VOG is the result of volcanic gases being released from an active volcano. There was a new eruption in March 2008 from the main crater in the Kilauea Volcano on the Island of Hawaii and it opened a vent that has been releasing ten times the normal amount of volcanic gas than the volcano normally does. This volcanic gas is similar to smog, hence its name VOG.
We have found the VOG in Kona far worse than we were expecting! Far worse....and by worse we mean be prepared for something more like the day before Pompeii Italy got buried in Volcanic ash versus a bad-smog-day in Los Angeles, California.
Here are some tips for dealing with VOG on your Hawaii vacation and still having fun. Though the VOG may be troublesome, visiting an island with dramatic volcanic activity is not something to be missed.
1. Be prepared for dealing with intense VOG on your vacation. It is rare to see VOG as thick as it has been the last few months, it has been several decades since Hawaii had anything near this level of VOG. During our trip to Kona, one day it was so thick it seemed like evening at noon. The VOG even blocked out the sunsets! Depending on the winds, the VOG can affect all the Hawaiian Islands Oahu, Maui and Kaui even though Kaui is very far east of the emissions.
2. Consider this your year to explore areas of Hawaii that are less affected by the VOG, areas on the East side of Hawaii rather other than the traditional West side tourist areas. The East side of the Big Island, is getting less VOG than other areas of the Big Island. If you are staying on the West side of the Big Island like Kona or Kohala coast, consider the East side as a side trip if the the VOG or the lack of sunshine starts to bother you. There are so many things to do and see on the east side along the Hamuka coast, in Hilo and in Puna. There are numerous bed and breakfast hideaways that are a real change and adventure after being in a huge tourist hotel.
3. Stay flexible and be mobile during your vacation. VOG levels are unpredicable. Arrange your travel so that you have freedom to drive or fly to less affected areas if your visit turns out to be during a time of intense VOG in your area. Set up your hotel so that you may leave any time without penalty, it is not nearly as crowded as usuall for this time of year so it is easier to get reservations one day at a time and extend if the air quality is good. Plan in advance for other hotels or B&Bs that are alternatives and keep their telephone numbers to call them for reservations if needed.
4. We found that the VOG in Kona was the most intense in the late afternoon. We did our snorkeling early in the day before the VOG got heavy. Stay inside with the AC on if the VOG gets bad. The AC filters out the humidity from the air which removes the noxious fumes.
5. Be prepared to do less strenuous physical activity trip if the VOG is thick.. Our experience of heavy VOG was similar to going to a high altitude ski resort. It slows you down and wears you out faster.
6. Drink lots of water. It helps soothes your throat for easier breathing in the VOG. It also helps to breath through your nose.
7. If you or someone in your group has respiratory problems, or cardiac vascular problems consult your doctor before coming, or consider waiting until these huge emissions go into remission. That may be months, years, or decades.
We think this is one of the most exciting times to visit Hawaii. See the erupting volcano, feeling the constant small earthquakes, driving to Kalapana to watch to lava explode into the ocean expanding the island is a sight to behold.