The Best Big Island Hikes for Your Next Hawaii VacationNovember 28, 2018 • By THIRDHOME
Hawaii is a land of many unique wonders and vistas. Vivid color palettes make up the landscape of this chain of Polynesian isles. Verdant green mountains, black volcanic lava fields, golden beaches and turquoise waters find their way into every outdoor Big Island excursion.
Hawaii’s marvels are best exhibited on The Big Island, Hawai’i. Keep reading for the best Big Island hikes to be found during your next Hawaiian stay.
As a general rule, the Big Island’s jungle hikes can be found on the east side of the island, whereas your beach treks will be centered around the Western Kona coast. General hiking concerns such as poison ivy and snakes are not a great concern in Hawaii. Lava, however, can make for some treacherous walking conditions. Always be sure to observe and heed all posted warning signs in park areas and respect “No Trespassing” signage in private areas.
Kilauea Iki and Crater Rim Hike
Starting point: Crater Rim Trail, Pāhoa, HI 96778
Distance: 3 miles
Feel the earth bubble beneath you as you trek across the lava fields of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. Kilauea Iki’s last eruption in 1959 left the crater filled with hot lava that steams to this day. The rising steam and surrounding jungle make this hike a testament to the raw strength of nature. Be sure to stay close to the marked trails to avoid breaking up the thin trail crust.
Mauna Ulu Hike
Starting point: Napau Crater Trail, Pāhoa, HI 96778
Distance: 2.5 miles
Translated, Mauna Ulu means “the growing mountain” in Hawaiian. Delicately stacked rocks outline the path through the lava fields caused by the Mauna Ulu’s ongoing eruption from 1969-1974. Stay within these rocks to avoid treacherous ground while uncovering the aftermath of one of Hawaii’s most dramatic eruptions. Lava flows the size of Niagara falls dotted the landscape in the initial 7 months, leaving behind molted trees, unique surface patterns and large fissures in the ground. You’ll be in awe of mother nature after this volcanic hike.
Papakolea Green Sand Beach Hike
Starting point: S Point Rd, Naalehu, HI 96772
Distance: 5.6 miles
Green beaches are a very rare geological feature. Papakolea Green Sand Beach got its emerald green hue from a mineral found in lava called olivine. Walk along the shores of the southern Big Island Coast while enjoying ocean views, ancient temples and views of the cinder cone responsible for the unique nature of the beach. Do not disturb the temples or natural features you encounter on this hike. Although this hike is longer than the aforementioned volcano hikes, you’ll be hiking at less of an incline.
Waipi’o Valley Hike
Starting point: 48-5546 Waipio Rd, Waimea, HI 96743
Distance: 3.8 miles
Welcome to “The Valley of the Kings” otherwise known as Waipi’o Valley. This valley was once the permanent home of Hawaiian royalty until the late 18th-century. A tsunami in 1946 would erase all other signs of civilization in this lush grove, save for a few small communities that still call it home. This hike includes scenic ocean views from the cliffside, waterfalls and a hike along a black sand beach. Just below the parking area you’ll find Kaluahine Falls, a beautiful waterfall that drops directly into the ocean. This hike is perfect for travelers looking for the perfect Instagram moment.
Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail
Distance: 15 miles
The longest trail on this list belongs to the Ala Kahakai trail which actually covers 175 miles of Big Island, running through ancient Hawaiian sites and villages. A condensed 15-mile roundtrip trail starts at Spencer Beach Park and runs to the Mauna Kea Resort area. Pass through beautiful beachfront trails and ancient Hawaiian culture on this hike. Although, this is the longest hike, it is relatively easy to get to and requires little climbing.
These hikes barely scratch the surface of all the hiking opportunities to be found on Big Island. Be sure to visit the National Park Service website to view some maps of Volcanoes National Park and other popular Big Island hiking destinations before your trip.
Interested in discovering Hawaii from a whole new perspective and conquering a Big Island hike?
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