When planning a Hawaiian vacation, most people research the volcano, the beaches, golf, sports fishing, cruises, and the shopping. What few people realize is one particular attraction that is right under their feet. Best of all, it is free to go on these amazing adventures. I am talking about Hawaii’s caves.
Hawaiian caves are not the same as the caves most people think of. Our caves are not formed over millions of years by water dripping down through countless cracks in the earth’s surface. We do not have the limestone deposits required for such an intricate geological method.
Our caves are much newer, much more quickly formed, and hold an amazing history. Hawaii’s caves are formed when great rivers of lava travel beneath the land’s surface. This lava leaves behind holes in the earth that cool to form caves. Usually, these holes are very small, but occasionally, a massive tunnel is left behind.
Hawaii has hundreds of these lava tube caves. Most are on private land or have not yet been discovered. Many more, however, are available to the public and are free to explore. Some caves are miles long while others are fairly short in length. Some end at dead-ends while still others open up into lush rainforest, waterfalls, or drop off into beautiful views near ocean cliffs. Some of our caves are well-lit for tourists while still others seem relatively untouched.
If you plan to visit Hawaii’s caves, there are a few items you should be sure to bring with you. You will need at least two very powerful flashlights with fresh batteries. A small flashlight will not work in total darkness, trust me. This is one time to bring out the big guns. Bring extra batteries and bring a back-up.
If you can get a plastic helmet or hat, you are in great shape. You don’t absolutely need it, but you may wish you had brought one after smacking your head for the third time on a low ceiling. Headlamps are also useful. Make sure you bring sturdy shoes such as hiking boots or sneakers. Lava is sharp. You may also get chilly in the damp underground air, so bring a light jacket.
It is important to remember to leave the caves exactly as you find them. Some inconsiderate visitors break off stalactites to take home with them. Not only is this horribly bad luck, but it is unfair to future visitors of these islands. Could you imagine what would happen if each of the thousands of visitors took only one piece with them? In only a handful of years, the natural beauty of the cave would be completely destroyed and can never be repaired, all to make cheap souvenirs for people who had no respect for it in the first place. Let’s leave these natural wonders to awe and inspire visitors and children for many generations to come.