Hawai’i owes so much to its volcanoes. The Big Island and all the others in the chain wouldn’t be here without them. The Hawaiian-Emperor seamount chain is a mountain range that rests under the Pacific Ocean. It consists of multiple reefs, banks, atolls, seamounts, and shallows extending over 3,800 miles. The chain hosts around 80 undersea volcanoes, and its most famous section is likely the Hawaiian Ridge, which includes the 137 islands that make up the Hawaiian Islands. Of course, Hawai’i is best known for its eight main islands, including the Big Island of Hawai’i. The Big Island got big because it’s the home of five volcanoes, four of which remain active. Here’s a quick overview of Big Island volcanoes.


Want to see the most active volcano in the world? Come to the Big Island and visit Kilauea! Kilauea has been erupting for a very long time, about 500,000 years. One eruption continued from 1983 to 2018, adding over 700 acres of new land, making the Big Island even bigger. One thing to understand, however, is that a volcanic eruption doesn’t always mean an explosive one in the sense of Mount St. Helens or others. Rather, Kilauea released a steady flow of lava that went southwards toward the ocean.

Mauna Loa

Kilauea is the most active volcano in the world; now it’s time to switch over and see the biggest volcano in the world. Mauna Loa towers at almost 30,077 feet from its ocean floor base to its summit. It is also an active volcano—the second most active compared to Kilauea. “Active,” is another designation that bears clarification. It means a volcano that has erupted in the past 10,000 years. Naturally, some volcanos are currently more active than others. Mauna Loa has had 34 historical eruptions since the mid-1800s. There have been three eruptions since 1950, the last happening in 2022.

Mauna Kea

Mauna Kea is taller than Mauna Loa, but not nearly as large. With its peak standing at roughly 13,796 feet, it’s the highest point on the Big Island. Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa are volcanoes that, surprisingly, have snow-covered peaks. Mauna Kea, which translates as white mountain when snow graces it summit in the winter. The mountain is sacred to Hawaiians and home to many rare and endangered plants and animals.


Hualalai in the volcano that Kailua Kona is located at the base of. It’s Hawai’i’s third active volcano, though it hasn’t erupted since 1801. The name Hualalai means “head in the clouds” and the inversion weather that is created by its 8,200ft peak is important to local agriculture since it provides ideal conditions needed to grow Hawai’i’s world-famous Kona coffee.


Kohala is the Big Islands oldest volcano approximately 5 million years old. The gentle sloping Western side have a stark contrast to the jagged 1,000ft high cliffs that drop into the Pacific Ocean on the Eastern side. Kohala is home to the rich cultural heritage of the Paniolo or Hawaiian cowboy. The beautiful landscape offers some breathtaking views along its picturesque corridors.

That’s a quick overview of Big Island volcanoes. Contact us today if you’d like to schedule a Big Island lava tour to see these precious natural treasures!