northwest of Hilo on Saddle Road (Kaumana Caves Drive).

The caves are a 25-mile long lava tube with several tunnels off of the main tube that was originally created by the Mauna Loa volcanic eruption of 1880 - 1881.

Part of the lava tube has caved in creating a natural skylight in the tube. For anyone interested in cave exploring, this is a great place to go while in Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Remember to bring along a strong headlamp or a flashlight.

Useful Info About Park

FREE Admission

Ample parking

Picnic tables


Drinking water

Wear sturdy shoes

Bring a Head Light or Flashlight

Kaumana Caves Private Property Warning Sign Posted at Entrance
Kaumana Caves Private Property Warning Sign Posted at Entrance

Warning Sign at Kaumana Caves Entrance

The mouth of the Kaumana Caves is easy to find from the signs guiding the way.

The caves open onto private land and the County of Hawaii has set up an ordinance that now requires visitors to get prior permission and sign an assumption of risk waiver before exploring deeper into the caves.

Visitors that want to go deeper into the caves are given a brief discussion at the cave's entrance about exploring Kaumana Caves and the risks that can be found there.

You will also be furnished with a list of equipment and clothing they you will need to bring to go spelunking.

Steps Stairs to the Caves Amiss the Philodendroms
Steps Stairs to the Caves Amiss the Philodendroms | Source

Fenix TK35 High Performance 820 Lumen Flashlight

Fenix TK35 High Performance 860 Lumen Flashlight
Fenix TK35 High Performance 860 Lumen Flashlight

This is an excellent light to take in cave exploration. It is small and light weight enough to carry in the caves without being bulky like a mac light. It makes a great camp light, and a great emergency light. It also makes a great around the house light. It can be set to SOS mode or strobe. It lights up so brilliantly in turbo mode it will seem almost like day light in a cave. The color of the light is almost white not the annoying blue that some LED lights have. You will love this flashlight.


Steep Concrete Stairs to Kaumana Caves

At the street level of the cave entrance a steep, concrete staircase has been built, across the street from the parking area, to assist visitors in getting down to the cool darkness of these lava tube caves.

Watch your steps as the stairs can be very slippery when wet and wet occurs very often with the typical Hilo rainy weather.

The caves are not wheelchair accessible.

The caves have been left in their natural state, except for the concrete stairs. This means you must be careful and watch your step. The floor levels are uneven making it easy to trip as you walk through the lava tube.

It is a necessity to bring strong flashlights and head lamps with new batteries as there are no lights at all in the caves.

The deeper you go into the depths of the caves the darker it gets until you feel as if you and your light are being consumed and swallowed by the darkness.

The darkness seems to absorbs all of the light that comes from the caves entrance. A weak or small powered flashlight will be useless in the cave.

If you are spelunkers who are equipped with headlamps and flashlights, all the better. Your head lamps will be very useful here.

The average tourist is usually not prepared to go underground in the dark.


Walking Through Lush Vegetation with Wild Orchids

You will walk through the lush vegetation of the rain forest jungle that consists of a large variety of tropical plants.

These plants include a huge variety of different plant species such as ferns, elephant ear, philodendron, wild ginger and wild orchids.

The floor of the cave at the bottom of the stairs is a collapsed pit, which also forms two entrances to the cave.

Long thin roots from the dense vegetation can be seen growing through the ceiling of the tube and all the way down to the floor of the cave.

They resemble the long roots of the banyan trees that can be seen in Hilo on Banyan Drive.

The Mouth of the Kaumana Caves Entrance

Notice the Plant & Tree Roots Hanging Down
Notice the Plant & Tree Roots Hanging Down | Source

Tree and Plant Roots at Kaumana Caves

Plant and Tree Roots at Bottom of Stairs with Philodendron at
Plant and Tree Roots at Bottom of Stairs with Philodendron at | Source

Kaumana Caves Videos

Princess Ruth Ke`elikolani
Princess Ruth Ke`elikolani | Source

The Legend of Kaumana Caves

There is a legend about the 1881 lava flow that created the lava tube at Kaumana.

