The drive from Hilo was really short, so I stopped off in Pāhoa for coffee. Pāhoa is about as close as you can legally get to the recent lava flows. I couldn't see them though. I could have continued down the road, but didn't really fancy running into the police.
Once in Hilo I went to see an old lava tube. You couldn't go very far through it, as it is dark, and quickly goes under private property.
I also went to see the rainbow falls, which are effectively in a suburb of Hilo.
I drove out north of Hilo to see the next set of waterfalls at the 'Akaka Falls State Park. These were more impressive, and the trail circuit takes you though a very large rainforest valley.
On the way back into town I couldn't resist taking a signposted scenic route. The road went through the rainforest along the coast, and featured many tight corners, potholes, and single lane bridges.
The next day I went to the Pacific Tsunami Museum in Hilo. Hilo has had a couple of bad tsunamis in the past, due to its exposed location in the middle of the Pacific, and due to its funnel-like bay. Fortunately on volcanic islands the land slopes quite steeply from the coast, and safety is never far away. The museum also explained how the early warning system works, and talks about its subsequent expansion into the Indian and Atlantic oceans following the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. Because of the tsunami risk, there are no buildings next to the sea in Hilo; there is a buffer zone of roads and parks.
In the afternoon I took a helicopter ride out of Hilo airport to see the recent lava flows that I had failed to see from land. The helicopter first flew over macadamia nut farms to get to the remnants of Leilani Estates. A line of fissure venting hydrogen sulphide gas now splits Leilani Estates. In the middle the new fissure 8 cone stands smoking. It was the source of most of the lava.
The helicopter followed the flow to the coast, where the new expanse of land, which extends over a mile beyond the old coastline, still steams.
On the way back into Hilo the helicopter visited some nearby waterfalls, where a stream has carved through old lava tubes from an old flow.
The helicopter was quite small, and had no doors, so it was a bit like being in a small windy box, but with a good view.
Tomorrow I am staying on the west coast. Close enough to Kona airport that I fly out of in a few days time. I was going to take the north road, but the Volcanoes National Park reopens tomorrow, and that is to the south; so instead my plan will be to go to the national park in the morning, and then take the saddle road to where I need to be. The saddle road goes through the middle of the island, between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa. I can then explore some of the sites on the north road the following day.