Big Island Hikes: A Guide to Unforgettable Trails in Hawaii


What could be more exciting than the chance of hiking in one of the world’s most sought-after places, the island of Hawaii? It is not only recognized for its magnificent beaches, but it is also a wonderful location for trekking and walking trips, which adventurers will definitely admire. 

In this article, we will lead you through a mesmerizing journey, introducing you to the most captivating, diverse, and awe-inspiring Big Island hikes in Hawaii. Get ready to explore this Pacific paradise like never before, one trail at a time.

Pali Noches Trail

This moderately challenging trail extends for approximately 0.8 miles (1.1 kilometers) round trip, leading hikers on an exhilarating journey through lush rainforests and bamboo groves. The trek typically takes about 1 to 2 hours to complete, allowing ample time to navigate the trail’s elevation changes and take in the stunning panoramas of the Ko’olau Mountains and Windward Coastline. A highlight of the Pali Noches Trail is its serene atmosphere, making it a fantastic choice for those seeking a quieter, less crowded hiking experience, while still enjoying the natural beauty that Hawaii has to offer.

Pu’u O’o Trail

One of the most iconic hikes on the Big Island, the Pu’u O’o Trail, offers a unique opportunity to get a rare look at the active volcanic area of Kīlauea. This 15.2 mile (24 kilometers) moderately challenging trek offers a glimpse into the raw, dynamic forces that continue to form the island. It takes 3 hours and 36 minutes on average for experienced hikers, and probably longer for beginners. If you’re looking for a challenge, the Pu’u O’o Trail is one to pick. 

Kīholo Bay

Kīholo bay
Kīholo bay

The Kīholo Bay Trail is a must-see for those looking for a seaside hike or an easy trail. The trail on the Kona Coast is an enjoyable 5-mile (8 kilometers) round trip walk that takes approximately two hours to complete. The trail leads to the gorgeous turquoise waters of the bay. Green sea turtles can be seen basking on the lava rocks here, making it a fantastic alternative for wildlife watchers.

Pololū Valley

The Pololū Trail provides some of the most dramatic landscapes on the Big Island. This trail descends through lush woodland before unveiling the valley’s spectacular black sand beach. The hike is quite short but hilly, covering about 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) round trip and taking less than an hour to complete.

Mānoa Falls Trail

Manoa falls trail
Manoa falls trail

The Mānoa Falls Trail is a renowned hiking gem in the heart of Oahu, Hawaii. It offers a picturesque trek through a lush tropical rainforest. This enchanting trail spans approximately 1.6 miles (2.6 kilometers) round trip, making it a manageable adventure for hikers of various skill levels. The journey typically takes about one to one and a half hours to complete, allowing ample time to soak in the mesmerizing sights and sounds of the jungle, culminating in the awe-inspiring Mānoa Falls cascading from a height of 150 feet (46 meters). 

Mauna Loa Trail

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As one of the world’s largest volcanoes, Mauna Loa offers an incredible hiking experience with panoramic views from the summit. This trail is not for the faint-hearted, covering over 36 miles (58.1 kilometers) and requiring a high level of fitness and preparation.

Kilauea Iki Trail

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Located in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, the Kilauea Iki Trail is a popular 3-mile (5.1 kilometer) loop trek that takes you through a lush rainforest and across a solidified lava lake. This trail offers excellent views of the Kilauea Iki Crater and the main Kilauea Caldera.

Akaka Falls Loop Trail

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If you’re looking for a short, family-friendly hike, the trail to Akaka Falls in Honomu is a great choice. This 0.4-mile loop passes through a rainforest filled with bamboo groves and orchids, leading you to the stunning 442-foot waterfall.

White Road Hike

The White Road Hike or Waipio Valley Rim Hike, is a 4.9-mile (8-kilometer) hike that boasts spectacular views of the Waipio Valley and the Hamakua Coastline. Despite the estimated 3-hour hike, you will arrive at a hidden waterfall near the end of your journey. Note that this hike is technically illegal without permission from the Department of Water Supply, so proceed at your own risk.

