November 2018 Hawaii Island and I still have no adequate words to describe the lava flow fields, the scarred land, Halemaumau ripped apart, lives put on hold and an economic disaster that will be insurmountable to many. Current status I would say is somewhere around maintaining a pretense. Visitor numbers remain down for the Hawaii Island, discretionary spending down also.
Roads to the area remain blocked, Leilani is off limits unless you are trying to live there and it's a crime if you are caught out on the new flow fields..apparently. Residents of the affected areas struggle for solutions and attempt to improve communications from the County of Hawaii and State departments that hold their life in their hands. There are no answers insight. A few hardy souls are using helicopters to get back to their isolated property and a D9 is busy cutting an entrance to Pohoiki for residents in the lower areas to access property . People are hiking over 1 hour across the aa'a lava flows to get to the surf at Pohoiki. Hawaii county realized how many non permitted vacation rentals were in the area now they are busy figuring out how to collect those taxes.
Do's and don't if you are visiting. Do support Hawaii local business, artists and craftspeople as well as the local Hawaii restaurants. Do not go into the affected areas.. you could be arrested and fined and frankly, after a visit I made with a property owner a few days back, it is dangerous. I am in no rush to go back in.
Do anticipate enjoying your visit.Most of the National park is open and Volcano House is back in action . Do support local business in Volcano village while you are in the area. There are art studios, restaurants and a winery to visit. Do visit Pahoa and Kaimu. There are great restaurants in Pahoa and an attempt is being made to put together a visitor center where you will hear the local stories of impact. On the way to Kaimu check out the Painted church which was relocated up the highway away from flows in the early 90's. In Kaimu area you can visit the small black sand beach, grab a drink at Uncle's and visit the House of Fire Gallery.Mackenzie State park is open. Lava Tree park is currently closed. There is no active lava to be seen, it is supposedly moving into the Middle of the East rift zone underground, this information doesn't mean anything at the time of me writing..I read that to mean it's normal and to be expected,if I hadn't been told I wouldn't know.
Pu'u O'o is still belching steam there is no visible lava inside, yes I looked inside just a couple of weeks back...non visible. Halemaumau also has no visible lava but the damage the caldera suffered is breath taking and a must see.
You can fly over the lava fields and Pu'u O'o and Halemaumau the views are stunning and well worth the money. Visit local markets there are great locally produced gifts and art that you will not find at the usual big box stores and they are made here. If it's important for you to know ask..just because it looks like it's from Hawaii or Hawaii themed doesn't mean it's not made elsewhere.
Enjoy and stay safe hope you will come visit me at the Hilo Farmers Market most Wednesdays and Saturdays