Crashing ocean waves are as powerful as they are beautiful. Water, in all of its forms, has the power to transform and create through years upon years of erosion; transforming creek beds into canyons and cliff sides into sandy beaches. Most of the time, we only see the after-effects, but some places show the transformation water has in real-time. Holei Sea Arch is one such location.
Holei Sea Arch is a 90-foot tall lava rock formation that, as its name suggests, stretches from the land into an arch over the sea. It sticks out further than any other rock formation along its stretch of coastline, making for a stark contrast against the sea. The whole of the arch is comprised of basalt, which was cooled and hardened lava that flowed from a Kilauea Volcano eruption half of a millennium ago.
The hole at the formation’s heart, what transformed it from being a cliff headland into a sea arch, was formed by the pulverizing powers of the crashing waves that smashed into the cliff wall and then refracted onto the center of the headland. A few centuries ago, the center gave way and formed the recognizable sea arch formation. By the end of this century, the whole of Holei Se Arch will be worn away by the waves. So when you visit this unique natural landmark, you may very well find yourself saying in the future that you were the last generation to do so.
You will find Holei Sea Arch within the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island and at the very end of what is called the Chain of Craters road. This is a 19-mile paved road that meanders through the East Rift and along the coastline of the park. As its name suggests, all along this road you are going to find spectacular rock formations. These formations include craters, lava tubes, dormant lava flows, and more. There are also several wheelchair-accessible overlooks, including Muliwai o Pele and Kealakomo. This road ends in a turn-around and small parking lot where you can park and take the short walk to a viewing platform for the Holei Sea Arch. You will also find bathrooms at this location and a small booth selling souvenirs.
One of the best times to view the Holei Sea Arch is at sunrise. Being one of the remote (drivable) locations in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, this does require quite the early morning. But the crepuscular colors brightening the greens, blacks, and blues of this coastal landscape is a truly memorable experience. After which, hiking enthusiasts can enjoy over 150 miles of marked trails to kick-start their morning adventure on.
One final point, last year, the overlook at Holei Sea Arch was closed and had to be moved due to concerns about new cracks along it and the nearby coastal cliffs. Truly, this formation might not be around for long so if you are visiting the Big Island and love the natural world, then this ought to be a must-visit on your itinerary! Just make sure to give yourself plenty of time to visit all the other outstanding sights within this premier national park.
-Make sure to fuel up before you head out to the Chain of Craters as there is no food, water, or fuel located along the route. You’ll find a 24-hour gas station at Volcano Village which is a must-stop for snacks, water, and gas. This is especially true if you plan on some serious hiking while visiting Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
–Hawaii Volcanoes National Park also uniquely offers biking tours in which cyclists can bike right through the lava fields (making it one of only a few places in the world where you can do so). Check out the tour outfit of Volcano Bike Tours to learn more.