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Blog 27/03/2020

How a volcano eruption created a beach in Hawaii

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    Extraordinary Experiences

As far as dream holiday destinations go, Hawaii is surely counted among the most desirable on the planet. A natural paradise quite unlike anywhere else, Hawaii's isolated location and long history of geological activity make it one of the biologically diverse regions found anywhere on Earth. Jagged volcano peaks, lush tropical rainforests and startlingly beautiful beaches mean that the USA's 50th state is also one of its most popular with tourists from all over the globe.

Now, this amazing archipelago has one more reason for you to promote it to the top of your travel wish list. In 2018, the explosive eruption of Kīlauea - the most active of the five volcanoes on the Big Island - decimated the surrounding countryside. In the process, it also created something truly stunning: the world's newest black sand beach. To witness the wonder of the natural world in motion and experience a phenomenon quite like no other, make Hawaii your next port of call.

From devastation to splendour

In May of 2018, the district of Puna was pulverised by an historic eruption of Kīlauea volcano. With fountains of molten magma reaching heights of 90m in the air, the eruption and subsequent lava flow affected 13.7 square miles of the Big Island. Fortunately, no human lives were lost in the incident, but at least 700 houses were destroyed and two iconic Hawaiian landmarks (the Alahanui Hot Ponds and the Kapoho Tide Pools) were obliterated beyond any hope of salvation.

But from the ashes of this devastating disaster, there sprang natural marvels anew. When the lava flows met the implacable tides of the Pacific Ocean, they cooled with incredible haste; the process caused the lava to explode with ground-shaking violence and transform into fragments of cinder. Over time, the relentless oscillation of the ocean’s waves will grind that cinder down into the finest black sand, adding yet another marvel to Hawaii’s already incredible catalogue and creating the world’s youngest black sand beach in the process.

Hike on living history

Almost two years on from that earth-shattering event, Pohoiki Beach – as the area has now come to be known – is a spectacular tourist destination in its own right. In addition to the obsidian shoreline, the volcanic activity also spawned four natural thermal pools in the bay. While not suitable for bathing, the pools and the beach represent a unique opportunity to witness how forces of nature far beyond our understanding and control continue to twist and shape the land into whatever forms their fancies dictate.

Today, it’s possible to participate in a guided tour of the site to fully immerse yourself in the area’s history. Tread on top of the cooled lava, touch its gnarled texture in jagged a’a lava flow walls and even spot fissures in its surface, where steam from the fires of an infernal engine continues to escape to the world above. What’s more, your local chaperon is full of engaging tales on how the eruption threw countless lives into a chaos from which they’re only now recovering, adding a human element to the scene which really brings it all to life.

A fleeting phenomenon

Another aspect which contributes to the once-in-a-lifetime appeal of Pohoiki Beach is its transient nature. Due to the distinctive manner in which they are formed, all black sand beaches have a limited lifespan. That’s because the very same process which will disintegrate cumbersome chunks of lava cinder into the finest black sand particles can eventually carry the sand away to pastures new. With no new flows arriving to replenish the strand, the beach could erode into non-existence sooner rather than later.

Of course, anthropogenic activity also has a detrimental effect on black sand beaches. Indeed, Hawaii has made it illegal for any visitor to remove sand particles from the site, so as to best preserve its austere attraction for as long as possible. Given that Pohoiki Beach is popular with tourists and fishermen alike, it’s almost certain that erosion will ultimately wear it away. Just like the grains in any hourglass, the beach’s time will one day run out altogether, so it makes sense to visit this ephemeral miracle before it’s too late.

A Quintessentially unique holiday

Opportunities to experience the ever-evolving face of Earth up close and personal are to be found all over the world – if only you know where to look. At Quintessentially Travel, we have made it our life’s work to source such geographical curiosities as these. Whether it’s uncovering the molten marvels of Pohoiki Beach in Hawaii or peeling back the transformative layers of the Atitlán Reserve in Guatemala, our team of travel experts have scoured the globe in order to find the most singular and spectacular destinations for our clients to savour.

Not only that, but we pride ourselves on delivering a holiday experience that’s been tailored to pique your unique sense of wanderlust. By taking the time to understand what makes you and your loved ones tick in terms of the ideal getaway, we can use our expert knowledge and unparalleled network of connections to make your dreams become a reality. From housing you in the finest hotels to organising an itinerary replete with all of your favourite interests, we’re here to turn the enjoyable into the unforgettable. To learn more about our tailor-made holiday experiences in Hawaii and elsewhere, get in touch with Quintessentially Travel, today.

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