Fire. A car trip across Hawaii’s volcanic Big Island
We have a common dream: To explore Hawaii’s most stunning trails by tracing the four elements of ‘Earth’, ‘Water’, ‘Air’ and ‘Fire’. We, meaning photographer Manuel and design professional Nina, both from Munich, Germany. We’ve written about our adventures so that we can share them with the readers of the GORE-TEX blog. Driving across the Big Island, we encounter the many remnants of volcanic activity on the island.


We have a common dream: To explore Hawaii’s most stunning trails by tracing the four elements of ‘Earth’, ‘Water’, ‘Air’ and ‘Fire’. We, meaning photographer Manuel and design professional Nina, both from Munich, Germany. We’ve written about our adventures so that we can share them with the readers of the GORE-TEX blog. Driving across the Big Island, we encounter the many remnants of volcanic activity on the island. The Big Island stretches across 10,433 m2 and boasts four of the world’s five climate zones. The landscape, vegetation and weather change at breathtaking speed. Every curve in the road reveals another stunning view; each stop features a completely different landscape. Having been cooped up in the car for some time, when we finally get out, we are immediately struck by the intensity of everything around us: The sun, the wind, the cold, the smell of the sea. We’re overwhelmed by it all. We spend our days on the Big Island as if on a high. Even though this isn’t a multi-day hike across the island, our Windstopper and GORE-TEX Pro jackets, and our GORE-TEX SURROUND® footwear are still put through their paces.

Pololu Beach

A rocky serpentine path leads down into Pololu Valley. The vegetation on either side is lush and green, creating a lovely contrast to the deep blue of the sea below. At each turn, the view beckons us down the steeply descending coastline to the valley floor. Here, the restless sea rushes up the gravel beach in waves of white foam. The long Pololu Valley lies sheltered as if in a cauldron, surrounded by steeply rising cliffs. The black sand of Pololu Beach is our first encounter with the volcanoes which have shaped this island more than any other force of nature.

Volcanoes National Park

Just opening the car door takes real effort. The wind blows mercilessly over the treeless expanse, tugging at our jackets. We pull our hoods over our faces and stumble across the rock-strewn plain. Moving forward on this terrain is extremely difficult; the rough chunks of lava with their sharp edges are loosely piled on top of each other. For miles, all you can see are the masses of lava that have pushed their way from the volcanoes towards the sea. We are greeted by an almost apocalyptic scene. Even almost fifty years after the volcanoes last erupted, the echoes of destruction linger. The volcanic rock crunches under our hiking boots like broken glass as we turn back towards the car after several hours in this bizarre wasteland. We won’t be seeing liquid lava today. Can you recommend a good volcano trip? Tell us about it in the comments!

Mauna Kea

Paddle Road is the name of the asphalt access road that leads up to the Mauna Kea volcano. At 4,205 m, this is Hawaii’s highest mountain. Measured from the ocean floor and not from sea level, it is all of 10,203 m high, which would make it the highest mountain on Earth. Driving makes the ascent of this four thousander rather too easy, but even this mode of transport has its risks. Instructed by the street patrol to take a thirty-minute break to adapt to the altitude, we make use of the time to change our clothes. It’s noticeably cooler at this high altitude; the peak of the volcano is snow-capped all year round. We put on down garments and long windproof trousers and jackets. When we reach the top, we’re greeted by an icy wind. We aren’t the only ones who have made the trek to the mountaintop in time for sunset. We’re surrounded by sightseers from all over the world. The rock glows a dark red as the evening sun slowly sinks into the clouds. Looking for more reasons to go hiking in Hawaii? Click here for the hiking articles Earth and Air. Click here for our authors’ top tips on packing for your hiking trip.


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