Big Island, Hawaii
Puna is one of the 9 districts of Hawaii County on the Island of Hawaiʻi (Big Island; County of Hawaiʻi). It is located on the windward side (east side) of the island and shares borders with South Hilo district in the north and Kaʻū district in the west. With a size of just under 320,000 acres (1,300 km2) or 500 sq. miles. Puna is slightly smaller than the island of Kauai.
The affordable housing prices have led to an enormous increase in developments in Puna, and have made this district the fastest growing area on the Big Island. In the last 20 years[when?] the population has grown by nearly 20,000 people and it is estimated that Puna will have a higher population than Hilo by 2020. However, between 2002 and 2006 the price of houses more than doubled and the price of vacant land increased over fivefold, as increasing numbers of people from outside the district (often from the mainland U.S.) bought into the last affordable market in the state.
Homeowners Insurance can be more difficult to secure in the parts of Puna that are located in Lava Flow Hazard Zones 1 or 2. The entire Kīlauea rift zone region is in Zone 1, while the southeastern slope is in Zone 2. Most home insurance companies will not cover homes in Zone 1 or 2 for values over $350,000. Most of the volcanic destruction of private property in Hawaiʻi since the 20th century has occurred in lower Puna, including the destruction of sections of Kapoho, Royal Gardens, Kalapana and Kaimū. Since 1983 (but prior to 2018), lava flows destroyed about 190 structures and covered approximately 50 square miles out of the 500 square miles of Puna. Living in Puna has some other unique considerations. For example, most homes in Puna rely on rainwater catchment for their household water. This lack of water availability for firefighting is also an issue with insurance companies.
The climate is a mild tropical climate with abundant rainfall, especially in the northern parts and areas of higher elevation. The terrain is characterized by gentle slopes with no defined waterways. Although rainfall is occasionally very heavy (one storm in 2003 brought 36 inches (90 cm) of rain in 24 hours), flooding is rare due to the slope and porosity of the volcanic rock, but does happen on occasion. The vegetation ranges from rainforest to desert shrub and coastal strand. Large areas of native forest are present in the Wao Kele o Puna and Kahauala tracts.
Kīlauea is one of the world’s most active volcanoes, and is currently in one of its longest active phases. The current eruption has been continuously in action since 1983 along Kīlauea’s East Rift Zone, and continuously monitored by the Hawaii Volcano Observatory. The Royal Gardens subdivision and the villages of Kaimu and Kalapana have been largely destroyed by these flows and in the Fall of 2014, it briefly touched the outskirts of Pahoa, the main village in Puna, before halting and seeking a new course south into the ocean at Kamokuna.
On May 3, 2018, a fissure opened and lava started spewing out on Mohala Street in Leilani Estates. By June 5, 2018, reports from Hawai’i County officials indicated that hundreds of homes in several subdivisions had been destroyed by the ongoing eruption. By early August, over 13.7 square miles had been covered by lava, including about 875 acres of new land offshore.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, when constructed, had two entrances. The entrance from lower Puna was cut off in 1986, and several miles of the road along the ocean were covered by several flows that occurred over the course of the eruption. Millions of tourists come each year visit to see past and present lava flows.
Census-Designated Communities Within Puna
Āinaloa, Black Sands, Eden Roc, Fern Acres, Fern Forest, Glenwood, Hawaiian Acres, Hawaiian Beaches, Hawaiian Paradise Park, Kalapana, Kapoho, Keaʻau, Kehena, Kurtistown, Leilani Estates, Mountain View, Nānāwale Estates, Orchidland, Pāhoa, Vacationland Hawaii, Volcano Village