HA 220px-Map of USA HI

Rockhounding Hawaii

Hawaii is an okay state for rockhounding.  The geologic nature of the state significantly limits rockhounding opportunities.  That said, however, Hawaii is a terrific resource for rockhounds interested in volcanoes.  The state also has several tall waterfalls, sea arches, and other geologic features.  The state, perhaps surprisingly, has two documented meteorites.  Accordingly, I want to go to Hawaii.  Dad, however, can’t swim and, although he’s willing to go to Hawaii, keeps suggesting other states.  So, if you know of some good rockhounding opportunities in Hawaii, please give a kid a break and help me out.

State Rocks, Gemstones, Minerals, Fossils, & Dinosaurs

Rockhounding Tip:  Knowing state rocks, gemstones, minerals, fossils, and dinosaurs often can be very useful information for rockhounders.  Ordinarily, states with significant mineral deposits, valuable gemstones, fossils, or unusual or significant rock occurrences will designate an official state mineral, rock/stone, gemstone, fossil, or dinosaur to promote interest in the state’s natural resources, history, tourism, etc.  Accordingly, such state symbols often are a valuable clue as to potential worthwhile rockhounding opportunities.

Hawaii - gem black coral

Black Coral

State Gemstone:  Black Coral (1987)
Hawaii designated black coral as its official state gem in 1987.  The black coral grows in Hawaii's offshore waters (the offshore deep waters of Hawaii also include pink and gold coral).  Found in all oceans of the world, more than 150 species of black corals have been described (14 of these from Hawaii).  Black corals are animals that live in colonies up to 6 feet high, though individual polyps may be less than .04 inches in diameter.  Some black coral grows as a single, spiral coil, while others have a fan shape or elaborate tree-like branches.  Black corals are carnivores firmly attached to the seafloor feeding on animal plankton swept over the polyps by ocean currents.  Polyps are cylindrical with six non-retractable tentacles armed with stinging cells.  Black coral is related to sea anemones and stony corals.  Though black coral's living tissue is brilliantly colored, it takes its name from the distinctive black or dark brown color of its stiff skeleton.  Note:  Under Hawaii law, it is unlawful to take, destroy, possess, or sell any pink or gold corals from State waters.  It also is unlawful to take, destroy, or possess any black coral with a base diameter of less than 3/4 inches from State waters.  Exceptions: With a permit, pink or gold coral may be taken for scientific or educational purposes or for commercial purposes, provided that harvesters make every effort to take only mature colonies of pink coral 10 inches or larger in height.

Rockhounding Resources

State-specific rockhounding books (including the books listed here as well as other books), regional rockhounding site guides, and other helpful rockhounding resources are identified - by category - in the Books & Gear section of Gator Girl Rocks with a link to the Gator Girl Rocks Amazon Store where you may easily browse selected resources and securely place an order.  Your order will benefit Charity Rocks!

Website - Rock & Mineral Society of Hawaii

Rock & Mineral Society of Hawaii
A useful club website that notes that Hawaii is a poor location for specimen collecting

  • Richard W. Hazlett & Donald W. Hyndman, Roadside Geology of Hawai'i (1996).
  • Milton Manhoff, Rockhounding in Hawaii: Our Rocks, Minerals, and Semiprecious Stones (1976). 
  • James Martin Monaco & Jeannette Hathway Monaco, Fee Mining & Rockhounding Adventures in the West (2d ed. 2007).
  • Kathy J. Rygle & Stephen F. Pedersen, Southwest Treasure Hunter's Gem & Mineral Guide (4th ed. 2008).


Museums of Interest to Rockhounders

Museum - Lyman Museum

Lyman Museum & Mission House
Hilo, Hawaii

The museum exhibits rocks, minerals, and gemstones including Orlymanite, a rare mineral fully identified in 1987.


Museum - Jaggar

Thomas A. Jaggar Museum
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii
The museum, located adjacent to the US Geological Survey's Hawaiian Volcano Observatory, has a view of Kilauea.  The museum focuses on volcanology with displays of equipment used by scientists in the past to study the volcano, working seismographs, and an exhibit of clothing and gear from scientists who got a bit too close to lava. 

Museum - pacific tsunami museum logo

Pacific Tsunami Museum
Hilo, Hawaii
The museum features a series of exhibits that interpret the tsunami phenomena, the Pacific Tsunami Warning system, the history of tsunamis in the Pacific Basin, tsunamis of the future, myths and legends about tsunamis, and public safety measures for tsunami disasters.


Places to Visit - Interesting Sites To See

Site - Hawaii Volcanoes NP Map

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
Big Island, Hawaii

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, established in 1916, displays the results of 70 million years of volcanism, migration, and evolution.
  The park encompasses 230,000 acres and ranges from sea level to the summit of the earth's most massive volcano, Mauna Loa at 13,677 feet.  In addition, the park includes Kilauea, the world's most active volcano, which offers insights on the birth of the Hawaiian Islands and views of dramatic volcanic landscapes.


SIte - Haleakala NP

Haleakala National Park

Haleakala National Park
Maui, Hawaii
Haleakala National Park covers 30,000 acres, the majority of which is a wilderness area.  The park features the dormant Haleakala (East Maui) Volcano, which last erupted at around 1490.  The Park is divided into two distinct sections: the summit area and the coastal Kipahulu area.  The summit area includes Haleakala Crater, the summit of the volcano, which is nearly seven miles across, two miles wide and about a half of a mile deep.


SIte - Thurston Lava Tube

Thurston Lava Tube
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii
Thurston Lava Tube is a five hundred year old lava cave.  Lava caves are formed when a river of lava gradually builds solid walls and a ceiling.  When the lava flow stops and the last of it passes downhill, a cave is formed.  These caves can be a few feet high and only yards long, or they can stretch for miles with high ceilings.


SIte - Kazamura Cave

Kazumura Cave
Big Island, Hawaii
Commercial (fee access) business.  Kazumura Cave is a lava tube.  It is located on the eastern slope of Kilauea and is over forty miles long and over 3,600 feet deep making it the longest and deepest known lava tube in the world.


Site - Honolulu Community College Dino Exhibit

Dinosaur Exhibit
Honolulu Community College – Honolulu, Hawaii
The college campus exhibits several dinosaur fossil replicas made from original fossils at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, New York.


Rockhounding Sites for Children & Families

Hawaii, quite frankly, is the worst state in America for actual specimen collecting of rocks, minerals, gemstones, and fossils.  The islands, geologically speaking, are very young and mostly lava.  That’s just a fact.  There is, of course, some obsidian, jasper, sunstone, olivine, and labradorite.  Crystals, however, are small.  In short, all things considered, this is an extraordinary place to see volcanoes, but a poor site for rock collecting.

Specimen - lava-flow-hawaii-20110416-111047


Specimen - Lava Pele

Hawaii has an abundance of lava.  Visitors, however, are discouraged from collecting (i.e., removing) lava and beach sand.  People are told that taking lava from Hawaii will result in bad luck.  Pele (the goddess of volcanoes, fire, etc.) allegedly is irritated when tourists take rocks (which are alleged to be her children) and she then exacts a terrible revenge on the rock collector.  Apparently, she is most protective of lava rocks and beach sand … the favored specimen of many tourists.  Accordingly, there is a ‘confessional website’ that documents a lava return program.  Seriously.  Website.

As always, rock, lava, and sand collecting are prohibited within National Parks.

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