Kilauea is venting: My postage-stamp sized piece of Hawaii

Dec 2014: UH Forestry Professor JB Friday helps me nip an invasive albezia tree in the bud 

UPDATE MAY 2018: KILAUEA IS BACK and she's pissed...  

It's been 4 years I visited my to my sliver of lava on the Big Island (see photos). Back then, Madam Pele was drooling a bit near Pahoa, providing every man and his volcano-sniffing dog a dramatic selfie moment (of which I am guilty, as you can see). 

In May 2018, she's way more antsy.  The news is ablaze with images of roiling fissures opening up all along the half-mile wide, 30-mile long East Rift Zone, which runs just south of my subdivision.  the odds of the Kilauea Volcano erupting were slated as 50 in 700 years last time I asked, and this time, Leilani Estates is one unlucky subdivision.  My sliver is about 4 miles north of the fissure, as you can see from the red circle on the map below (thank you 

My sibdivision, Nanawale estates, is circled in red; my land is on the northern edge farthest from the yellow fissure zone  
Here's a map from Dr Mark Kimura's site showing population affected in the area - my subdivision has 1, 826 residents as of 2015:
This map comes from Dr Mark Kimura's Facebook page. He also suggests following this page

You can see another zoomy-handy interactive map here.

"The issue is not so much lava hitting Nanawale and surrounds, but the sulfur fumes," said my Big Island bro JB Friday, a professional forester who lives a safe distance away in Hilo.

Some people are lucky to have friends who can put them up in a distant nabe, others are sticking it out. The stock price of gasmasks must be at an all time high.

According to JB, roads are being closed, but residents in certain areas like Kapoho, close to the coast, can escape north via a secondary, if a bit muddy and potholed, road.

The view from Ann Kobsa's personal paradise during the 2018 lava flow. It's close, but she's not goin' anywhere fast! 

"No need," says my friend Ann Kobsa whose charmed, 99% sustainable life I have rhapsodized in the past. "I am fine, as is my land. The air is fresh here thanks steady trade winds. The closest fissure is probably 1.5 miles away. I can hear the booming when it has gas explosions and I see a red orange glow at night. The flow from that fissure is over 2 miles long, currently headed downhill toward the Warm Pond."

Ann was kind enough to send the above shot of the view from her roof.

"Here's the gas plume from fissure 17, about 2 miles to the south, taken from my roof this morning. It is glowing red-orange now, in the dark, but my camera won't capture more than a blur.
No, I'm not stuck!"

She added: "Nanawale and Kapoho have good air as long as the trades keep blowing - here is a model of SO2 emissions from the various vents of Kilauea."

The value of my land has been steadily falling over the years and I daresay it must be close to the price of a bar fridge by now...if it hasn't already fallen in Pele's boiling cauldron it's definitely sniffing distance as of May 2018.

For those of us who bought land relatively cheaply over the past few years) ($500-$70,000 depending on when you bought), it has been a modest price to pay for the sheer fun of saying "I have a piece of land in Hawaii" and blogging about it. However, with taxes for vacant land now around $200 a year plus another $100 or so for community association fees (yes, Nanawale is actually subdivision with a basketball court and people living there), it may be time for some of us to give up the dream. I was given the wise advice: if you're not going to build on a piece of land within 2 years of buying (except if you're investing and you know it's going to be a slam dunk) you probably shouldn't be buying.

The internet is ablaze with late-breaking reports, and this Puna Lava Flow site has a good summary of links to the latest, including where to donate -  please feel fee to support those who have lost their homes and livelihoods to Madam Pele.


PHOTOS: 2014 Visit |  Big Island | More Big Island | Volcanoes

Visiting my land in Dec 2014:  1 | 2 | 3

Stories from my visits as a Bike Friday Customer Evangelist on the Internet archive: What a Gal does in Hawaii


UPDATE DEC 2014: As you may have read, Pele has stirred from his/her long siesta and is heading toward the little hippie town of Pahoa, a couple of miles from my land. Today, they opened up the backroad, Railroad Avenue, a formerly boggy trail that I got stuck in while biking through it with my friend Ann Kobsa. What a ride that was ... darkness fell like an axe, and as we neared the house we heard shuffling and grunting. "Wild boar," said Ann, who left my jaw agape when she told me she hunted them and made sausages from the meat and soap from the fat. "I'll go inside and get a gun. You can go inside or come along if you like." Needless to say I beat it up the stairs faster than you can say "Miss Piggy..."

The lava is oozing... 

UPDATE MARCH DECEMBER 2010: Holy helmet redux! The prices of land in Nanawale has fallen to around 5-6K a lot. Even better! About time land was priced knowing that you can never really "own it" - because it will outlive you. Nanawale Estates Site lets you check out the links to past month-by-month house/land sales.

Yes, stuff does grow in lava. All by itself too ... March 2008

Planting a black sugar cane on my little piece of Hawaii ... March 2008

So what to build on a postage stamp? I know the picture below is totally at odds with the rest of the shots on this page, but I totally love it - the Weehouse by Alchemy Architects:

And I'm dreaming about this one too: the Zenkaya house:

UPDATE, September 2007: Holy helmet! The prices of land in Nanawale have fallen to around $13-15K a lot. This is wonderful news. Perhaps more of my friends will actually buy up postage stamp of their own so they can paste themselves right next to me ...

