Is Hawaii safe for travelers now?

Is it safe to travel to Hawaii? Despite the recent dramatic images of spouting lava and burning homes on the east side of the Big Island and floods on Kauai’s north shore, the answer is generally yes.

That’s because these incidents are isolated in relatively remote regions of the state, which is comprised of eight main islands that stretch across 300 miles of the Pacific Ocean.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority website states it clearly in bold: "There is absolutely no reason at this time for travelers to change or alter their leisure or business plans."

The volcanic activity that began May 3 is in a remote part of the Big Island—more than 200 miles from Waikiki. The rest of the state is unaffected, with all airports open and all airlines flying regular schedules. Prevailing trade winds are blowing ash-filled fumes away from other islands.

Although residents in two lower Puna neighborhoods—home to scattered vacation rentals but no hotels — have had to evacuate, the Big Island’s big resort areas of the Kona and Kohala coasts are unaffected. That’s because they lie more than 100 miles away from the eruption, on the other side of two massive mountains; the island of Hawaii truly lives up to its "Big Island" nickname.

The county’s civil defense alerts only address Puna residents.

Vog—volcanic air pollution caused by sulfur dioxide (SO2) and particulates—is a concern in the immediate Puna area, but the effects are minimal elsewhere as long as trade winds blow. The winds from the northeast prevail most of the year, particularly in summer. The Big Island’s daily SO2 (sulfur dioxide) advisory has reported good air quality in Kona and Hilo for the last week.

Following a 6.9 earthquake on May 4 that many parts of the state felt, smaller temblors and aftershocks continue to rattle Puna, Hilo and Volcano Village, although no significant seismic damage has been reported. The USGS Hawaiian Volcano Observatory’s daily status update notes, "Additional aftershocks from the magnitude-6.9 earthquake are expected and some may be strong."

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which lies 25 miles northwest of the eruption, evacuated visitors and most staff shortly after the 6.9 earthquake, but partially reopened on May 6; the park’s Volcano House hotel reopened yesterday. In lower Puna, MacKenzie State Recreation Area and Lava Tree State Monument remain closed. The latter features tree molds caused by fast-moving lava in 1790; the park’s online notice of its closure due to volcanic activity concludes, "Oh, the irony…"

On Kauai, which lies on the opposite (western) edge of the archipelago, things are mostly back to normal after torrential rains cause flooding and damage to a few private homes on the remote North Shore. Kauai’s primary touristic areas are on the southern shore near Lihue and Poipu- an hour away by car. The biggest obstacle for travelers is that roads that access popular north shore beaches and hiking trails are closed due to landslides, and are not expected to reopen until this summer.

Will you head to Hawaii this summer? Why or why not? Please leave your thoughts in the comments or on our Facebook page.

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Chris McGinnis is the founder of TravelSkills.com. The author is solely responsible for the content above, and it is used here by permission. You can reach Chris at chris@travelskills.com or on Twitter @cjmcginnis.

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