When it comes to hiking, the Big Island offers an abundance of breathtaking trails for outdoor enthusiasts to explore. From dense rainforests to dramatic coastal cliffs, this guide will take you on a journey through the diverse and magnificent landscapes of the island. Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced hiker, there’s a trail for everyone. So grab your hiking boots, pack your water bottle, and get ready to embark on an unforgettable adventure on the Big Island.
1. Popular Hiking Trails
If you’re looking for some of the most popular hiking trails on the Big Island, you’re in for a treat! The island boasts a variety of stunning trails that cater to hikers of all skill levels. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or a casual adventurer, there’s something here for everyone. So strap on your hiking boots and get ready to explore the wonders of the Big Island!
1.1. Mauna Kea Summit Trail
One of the most iconic trails on the Big Island, the Mauna Kea Summit Trail offers a breathtaking journey to the highest point in the state of Hawaii. The trail takes you to the summit of Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano that stands at an impressive 13,796 feet above sea level. As you make your way up the trail, you’ll be treated to panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes, including the stunning Pacific Ocean and the vibrant green valleys below. Keep in mind that this trail is not for the faint of heart, as it is a strenuous hike that requires proper preparation and acclimatization due to the high altitude.
1.2. Kilauea Iki Trail
If you’re a fan of volcanoes and want to experience the raw power of nature up close, the Kilauea Iki Trail is a must-do. This trail takes you through the heart of Volcanoes National Park and allows you to walk across a massive lava lake that was created during an eruption in 1959. The contrast between the solidified lava crust and the lush rainforest that surrounds it is truly awe-inspiring. Make sure to bring your camera along to capture the unique beauty of this otherworldly landscape.
1.3. Pololu Valley Trail
For those seeking a scenic hike that showcases the natural beauty of the Big Island’s coastline, the Pololu Valley Trail is an excellent choice. Located on the northern tip of the island, this trail offers stunning views of the deep valley, dramatic cliffs, and crashing waves below. As you make your way down the trail, you’ll be immersed in the lush greenery of the Kohala Mountains, making it a truly enchanting experience. Just be prepared for a steep descent and ascent, as the trail can be quite challenging.
1.4. Akaka Falls Loop Trail
If waterfalls are your jam, the Akaka Falls Loop Trail is a must-visit on the Big Island. This trail takes you through a lush rainforest teeming with native flora and fauna before leading you to the awe-inspiring Akaka Falls, a 442-foot waterfall that will leave you speechless. The trail itself is relatively easy and well-maintained, making it suitable for hikers of all ages and skill levels. Don’t forget to bring your camera to capture the beauty of this natural wonder.
1.5. Waipio Valley Rim Trail
Last but certainly not least, the Waipio Valley Rim Trail offers a glimpse into the untouched beauty of the Big Island’s valleys. This moderate trail takes you along the rim of the Waipio Valley, offering breathtaking views of the lush forests, cascading waterfalls, and black sand beaches below. It’s a great option for those looking for a less crowded trail that still provides stunning vistas and a sense of adventure.
2. Off the Beaten Path Trails
For those who crave a sense of adventure and want to explore lesser-known trails, the Big Island has plenty to offer. These off the beaten path trails will take you to hidden gems and secluded spots, allowing you to truly immerse yourself in the island’s natural beauty.
2.1. Muliwai Trail
The Muliwai Trail is a hidden gem that will take you on a truly epic journey through lush valleys, towering cliffs, and secluded beaches. This challenging trail spans approximately 18 miles and requires multiple days to complete, making it a great option for experienced hikers looking for a more rugged adventure. As you traverse the trail, you’ll be rewarded with breathtaking views of the coastline, as well as the opportunity to witness rare wildlife and pristine natural landscapes.
2.2. Ka’au Crater Trail
If you’re up for a thrilling and challenging hike, the Ka’au Crater Trail is the perfect choice. This trail will take you on an unforgettable journey through dense rainforests, across steep ridges, and to the rim of an ancient volcanic crater. Along the way, you’ll encounter cascading waterfalls, serene pools, and breathtaking views of the island’s lush landscapes. Be prepared for a strenuous hike that requires scrambling and climbing, but the reward at the end is well worth the effort.
2.3. Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail
For a more accessible off the beaten path adventure, the Makapu’u Point Lighthouse Trail is a great option. This easy to moderate trail takes you along the southeastern coastline of the Big Island, offering stunning views of the deep blue ocean and rugged cliffs. The highlight of the trail is the historic Makapu’u Lighthouse, which provides a glimpse into the island’s maritime history. Keep your eyes peeled for migratory whales during the winter months, as this area is a popular whale watching spot.
