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Pets allowed
No
Elevation Gain
?
Trail type
There-and-back
Distance
4.00 mi (6.44 km)
Please respect the outdoors and leave no trace. One tip how to dispose of waste properly: Pack out toilet paper and hygiene products. For more information, visit https://lnt.org/learn/7-principles

Kaumana Caves is a hidden gem located just outside the city of Hilo. Upon reaching the parking lot, visitors will likely question whether or not they are in the right place, as the entrance is nothing extraordinary. Across the road, a small staircase leads down into a collapsed portion of a lava tube that is unmaintained (no lights and insecure footing) and sure to make the Thurston Lava Tube look like a walk in the park. Formed by a lava flow from the Mauna Loa volcano back in the 1800s, the main tube of Kaumana Caves totals a distance of 25 miles underground.

From the entrance there are two directions in which adventurous visitors can explore. The left tube appears to be smaller from the entrance; however, a tight opening leads to a long, dark portion of the tube that snakes its way underground and at times requires some scrambling over rocks. It terminates at another collapsed section of the tube. Through the opening in the ceiling, light pours in and roots reach down, creating an eerie tropical setting. A small footpath at the end leads back to the road from above, or the cave can be followed back to the start. 

The right section of the tube has a much larger opening and is usually dripping from above. The ambient light from the entrance fades quickly and the air becomes stagnant and muggy as the walls become closer together. This section of the tube is much longer than the left section, and almost 2 miles of underground tunnel being open to the public. Along the way visitors will encounter unique lava formations as well as some eerie graffiti, plenty of darkness and sometimes mud. Avoid exploring deep into the cave during periods of heavy rain because they can be known to overflow in some places. Unlike karst limestone caves, lava tubes are relatively straight and do little branching, so getting lost is an unlikely issue, but always use good judgment when entering the cave.

The cave entrance is free to the public and has restrooms and picnic tables available. Be sure to bring a good flashlight or head lamp (and a backup) as well as sturdy shoes. 

Logistics + Planning

Preferable season(s)

Winter
Spring
Summer
Fall

Congestion

Low

Parking Pass

Not Required

Pros

Close to Hilo. Extensive underground cave.

Cons

Not maintained. Stagnant air.

Trailhead Elevation

940.00 ft (286.51 m)

Net Elevation Gain

200.00 ft (60.96 m)

Address

Kaumana Dr
1568
Hilo, HI 96720
United States

Features

Geologically significant

Location

Field Guide

Comments

09.12.17
I definitely agree that this is a "gem" and worth a visit; my young kids and the high school students I teach find Kaumana cave more exciting than Thurston Lava Tube because it is more than merely a lit path through a tube. You'll need to duck, scramble, and squeeze at times. Good footwear and a good light make it a much more enjoyable experience. The park has a pavilion, too, so it is a perfect picnic spot if you are also planning to visit Rainbow falls or Wai'ale falls, all within a 5 minutes drive. It's also a great "rainy day activity" if you are in Hilo and are met with wet weather, which is not uncommon.

If you take the right fork (which has the exit option) and decide to exit the cave and hike back through the fern forest, be sure NOT to walk towards the power lines. You'll see a variety of trail options through the ferns, and you might be tempted to move towards the power lines. However, that will place you one street over from the parking lot. Instead, take the faint trail through the ferns on the right side of the opening. If you end up one street over, no worries-- you can still take a cut-through in the residential neighborhood that pops you out just below the parking area.
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