Hawaii Island seeks to woo visitors for a rare show: 2 volcanoes erupting at once

Ingrid Yang, left, and Kelly Bruno, both of San Diego, take a photo in front of lava erupting...
Ingrid Yang, left, and Kelly Bruno, both of San Diego, take a photo in front of lava erupting from Hawaii's Mauna Loa volcano Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2022, near Hilo, Hawaii. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)(Gregory Bull | AP)
Published: Dec. 2, 2022 at 1:39 PM HST|Updated: Dec. 2, 2022 at 2:57 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Amid the ongoing eruption at Mauna Loa, officials are clearing up the confusion and concern among travelers.

The message: Yes, it’s still safe to visit Hawaii Island and no, you shouldn’t change your travel plans.

In fact, Hawaii County Mayor Mitch Roth said now is a “great time to be coming to Hawaii.”

T. Ilihia Gionson, of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, said it’s too early to tell if there have been any major trends in visitor arrivals, but tourism overall has been on the rise.

“Tourism has had a robust recovery, especially on the neighbor islands, including Hawaii Island,” Gionson said.

County officials encourage visitors to check out the fiery spectacle but remind people to do so safely.

On Thursday, officials opened a public viewing area along Old Saddle Road — near the Gilbert Kahele Recreation Park — to accommodate growing crowds and alleviate congestion on Daniel K. Inouye Highway.

More than 2,000 cars took the route on the first day, Mayor Roth said.

“I was through there last night,” Roth said Friday. “It’s actually the best lava viewing available. It’s a safe place to go.”

SPECIAL SECTION: Mauna Loa Eruption

Roth issued an emergency order on Wednesday to ban parking and walking on Daniel K. Inouye Highway, between the 16 mile marker and intersection of Hawaii Belt Road, following several crashes in the area.

Roth said there are also other great vantage points to see the eruption, including Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. That’s where spectators can see both the Mauna Loa and Kilauea eruptions — a dual event that hasn’t been seen since Mauna Loa last erupted in 1984.

According to Jessica Ferracane, spokeswoman for the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, visitation has been light and steady at the park.

“People are delighted to see the dual eruption, but I think Mauna Loa and the new county area — that’s kind of where the drama is right now, so that’s probably where most of the visitors are going,” she said.

Ferracane said the biggest concern for the park is if lava crosses Daniel K. Inouye Highway, which would mean more residents and visitors using Highway 11, which is partly under National Park Service jurisdiction.

“There are very skinny shoulders, you know, it’s not a safe road, so if traffic increases on that road, we are gearing up to do safety mitigations, like enacting no stopping on the side of the road type of regulations,” Ferracane said.