The Story of the Royal Garden Subdivision


The Royal Garden Subdivision was a largely undeveloped 1,800-acre community situated to the East of Kilauea Volcano. The property was highly valuable and seen as a blossoming community with a beautiful view of the volcano. No one seemed to mind that the site was a short 6 kilometers down a steep slope southeast of the vent. By 1983 about 200 structures had been built on the property and their values were still rapidly rising. Then the volcano erupted. On March 20, 1983 the first house was destroyed by a lava flow. When authorities ordered the subdivision evacuated, lava was flowing down the subdivision streets. Many residents were forced to drive downhill quickly to avoid the flow. Several volcanoes over the next 20 years reached the site in about 13 hours, leaving residents very little time to pack up and get away. This put many residents into panic mode and many of the properties went on sale, although for some odd reason none seemed to sell. Residency dwindled while most occupants left town, but there were a few who were vigilant and stayed. The economic impact is obvious as the owners of the Royal Gardens homes had their most valuable possession in the path of a volcano. A few years of minor activity later and the residents were hoping for the best.

Unfortunately, in 1987, the residents found themselves in the path of the volcano again. The direct road from the Royal Gardens Subdivision to the nearest town, Hilo, was cut off. A short drive to the market now became a drive to the end of the subdivision, a 1-mile hike to the National Park road system, and an additional 60 miles – one way. Residents had “inside cars” and “outside cars” which they would leave on either side of their hikes. The picture below is from 1990, after the subdivision had been ravaged by the thick, black ‘a’a flows. It can be seen how the Royal Gardens Subdivision is directly between the volcano’s vent (top left) and the local low point, the ocean (bottom right).


While occupancy dwindled further, several die-hards stayed put. One resident even opened a successful Bed and Breakfast. Only the most stubborn of souls lived in the subdivision until the most recent lava flow, on March 8, 2008. The flow destroyed the Nation Park access road that was a mile’s walk from the subdivision. The residents now officially had no access to the public and were forced to move away.

In 2001 some relief came for some of the old residents of the subdivision. The Office of Hawaiian Affairs and the Department of Land & Natural Resources combined to donate $3.1 million to build the infrastructure for the city of Kikala-Keokea three miles North of the old site of Royal Gardens. Only residents of the old subdivision could lease or buy the new development.

On March 6th, 2008, a major lava flow again struck the area near Royal Garden. This time the National Park access road to the site was blocked off. The government officially made the residents of the subdivision move away from their lava-filled development.

On the site today, about 10 abandoned, ill-maintained structures are still standing. The site is basically inaccessible except by helicopter with the destruction of the access road. For the families a way of life was completely turned upside down.  This development is a good example of the economical impact one of these such disasters can inflict.  There was a great amount of money lost by everyone in the area of the volcano.

Works Cited


One Response to “The Story of the Royal Garden Subdivision”

  1. Daddy37 Says:

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