3. Family-Friendly Trails
The Big Island is not just for experienced hikers and adventure seekers; it also offers a variety of family-friendly trails that are perfect for exploring with your loved ones. These trails are relatively easy, well-maintained, and offer opportunities for kids to learn about the island’s unique ecosystems and wildlife.
3.1. Manoa Falls Trail
The Manoa Falls Trail is a great option for families looking to experience the beauty of the Big Island’s rainforests. This short and easy trail takes you through a lush rainforest filled with exotic plants and towering trees, eventually leading you to the breathtaking Manoa Falls. At 150 feet tall, this waterfall is a sight to behold and offers the perfect spot for a picnic or a refreshing dip in the natural pool below.
3.2. Pu’u Hinahina Lookout Trail
For families looking for a trail that offers stunning panoramic views without too much exertion, the Pu’u Hinahina Lookout Trail is a fantastic choice. This easy trail takes you to a scenic viewpoint that overlooks Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, and the Kohala Coastline. With its gentle slopes and well-maintained path, this trail is suitable for hikers of all ages and fitness levels.
3.3. Rainbow Falls Loop Trail
As the name suggests, the Rainbow Falls Loop Trail offers a chance to witness the mesmerizing sight of rainbows forming in the mist of a beautiful waterfall. This easy trail takes you to the scenic Rainbow Falls, where you can marvel at the cascading water and lush surroundings. The trail also offers educational signage that provides insights into the local flora and fauna, making it a great opportunity for kids to learn and explore.
4. Trails for Experienced Hikers
If you’re an experienced hiker looking for a challenge, the Big Island has a few trails that will put your skills and endurance to the test. These trails are more rugged, remote, and require proper planning and preparation before embarking on the journey.
4.1. Waimanu Valley Trail
The Waimanu Valley Trail is not for the faint of heart. This strenuous and isolated trail takes you to the remote and untouched Waimanu Valley, where you’ll be rewarded with serene black sand beaches, dramatic cliffs, and pristine waterfalls. The trail spans approximately 16 miles round trip and requires camping overnight, as the valley is only accessible by foot. Make sure to pack enough supplies and be prepared for a demanding hike that will push your limits.
4.2. Pepeiao Trail
For experienced hikers looking for a challenging but rewarding adventure, the Pepeiao Trail is a hidden gem. This rugged trail takes you deep into the heart of the Kohala Mountains, offering stunning views of the surrounding valleys and coastline. The trail is steep, rocky, and requires scrambling in certain sections, so it’s important to come prepared with proper footwear and hiking gear. The effort is well worth it, as you’ll be treated to breathtaking views and a sense of accomplishment when you reach the summit.
5. Coastal Hiking Trails
If you’re a fan of the ocean and want to combine your love for hiking with stunning coastal views, the Big Island has some fantastic coastal hiking trails to offer. These trails will take you along the picturesque shoreline, allowing you to soak in the beauty of the clear blue waters and rugged cliffs.
5.1. Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail
The Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail provides a unique opportunity to explore the rich history and culture of the Big Island while enjoying scenic coastal views. This historic trail follows the ancient footsteps of Native Hawaiians, offering glimpses into their traditional way of life and sacred sites. The trail spans approximately 175 miles and can be divided into shorter sections for day hikes. Along the way, you’ll encounter pristine beaches, lava formations, and beautiful coastal landscapes that are sure to leave a lasting impression.
5.2. Kealakekua Bay Trail
The Kealakekua Bay Trail is a coastal gem that takes you to one of the most beautiful bays on the Big Island. The trail starts at Napo’opo’o Beach Park and winds its way along the shoreline, offering breathtaking views of the turquoise waters and lush green landscapes. The highlight of the trail is the historic Captain Cook Monument, which marks the site where Captain James Cook first set foot on the island. The trail is relatively easy and suitable for hikers of all skill levels, making it a great option for those looking for a scenic coastal hike.
In conclusion, the Big Island of Hawaii offers a plethora of hiking trails that cater to all types of adventurers. Whether you’re looking for popular trails with stunning views, off the beaten path trails that reveal hidden gems, family-friendly hikes that are perfect for a day out, or challenging trails that will push your limits, there’s something here for everyone. So grab your hiking boots, pack some snacks, and embark on an unforgettable journey through the natural wonders of the Big Island. Happy hiking!