Hiking on the Big Island
Considering it’s large size, and numerous trails, varied climates, and differing terrain, hiking on the big island can be a fascinating experience. There are literally thousands of trails, but I am just going to touch on a few trails that are good for a one day visit to the Big Island and a few that may take a few days. The following are a list of some of the Hiking trails on the big island:
1. Akaka Falls Trail
This trail is located in the Akaka Falls State Park. It is a very easy .4 mile loop that is paved. You will stroll through tropical vegetation to two scenic lookouts. The first is the Kahuna Falls and the second is the enormous 442 foot Akaka Falls which plunges to the river below. This trail is great for families and takes about ½ hour to complete. The elevation gain is 100 feet. The trailhead is right off the parking lot. There are restrooms at the park
2. Ala Kahakai Trail
This trail is located in the Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area. Hiking on the big island brings difficult trails too. This trail is a moderate 15.4 mile loop on level coastal terrain with only about a 30 foot elevation gain. This trail can be accessed at numerous locations but the trailhead starts at Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area. The beautiful coastal hike follows ancient fisherman trails and old roads of the Hawaiian kingdom. The trail leads past numerous beaches and intersects other trails such as the Moloma Trail that leads to the Puako Petroglyphs close to Holoholokai. You will hike past some of Hawaii’s only remaining pristine coastline. The trail does come dangerously close to the edge of some eroding sea cliffs. Be careful on this trail.
3. Kalopa Nature Trail
The Kalopa Nature Trail is located in the Kalopa State Recreation Area. When hiking on the big island, don't forget the rainforests. This is a .7 mile easy loop through a native Ohia rainforest with an elevation gain of 50 feet. This is another great family hike that takes about one hour traveling at a leisurely pace. You will be walking through the middle of a rainforest that is covered with a canopy of ancient Ohia trees. You will hike past more than 25 species of native plants including Ohia trees and ferns. The trailhead can be reached from the parking lot of The Kalopa State Recreation Area.
4. Lapakahi Village Interpretive Trail
This trail is located in Lapakahi State Historical Park. When Hiking on the big island, it is nice to visit historical landmarks and learn a little about Hawaii’s past. This easy 1.1 mile loop on the dry coastline has a 50 foot elevation gain. You will hike past the partially restored remains of an ancient settlement that once existed along the coastline here. If you are hiking between November and May, this is also an excellent place to spot Humpback Whales. The trailhead can be reached from the parking lot at Lapakahi State Historical Park. Informative brochures and maps are available at a kiosk located at the trailhead.
5. Lava Trees Loop Trail
Located in Lava Tree State Monument, this is another very easy .7 mile loop through a cool forest with no elevation gain. When hiking on the big island, this is a really great family hike that leads you to the lava trees. This is the area where the hot lava hit the wet Ohia trees and cooled. The rest of the lava drained back into the earth’s core through a fissure. J The cooled lava molds of the Ohia trees were all that was left behind. This is a great experience to see these lava forms. The trailhead can be reached from the parking lot at Lava Tree State Monument. There is also a nice picnic area and restrooms at the park.
6. Manuka Nature Trail
Located in the Manuka State Wayside Reserve. This is a 2 mile moderate loop through a cool forested area with a 400 foot elevation gain. The trail winds through a forest of native plants and animals. You will also see lava flows of varying ages and a crater. The trailhead is located just off the parking lot. You will see plenty of native birds and maybe even a wild pig or two. The trail takes 2-3 hours to complete. J Bring water and mosquito repellent.
7. Captain Cook Monument Trail
When hiking on the big island, don't forget Captain Cook. This 2.5 mile popular hike is located in Kealakekua Bay. The trail is a moderate - difficult trail through loose gravel and dirt. The trail gets very steep at certain points. After several hundred foot descent, you will cross old lava fields and pass through some ruins of an old Hawaiian Village. After a few switchbacks, you will reach Captain Cooks Monument. The white obelisk memorial stands at the spot where Captain Cook was killed in 1779 during a dispute with the natives that lived in the area. The hike back is steep. Make sure to bring plenty of water and sunscreen. The trailhead is just off Highway 11 on Napo’opo’o Road in Captain Cook Town.
8. Muliwai Trail
This is an 18 mile difficult trail that many people take 2 - 3 days to complete. If you are doing the entire trail, Hiking and Camping permits are required. The trailhead is at the end of Highway 240 in Waipio Valley. The trail leads through the valley then inclines through switchbacks and gulches and finally emerges in Waimanu valley. Waimanu valley is a lush green untouched valley much like the Garden Of Eden. This trail should only be attempted by experienced backpackers and hikers.
