Hawaii - Been There

Hawaii changed my life – and it might change yours

Kilauea Volcano's flow into the Pacific Ocean is one of the world's most spectacular geologic sights – especially after dark. However, the lava flow changes direction all the time and visitors never know what they will see.

Photo by Toshi Sasaki / Getty Images

Hawaii - Been There

Hawaii changed my life – and it might change yours

I have loved Hawaii island since I first visited at age twelve.

Bill Harby
Bill Harby Writer

My family lived on the neighbor island of O‘ahu, and we had come to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park for a weekend getaway. That was the first time I saw “Pele’s tears,” the remarkable little teardrop pieces of obsidian that form when drops of airborne molten lava solidify while falling to earth. But it took 30 years before I bought a patch of rainforest outside the park, and built my little dream cottage.

I lived in the rainforest just outside the park for seven years until being abducted two years ago by my wife, who took me to her hometown in Switzerland. But we still have a cottage outside of Volcano village, where we return regularly for pagan rituals with our friends, and to fix the toilet.

One of the first things I do on every visit to Hawaii is make my pre-dawn pilgrimage to the great crater of Halema‘uma‘u upon the summit of Kīlauea volcano. As dawn turns the sky from star-dotted black to indigo to glowing blue, the fiery volcanic pit likewise pales from red to orange to steamy white. My cheeks are cold in the breeze. The Milky Way is strewn overhead like a lace ribbon and the sky is so full of bright stars that I’ve heard visitors who live in cities say: “It looks fake!” Under a full moon, you can read your guidebook by its light.

power to the traveler

Below, half a mile away, is a fiery cauldron of glowing volcanic steam lit by a roiling subterranean lava pond, rising and falling like the heaving sighs of the volcano goddess Pele. Tradition says she lives here. When the wind is right you hear the volcanic vent roaring like a god’s whisper. It’s hard to doubt Pele’s presence as the voluptuous orange-white steam undulates upward in a sensuous hula.

Come here before dawn to witness this, and your life will never be quite the same – and you haven’t even had breakfast yet.