A brief story of the formation of Lehua Island off Niihau

Hey friend!

A successful charter trip to Lehua Island and Ni'ihau is not guranteed. If the wind is too strong or the waves are too high, crossing from Kaua'i isn't permitted. 

On a sunny and peaceful day in Hawai'i, I was lucky enough to cruise along the Nā Pali coast towards the Forbidden Isle and its northern, tiny islet: Lehua. 

Today you'll learn why Lehua Island exists at all - it's an explosive story! 🌋

Scroll down if you want to see an image of the dolphins that accompanied us for a short while!

Wanna learn more about Hawaiian volcanoes? Then you must know about this unique online class specifically for travelers: 


Lehua Island off Niihau

This is Lehua Island. Lehua Island is a tuff cone north of the Hawaiian Island Ni'ihau.

Lehua Island, satellite image from Google Earth

The small islet was born during a violent submarine explosion, when rising hot magma from the Hawaiian hotspot encountered the cool ocean water. The ocean water evaporated in an instant, expanded and rose into the atmosphere. The fancy term for this phenomenon is phreatomagmatic eruption.

It carried with it ashes and bits and pieces of the fragmented ocean floor. These particles are then deposited in a cone-shaped form around the erupting volcanic vent. Layer after layer they build up the cone.

The ash solidifies and turns into tuff, which is a sedimentary rock. After years and years of being battered by wind and water, the tuff strata (layers) look like this:

Lehua Island tuff cone strata, layers

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The Keyhole at Lehua Island

Here are a few other noteworthy facts about Lehua Island:

  • it's accessible via boat from Kaua'i (if weather conditions allow)
  • it's an outstanding snorkeling and diving location
  • it was declared rat-free in April 2021 (huge success for the Lehua Island ecosystem restoration project!)
  • it's a seabird sanctuary

Another highlight during a charter cruise to Lehua and Ni'ihau: the dolphins which circle the boat in a dancing manner, spinning and jumping, guiding it, playing with it, leaving behind mesmerized, enchanted hoomans on board. 🐬

Dolphins on a charter tour to Niihau


Be kind and love nature, 

PS: There's a lot more to learn about Hawai'i, e.g the geology, wildlife and plants! Book the 3.5 hours online course at EarthyUniversity!


About the author

Daniela is convinced that by gaining deep insights into planet Earth and travel destinations you’ll create meaningful, grounding and memorable life and travel experiences. She explains fundamental geological processes that form and shape landscapes and combines these insights with philosophical and philanthropical views in her online courses, articles, and newsletter. She holds two bachelor's degrees in geosciences (B.Sc.) and business administration with tourism (B.A.). She is the owner and founder of EarthyMe, EarthyUniversity and the Science of Travel blog and the Stories of Earth newsletter.





1. Images of Lehua Island and the dolphins: Daniela Dägele

2. Google Earth image: Google Earth

3. Geology and ground-water resources of the island of Niihau, Hawaii

4. Division of Forestry and Wildlife: Wildlife Program | Lehua Island Ecosystem Restoration Project (hawaii.gov)

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