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Active Volcano on Maui?

Ask the Big Kahuna

“Answering the most common visitor questions”


My husband and I are unsure which island to visit. This will be our first trip to the Hawaiian islands and we can’t imagine that the islands are all that different from one another. My husband really wants to see a volcano and lava fields, but I want to go to Maui where my friend recently vacationed (and loved). Is the volcano on Maui active?

Mary and Peter
Whitefish, Montana


Aloha Mary and Peter —

Well, let me just begin by welcoming you and your husband to the land of Aloha. Choosing an island is a good problem to have and I assure you that even though each island was created in the same way, they possess differences that make them individually unique.

In response to your question, Maui is no longer on the “hot spot” and Maui’s Mt. Haleakala is considered a dormant volcano. The only hot lava that you can see is on the Big Island. However, while on Maui your husband can visit the Haleakala National Park, which preserves the outstanding volcanic landscape of the upper slopes of Haleakala. The Haleakala National Park is not lacking in activities and learning opportunities on the formation of the Hawaiian Islands and the effects of volcanic eruptions.

But before you get discouraged, you will be happy to know that Airplane Tours out of Maui fly over to the Big Island to view Kilauea, the island’s active volcano. So, you can stay on Maui and still have the opportunity to see the volcano and lava flow on the Big Island.

Click below to get started:
Maui Airplane Tours

Here is a little background on the formation of the Hawaiian islands that will help explain why Mt. Haleakala is considered a dormant volcano.

At some places under the earth’s crust, superhot magma from the mantle flows upward in a convection current like boiling water and pushes up against the crust. Those places are called “hot spots.” In the middle of the Pacific is such a spot.

The Pacific Plate, a huge slab of the earth’s crust, slides slowly toward the northwest over the “hot spot,” which pushes through the crust from time to time and makes a volcanic island. The crust moves on and takes the new island with it away from the hot spot.

It’s slow work though. Kauai was formed over the spot more than 5 million years ago.

Right now, the “hot spot” is under the southeast corner of the Big Island, where the active volcanoes are, and extends at least 20 miles offshore farther to the southeast, where a new island, already named Loihi, has begun to rise from the seabed. It’s still 1,000 meters below the surface of the water, though.

Big Kahuna