Volcano National Park Hikes

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is a natural wonderland that promises some of the most captivating and unique hiking experiences in the world. Within this otherworldly landscape, visitors have the extraordinary opportunity to explore the raw power of Mother Nature up close. Hiking trails wind their way through lava fields and dramatic volcanic craters, offering a diverse range of terrain and scenery. 

You can embark on adventures like the Kīlauea Iki Trail, where you walk across a solidified lava lake, or the Chain of Craters Road. These hikes not only showcase the geological marvels of the park but also provide a profound connection to the Earth’s dynamic forces. Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is a true testament to the enduring power and beauty of our planet.

Crater Rim Trail

The Crater Rim Trail offers a unique opportunity to explore the dynamic landscape around Kīlauea’s summit. This 11-mile (17.7 kilometer) trail passes through desert and rainforest, providing diverse scenery and views of active volcanic craters. Parts of the trail may be closed due to volcanic activity, so it’s best to keep yourself updated through the park’s website for current conditions.

Halema’uma’u Trail

The Halema’uma’u Trail is a short but rewarding hike. This 1-mile (2.1 kilometer) round-trip walk begins at the Kilauea Visitor Center and descends through the rainforest to the edge of Halema’uma’u Crater, a holy location in Hawaiian culture.

Kīpukapuaulu Trail

The Kīpukapuaulu Trail or the Bird Park is a 1.2-mile (1.9 kilometer) loop trail that offers excellent bird-watching opportunities. This trail is relatively easy and features a variety of native Hawaiian plants.

Choosing the Right Big Island Hikes

To make the best choice, consider factors like your fitness level, experience, and the time you have available. Assess the trail’s difficulty rating and length to match your capabilities. Always be prepared with the appropriate gear, including sturdy footwear, weather-appropriate clothing, and adequate supplies. Research the trail’s terrain, elevation changes, and weather conditions to anticipate challenges. 

Additionally, factor in your personal interests, whether it’s a scenic view, wildlife spotting, or a peaceful forest walk. Lastly, consult trail maps, reviews, and local experts for insights into the trail’s conditions and any seasonal variations. By taking these considerations into account, you’ll be well-equipped to select the perfect hiking trail for a rewarding outdoor experience.

Preparing for Your Hiking Adventure

Before you embark on your hiking journey, it is essential to be adequately prepared. Here are some tips to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable hike on the Big Island.

Wear the Proper Gear

Good hiking shoes are a must. The terrain on the Big Island can vary from smooth sand to rough lava rocks. Carry a backpack with essentials such as water, snacks, sunscreen, a map, and a first aid kit. If you’re hiking in the rainforest, a light rain jacket and mosquito repellent can be invaluable.

Monitor the Weather

Hawaii’s weather can change rapidly. Always check the local forecast before heading out and be prepared for unexpected changes in weather conditions.

Familiarize with the Trail

Do your own study on each trail before selecting which one you’re going to proceed with. Understand the length, difficulty level, and expected completion time. Online resources and guidebooks can provide useful information as well as up-to-date trail conditions.

Respect the ‘Aina

‘Aina is the Hawaiian term for land or earth. When hiking, respect the ‘aina by staying on marked trails, not disturbing wildlife, and leaving no trace behind.

Preparation is essential for a good hike. Equip yourself with the proper gear, become acquainted with the trail, respect the ‘aina, and stay alert to weather conditions. Most importantly, enjoy every moment of your tour as you discover the Big Island’s natural wonders.

The Big Islands’ greenery, tropical flora, and captivating sites are a testament to the remarkable natural diversity found in this Pacific paradise. As you traverse these trails, you’ll connect with its rich cultural and geological history. So, grab your hiking boots, pack your sense of adventure, and immerse yourself in the unparalleled beauty of Hawaii’s best hiking trails.

Ready to explore these amazing trails? Check out WildVoice for the best-guided tours and activities on the Big Island. Embark on your unforgettable hiking adventure today!

Remember, the journey is just as important as the destination. Happy hiking!

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