Locals have long described Pahoa, a small town on the Island of Hawaii, as a magical, jungle-y wild west. But since early 2015, Pahoa has been described in another way: as the town that the volcano goddess Pele decided, at the last minute, to spare. Flowing lava from Kilauea, one of Hawaii’s three active volcanoes, stopped just 600 feet shy of the Pahoa’s main supermarket and 200 feet from Main Street. As the locals like to put it, Pele simply changed her mind.
Kilauea is an active volcano, and lava continuously flows from its mouth into the ocean below. The sight draws travelers and geologists from all over the world to Pahoa, but newcomers end up staying for the town’s quirky mix of hippies and traditional Hawaiian culture. Pahoa’s Main Street features neo-Victorian architecture, false-front buildings, and wooden sidewalks, reflecting its history as a commercial stop on the old railroad line. Papaya farmers, artists, off-gridders, and the descendants of Japanese and Filipino sugar mill workers create a diverse and accepting vibe.
Here, seven ways to explore the town that Pele has decided to let live . . . for now.