How Volcanoes affect the Hawaii Real Estate Market

Living in Hawaii is truly like no other place on earth. The entire Hawaiian Island chain is made up of volcanoes, and that means volcanic activity is a way of life here. Unlike the other islands, the Big Island of Hawaii has five volcanoes — three of which are considered “active,” including Mauna Loa, Hualalai and the currently-erupting Kilauea. These volcanoes affect the Hawaii real estate market in a couple of notable ways that potential homeowners need to be aware of.

[bctt tweet=”Did you know, the Big Island is the youngest & most volcanically active Hawaii island?”]

Lava Hazard Zones

Unlike the volcanoes you sometimes see in movies, Hawaii’s volcanoes erupt relatively gently, spewing rivers of lava that flow downhill to the ocean. These rivers of lava are an incredible sight that lucky residents and visitors can sometimes see at the Volcanoes National Park, but no homeowner wants to see lava right at their doorstep! Based on surveys of lava flows over the past 10,000 years, the U.S. Geological Survey has mapped Lava Hazard Zones based on the likelihood of areas receiving a flow of lava in the near-future. Zone 1 is rated the most risky, and includes areas within the Puna and Kau districts, while Zone 9 is considered the least risky. Zone 9 areas encompass most of North Kohala.

lava hazard zone map
A map of the USGS Lava Hazard Zones

If you are buying property within Zones 1 and 2, be aware of a couple variables. First, property in these zones is much cheaper than property elsewhere on the island. In fact, property in many Zone 1 subdivisions is some of the cheapest in the entire state. This can provide some exciting opportunities, but be aware that homeowners’ insurance premiums will be much higher in these areas, and you may have more difficulty getting financing.


The term “vog” refers to the fog or haze of volcanic gasses released by the Kiluea volcano that blows over parts of the Big Island, Maui and sometimes Oahu. While vog is only dangerous at extremely concentrated levels near the volcano’s crater, the resulting haze can irritate the eyes, nose and throat, and can sometimes exacerbate asthma symptoms. Some people are very sensitive to vog in the air while others aren’t affected at all. If you are prone to asthma or allergies, or you find that vog bothers you, consider buying property on the Big Island’s north and east sides, including areas like north Kohala and the towns of Waimea and Hilo. For everyone else, the presence of vog creates some spectacular sunsets!

Buying a property on the Hawaii offers unique challenges and opportunities. The island’s volcanoes affect the Hawaii real estate market, influencing prices and homeowners’ insurance. Before you start shopping for a home, it is important that you take the time to educate yourself. With the guidance of a local real estate agent, you are sure to find the right property for your needs, and you can sit back and enjoy the wonder and excitement of living on a beautiful volcanic island!


Photo by ArtBrom