9. Onomea Bay Trail
This easy trail is just under a mile and there is very little elevation gain. You will hike the trail right next to the Botanical Garden. The views you will see are panoramic views of cliffs and bays of the Mamakua Coast of the east side of the island. The beach is also easily accessible, although the current is strong in this area. To reach the trailhead, follow the signs to the 4 mile scenic loop off Highway 19, then turn left on Old Hawaiian Belt Road. The trail starts just before the entrance to the botanical garden.
10. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
When you think of hiking on the big island, you must think about Hawaii Volcanoes Nation Park. Boasting more than 150 miles of hiking trails, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park has something for everybody.
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HERE IS A LIST OF SOME OF THE BEST TRAILS WITHIN HAWAII VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK
10A. Halema’uma’u Overlook
This is an easy .25 mile walk from the parking area to Halema’uma’u Crater edge where you can look down and view Pele’s home.
10B. Devastation Trail
This is an easy 1 mile roundtrip hike that takes about 30 minutes to walk through the cinder outfall of the 1959 Kilauea Iki eruption. The trail is wheelchair and stroller accessible. The points of interest on this trail are the many plants and birds you will see and the tree molds and Pele’s hair and tears.
10C. Thurston Lava Tube
When hiking on the big island everybody wants to hike to The Thuston Lava Tube. This is a great .3 mile easy 20 minute walk through a tree fern forest to the Prehistoric Lava Tube that is big enough to run a subway through. This is a great family hike. The kids love the lava tube tunnel.
10D. Kilauea Iki
This is a challenging 4 mile loop that takes two or three hours to hike down 400 feet through rainforest and across the crater floor. You will pass Pu’u Pua’I cinder cone and return by way of the crater’s rim. You will also see the 1959 Lava lake, steam vents and cinder and spatter cones. This is not a good hike for small children. It is very steep and rocky.
10E. Kipuka Puaulu
This is an easy 1 mile loop that takes you through a forest filled with rare plants. The trailhead is accessible from Mauna Loa Road. This is a dirt path with very little incline. You will see lots of birds and Ohia and Koa trees.
10F. Iiahi Trail
This is a moderate 1.5 mile loop that takes you through a rain forest, past steam vents and offers great views of Kilauea Caldera, Halema’uma’u Crater and Mauna Loa. Be careful around the steam vents because the steam is very hot.
10G. Earthquake Trail
This is an easy 1 mile roundtrip trail that is wheelchair and stroller accessible. You will walk over a section of road that was cracked in the 1983 6.6 magnitude Mauna Loa earthquake. There are lots of huge cracks to view as well as lots of birds and insects along the trail. You can also see Kilauea Caldera and Mauna Loa.
10H. Halema’uma’u Trail
This is a challenging 3.5 mile one way hike that descends 400 feet through rain forest across Kilauea Caldera to Halema’uma’u Crater. The trail ends at the crater or you can return by the Crater Rim Trail. This trail gets very hot so bring plenty of water. The sulfur fumes are also very dangerous and people with heart or breathing should not attempt this trail. You will see steam vents and lots of lava flows along with some birds.
10I. Crater Rim
Crater Rim Trail is an 11 mile loop that can be very challenging. This trail encircles Kilauea’s Summit Caldera. You will pass through desert and rain forest. You will view Halema’uma’u and Keanakaka’I Craters and Mauna Loa. You will see birds, desert, rainforest, steam vents, lava flows and sulfur banks. The sulfur fumes around Halema’uma’u crater are very strong and caution should be taken.
10J. Pu’u Trail
This is a moderate three mile hike that takes about three hours roundtrip. You will hike over 1973 and 1974 lave flows to the top of a 150 foot prehistoric cinder cone. This trail is accessible through Chain Of Craters Road. This trail is very hot so bring plenty of water.
10K. Pu’u Loa Petroglyphs Trail
This is a nice 2 mile roundtrip easy to moderate coastal trail that traverses older lava flows to one of Hawaii’s most extensive petroglyph fields. Stay on the boardwalk so you do not disturb the fragile petroglyphs. Bring plenty of water, sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat. You will be in the hot sun most of the time. You will see lots of petroglyphs and pahoehoe lava.
For more information these trails or any of the other numerous trails within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, pick up a free map and trail guide at the visitor’s center upon arrival. Have a great time hiking on the Big Island.
See Lava Flowing into the ocean at night on this great tour below.
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