Which Hawaiian Islands Have Active Volcanoes

Posted in: Big Island 2021, Environment

Volcanoes… The terrifying force of nature that has been the center of several historical events and box-office hits. Making a model-volcano is practically a rite of passage for young children in school. How cool would it be to see one in person?

Hawaii is made of volcanoes. Literally. The islands were formed by volcanic eruptions and several are still active today. They expand the island, reshape the landscape, and are an integral part of Hawaiian culture and tourism.

While not every volcano in Hawaii is still active, you can still visit several active volcanoes. There are five active volcanoes in Hawaii. Which islands have active volcanoes?

The Big Island

The Big Island of Hawai’i is home to the most active volcanoes in Hawaii. In fact, four of the five active volcanoes can be found on the Big Island.


Kilauea is one of the most active volcanoes on Earth. While not the largest, Kilauea is about 4,190 ft above sea level and takes up about 14% of the island. When you consider that it’s literally called the Big Island, that 14% is a lot! Volcanoes have eruption cycles, and Kilauea has erupted approximately 60 times in its current cycle. 2018 was the most recent eruption.

The 2018 eruption for Kilauea followed a 5.0 magnitude earthquake. The eruption sent ash 30,000 feet into the air and lava fountains created rivers of lava flow into the ocean. It covered communities, popular tourist attractions, and wreaked destruction on the island. 

As volcanic eruptions created the Islands, the volcanoes regularly changed the islands as well. In 1990, lava flows covered Kaimu Bay and almost completely buried the Kalapana and Kaimu communities. Today, a new black sand beach has been left in the wake of Kilauea’s lava flows.

You can visit Kilauea at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on Crater Rim Drive. 

Mauna Loa

Hawaii is home to the largest volcano on Earth as far as volume and area covered are concerned. Mauna Loa, according to scientists, is due for another eruption. It has erupted 15 times over the past 120 years, though scientists believe that Mauna Loa has been erupting for up to 700,000 years. Its last eruption was in the 1980s and the lava flows stopped four miles outside of the city limits of Hilo, causing zero fatalities. 

Kilauea was once thought to be part of Mauna Loa, though it has been confirmed that the two of them are separate volcanoes. Stop by and marvel at Mauna Loa at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. 

Mauna Kea

Mauna Kea is 13,796 feet tall. Mauna Kea is the tallest mountain in Hawaii as well as the tallest sea mountain on Earth. The last time Mauna Kea erupted was over 4,000 years ago, but scientists believe it will erupt again. 


With rumblings from time to time, Hualalai isn’t as notorious as the other Big Island volcanoes. Hualalai’s last eruption was in 1801 but hasn’t ceased its activity. In the 1920s, Hualalai had a few earthquakes caused by magma movements. 

Interestingly, a lot of coffee beans are grown on the western slope of Hualalai. 


The Island of Maui does not have nearly as many volcanoes as the Big Island but is still home to one active volcano, the famous Mount Haleakala.

Mount Haleakala

Haleakala means “house of the sun.” Mount Haleakala is still considered an active volcano even though it has not erupted since the 17th century. Scientists allege that we can expect future eruptions but none anytime soon. 

The Sixth Volcano

There is technically a sixth volcano in Hawaii, but it’s not located on an island. Rather, Loihi is located off the coast of the Big Island near Kilheau. Loihi is submerged beneath sea level but continues to erupt underwater. Eventually, Loihu might build upon itself and expand, becoming part of the Big Island or creating a new island.

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