That's The Gal Esq. to you. I am now officially the owner of a postage-stamp sized piece of turf - or rather, lava, fern and ohia tree - on the Big Island, Hawaii. It's in the Nanawale Estates subdivision in the far east region of the island, about 18 flat bikeable miles south of the clapboard town of Hilo and about just over a mile from the cool hippie pueblo of Pahoa, off Hwy 130 (click on color map).

I looked at land in the Big Island 2005 when prices were more like $5-10K a sliver, but kept procrastinating until they rose to around $20-30K in the cheapest areas. This time I thought, I can't retire on 20kbin the white western world - what the heck, I'll buy it. Now I can tell myself 'I own a piece of land in Hawaii' even though I have no immediate plans to move there. Think of it as forced savings. Property tax is just $100 a year, there's no time limit to build. 

My dear friend "99% Sustainable Ann Kobsa" who "wrote the book" on living a lush life on lava .
Read about Ann Kobsa
The lot is in a largely undeveloped, unmanicured (thank Bhudda) and admittedly, the area got a bad rap at one time for its lowlife. But, as my real estate savvy biker friend Charles said, good deals usually have to come up from somewhere less salubrious - if it's already yuppified, it's already unaffordable. (I think the correct word is 'emerging' as in 'emerging markets'). It reminds me of Costa Rica where I lived for 2 years. Just down the road in a more southerly direction you can, for $15-20K, purchase a cheapish slab of solid, unspadeable lava in the nearby Kalapana region to erect your architecturally significant, Gehry-inspired yurt-on-stilts. That same money can buy you an acre of windswept wilderness in the frontiering southern Kau region of the island. See this website for this week's cooled magma deals.
A lava flow map of the Puna region of the Big Island, showing the Nanawale Estates Subdivision.
Showing the exact location of my land. Note that the light purple areas in the middle are
the most forested - "old growth".

But what about da volcano (visions of Pompeii scroll beneath swaying palms and pina coladas)? Well, it's not like the Big Island is Mt Etna - for the most part its eruptions are slow flowing, and in the past there's been plenty of time to back up your laptop, feed the cat and drive to a higher place. But then again, you never know and that's what keeps prices down. 

What I do notice is that there is a bouyant calm about people there, not the paved-in quiet desperation of the average urban man on the mainland. Perhaps the hot, churning movement deep underfoot, and the solid wall of lava covering the double-yellow lines of a former main road make us appreciate that end of the day, you own nothing. And there's something thrilling about the very basic ingredients needed to sustain life - sun and water - falling freely out of the sky into your back yard for you to use (many here have solar panels and catchment tanks) and no oil consortium or government or utitility company can stop it. 

Down in the south the lava is pouring into the sea, day and night, making new land. If it covers my yurt, wait til it cools, come back, dig it up or build right over the top just like everyone else. See the volcano movies and photo galleries in my Hawaii Chronicles.

Click here for a Google Maps view of the Nanawale Subdivision

It looks a bit underwhelming from the road... 
My land is around where it says "81" in a circle
Right to Pahoa Village, straight ahead to the black sand beach and lava-leveled town of Kalapana, and left to the subdivisions

The quaint hippie town of Pahoa - a library, internet cafe, wholefoods market and thai restaurant - what else do you need? 

Turn off to the Nanawale Subdivision

Along the 7 mile road to the beach, the albezia trees are beautiful but vulnerable to gravity

A beautiful but bittle canopy...
Papaya farms flank the road to the beach... 

And soon the scenery starts to give way to the stark remainders - and reminder - of the last flow
The tide pools that are now, as of the 2018 flow, more "land." 

Typical Pahoa structure 

Why The Big Island? Just take a look at the way my car-free friend Ann Kobsa lives, 99% self-sustainable, in my Hawaii Chronicles and you'll see why, thanks to that sun and rain falling freely and copiously in Hawaii. I plan to maybe cut a little trail into it, camp on it, grow some papaya trees and vanilla ... 

I do believe that if everyone had a little piece of land to put up a roof and grow a papaya tree, there'd be less war. Look the misery in the world - much of it is about not not having a place for your footprint, fighting over a slivers of land. The notion of even having to buy a piece of land is bizarre; it will survive every puny body on this planet. Even the chunk of Maui owned by the mighty Oprah (who felt the need to buy up and fence off an entire hunk of coastline because "god's not making it anymore"). We're only borrowing it; the native Indians knew all about that, but that's whole other philosophical discussion.

I'd love it if people I knew bought a lot near me ... to be part of my community. 

For those who want to buy a similar, 8400 sq ft (1/5 acre) lot near the really neat, hippie-ish town of Pahoa (good internet, library, wholefoods store, Thai restaurant etc) you can contact two nice realtors below Wally Chastain or Geri Tolchin, and study this site.

Click on photo below to wander around my postage stamp piece of Hawaii (3.5 Mb Quicktime movie clip)


  • Photo Gallery of the approach to the subdivision by bicycle
  • This is how my friend 99% Sustainable Ann Kobsa lives off the grid nearby
  • Two realtors I really like who can sell you this stuff - they live in the subdivision, not far from me, and I have even stayed with them:
    1. Wally Chastin wally at wallywchastain dot com
    2. Geri Tolchin tolchina at msn dot com


Anonymous said…
Oh hi! I'm looking at land in Nanawale! I'm looking at it as a now and future investment. Maybe put a little vacation or permanent home there one day. Is there any input you can give about your experience there?
Anonymous said…
loose lips sink ships. please don't advertise, i've lived
on are better off with less . including neighbors. no-one shows up without baggage.
peace and love, aloha
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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