It has been said that Princess Ruth Ke`elikolani camped in front of the slow-moving lava flow pleading with Madame Pele, the fire goddess, to spare the town of Hilo.

History states that the lava flow came to a halt within 1 1/2 miles of Hilo.

The local people all believe that Madame Pele heard the desperate plea from Princess Ruth and answered her prayers by stopping the flow from destroying Hilo town.

Kaumana's Skylight Entrance

Looking Out of Kaumana Caves Skylight Entrance
Looking Out of Kaumana Caves Skylight Entrance | Source

The entrance and exit to the Kaumana lava tube is actually where the skylight was created by the lava tube caving in.

It was formed as the surface of the pahoehoe (smooth, waves of lava cooled and hardened) insulated the molten lava forming the tube.

A part of the thin pahoehoe crust of lava then caved in, creating a skylight where the stream of the lava flow could be seen pouring through subterranean passages.

As the flow from the eruption slowed down, the channel emptied of both steam and molten lava, leaving behind an extensive lava tube.

Looking Out the Skylight of the Kaumana Cave
Looking Out the Skylight of the Kaumana Cave | Source

Cavern's Mossy Walls

When entering the caves you will notice the cave is very wet with mossy walls. Ferns can be observed growing through the moss on the walls.

The lush tropical plant life within the entrance of the cave is because of the consistent afternoon rainfall in Hilo which brings humidity to the cave entrance.

As you make your way deeper into the cavern, about 300 feet, there are two more caves which are about 16 feet in diameter; one on the right and one on the left.

Kaumana Cave Graffiti from 1926

Even if you have never had any interest in spelunking, you will be fascinated exploring the lava formations at the openings of these caves. Most folks entering the cave on the right can see graffiti dating back to 1926 and earlier scratched into the rocks.

The entrance on the left is a smaller, uphill cave entrance that is less frequently visited. It is far more interesting to spelunkers than your typical tourist.

This entrance leads through tight squeezes and low spots in the rocks that you have to crawl through to get into several larger rooms with intriguing cave formations and geographical designs from the lava flow itself.

Sitting on Graffiti at Cave Entrance


Streamlight 61052 Septor LED Headlamp with Strap

The caves are a pleasantly cool place to escape to when the temperatures in Hilo get too warm. Unless you intend on going deeper into the caves, walking about the areas lit by the sun will only take about 20 minutes.

For the more adventurous spelunkers, there are miles of caves to explore. If you intend to go to the caves with spelunking in mind, be prepared with the right equipment.

It is best to bring a hard hat with a headlamp, extra drinking water and powerful flashlights.

Small, weaker flashlights don't give out enough light in the pitch black of the caves to see more than 20 feet ahead.

Photos Inside the Kaumana Caves

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Peeking out of Skylight
Peeking out of Skylight
Peeking out of Skylight | Source

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    • TransplantedSoul profile image

      TransplantedSoul 4 years ago

      I like the Skylight Entrance. It looks beautiful. I have not visited a cave in a few years.

    • Kailua-KonaGirl profile image

      June Parker 4 years ago from New York

      @drcarl: You are right, unfortunately Queen's Bath was wiped out by Auntie Pele many moons ago. I was so saddened as it was one of my favorite natural swimming ponds on the Big Island.

    • goldenrulecomics profile image

      goldenrulecomics 4 years ago

      Looks great! I'd love to visit!

    • profile image

      drcarl 4 years ago

      Stop by Rainbow Falls, too. And if you can find someone local to show you, take a swim at, um, nevermind....LOL... I wonder why they (we) knock down the HVB (Hawaii Visitors Bureau) signs that point to all the best attractions like Queen's Bath near Kalapana! Goddess Pele has re-claimed that swimming hole along with Kalapana Black Sand Beach. That's OK, she made 'em in the first place.

    • iijuan12 profile image

      iijuan12 5 years ago from Florida

      We just finished learning about this. Great info! Thank you!

    • profile image

      crstnblue 6 years ago

      Great job with this lens and very informative!

      Now, what to do!? It's a must to get a flight ticket to Hawaii and visit those tempting caves!