Though Hawaii is known for breathtaking landscapes and teeming seascapes below the water, some of the most wondrous sights are ensconced in the earth itself. From mountainous caverns to sea caves and lava tubes, Hawaii’s caves are mysterious and fascinating. Visitors to Hawaii may consider devoting an afternoon or two to discovering one or more of these striking caves.
Thurston Lava Tube: Nestled in the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island, Thurston Lava Tube is a 400-foot long lava tube with 12-foot high ceiling. It is an excellent experience for those who want to extend their journey through the wake of Hawaii’s volcanoes. However, be sure to wear shoes with good traction, as the floor can be slippery.
Waiahuakua Sea Cave: At 1,155 feet in length, this is the second longest sea cave on earth accessible only by boat on the Na Pali Coast on the island of Kauai. Arguably one of the most awe-inspiring sea caverns, the volcanic rock forms a tunnel where the adventurous can get close up views of the cascading waterfall inside. Another popular name for this sea cave is the “Double Door” since there is a separate exit and entrance between the dark chambers.
Ka’eleku Caverns: This lava tube located on the Hana Highway, also known as the “Hana Cave” or the “Hana Lava Tube,” is one of the safest caves to explore on the island of Maui. Here you can do a self-guided hour long cave tour with their families through the lava tube’s weaving passages. For people 15 year olds and older, a 2-hour walking tour is also available.
Kula Kai Caverns: Another Big Island cave, the Kula Kai Caverns are said to be some of the youngest caves in the world as they were formed as lava tubes from a relatively recent eruption within the last 1,000 years. Visitors can wander through the peculiar labyrinth of volcanic rock on a variety of tour options including the lighted cave tour, a spelunking tour, the crawl tour or the 2-hour tour of the caverns.
Wet and Dry Caves in Kauai: There are two wet caves and one dry cave located in Haena State Park. The first wet cave, Waikanaloa, and Maniniholo, a dry cave, can be readily viewed from the road. The second wet cave, Waikapalae, is located nearby and can be accessed through a short, uphill climb brings you to the entrance. The Waikapalae Wet Cave was famously highlighted in the film Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. The ideal time to hike to this cave is when the sun is north of the area, as this causes a blue glow to reflect up from the water as pictured above. Though the wet caves may look mysteriously enticing, they are not safe to swim in as the water contains extremely hazardous bacteria.
Kaneana Cave (Makua Cave): Located on the leeward side of Oahu, Kaneana Cave is believed to be over 150,000 years old. Kaneana Cave was named for Kane, the god of creation and was once a kapu or forbidden place. Explorers are warned to stay on the main path of the cavern, since the side passageways can be dangerous.
Kaumana Cave: This cave is actually a 25-mile long lava tube, located near the town of Hilo on the Big Island of Hawaii. Though the enclosed portion of the lava tube is not opened to the public, avid visitors can walk into the exposed opening of the cave and admire the wet green walls and the rainforest-like roots and vines. There are also nearby picnic tables and restrooms are conveniently located nearby.
Caves at Wai’anapanapa State Park: This sparkling state park near the town of Hana, on the island of Maui boasts of sea stacks, blowholes and a black sand beach. However, one of the most fascinating features of the park is the anchialine pools and their associated wet caves. Anchialine pools are landlocked bodies of water with a subterranean connection to the ocean. At the Wai’anapanapa State Park, the blue water pool in one of the more notable caves glistens beneath green crusted rock, making the perfect hiking destination and photo opportunity for any tourist driving along the famous Hana Highway.