A gorgeous trail to explore from the bottom to the top of the cinder cone, Pu’uwa’aw’a is a moderate to challenging hike to undertake. A 12.9 Km or approximately 8 mile roundtrip trail is filled with beautiful wildflowers, native flora and spectacular views from all around the trail. It is about an 2000 foot elevation gain and a good workout for those that want to burn some calories on the hike. If you want to do a unique and different hike, check out the Big Island hike at Pu’uwa’awa’a, it is worth the hike all the way to the top.
Hiking Pu’uwa’awa’a Cinder Cone trail
You can choose to hike up a paved roadway to the base area of the Pu’u or take a side trail called the Ohia trail through some lovely high desert like forest and shady spots before you hit more exposed and sunny areas.
The area around the parking lot is filled with beautiful wildflowers with these gorgeous red succulents in bloom the day we were hiking up the trail.
Starting the Big Island hike at Pu’uwa’awa’a
Just past the entry paved road going upwards to the base of the pu’u is a detour trail marked the Ohia trail which is more scenic and a gravel/dirt path to another fire road that eventually connects to the same paved road. This trail is covered and shady in throughout the route which is a nice cover before you get to the more exposed and sunny areas of the trail head leading the base of the pu’u.
The asphalt fire road leading to the base area of the Pu’u cinder cone
Detour on the Ohia Trail – a dryland forest
Reaching the base of the Pu’u
The paved road eventually stops at the base of the pu’u with a secured gate entry that prevents invasive wildlife from entering the area. Horses are allowed on the trail so take note of all the horse manure left along the trail you can avoid. You may spot wildlife around the area including goats, rams and wild sheep roaming the hills around the Pu’u along with the typical cows, ducks and various birds living the vicinity.
The trail is a recent addition to the state park system and called the Pu’uwa’awa’a Cinder Cone State Park. Along the way you’ll see fantastic views of Mauna Kea, Mauna Loa, Hualalei, and North Kohala mountains. Weather is variable from pure sun to cloudy and rainy, so choose a sunny and clear day if you want to have beautiful views and weather reaching the top of the cinder cone.
Mid range of the pu’u hike
The trail is pleasant with dirt trails that eventually lead to grassy meadows with a moderate incline. There are nice stops along the way with benches if you want to take a break and enjoy the views below. Note – most of the remainder of the trail is exposed and very hot on sunny days so bring plenty of water and sun protection.
The last segment through a mostly dirt pathway to the top is challenging and steep so take a break and enjoy the views along the way. These are fun moments to also capture and even do some selfies.
Reaching the top of the cinder cone
The steep incline to the top is definitely difficult especially on sunny and hot days, but there are benches along the way to enjoy and soak in all the views from the back side. The grassy trails make it more scenic and pleasant to hike through to the top which is filled with beautiful native Ohias and fascinating dead trees that make a nice photo composition to capture.
There’s also a cool set of trees that look like the perfect framing of the coastline views below of the Kohala area.
Views of surrounding mountains and Pu’u cinder cone below
One top is mostly grassy area with a few benches to relax and enjoy the views or have a casual picnic on the grass.
Decayed trees make for dramatic landscapes to capture
Hiking back down
The hike back downhill is relatively fast depending on your speed and need to descent. There are different views going downhill and the light changes late in the afternoon with the clouds coming in and golden light time frame.
Heading back downhill
Cloudy skies and silhouettes from Pu’uwa’awa’a
Tips on hiking Pu’uwa’awa’a
Entry to the state reserve park is between Mile Marker 21 and 22 on Highway 190 and you enter a remote control gate that opens with sensors and you park right next to the sign in station which only requires hunters to sign in.
Most of the trail and hike is exposed so bring plenty of water and sunscreen or hike in the morning or afternoon when conditions are cooler. It is mostly asphalt fire road to the base of the pu’u, but you can take an alternate on the Ohia trail through more scenic dryland forested areas which connects to another gravelled fire road to the mid way point.
Trail is moderate with a steady climb and steeper at the end with excellent views of the area.
There is a foot entry scrub (which prevents boots that might have contact to the Ohia virus happening throughout the island) so please do scrub your shoes before and after the hike.
There is a porta john on the way up the asphalt road, but outside of this, there are not other services in the park.
The gate and park is open from 6am to close at 6pm so descend before that time frame.
Directions to Pu’uwa’awa’a
From Kona – This is 18.1 miles or about 29 minutes from downtown Kona. Take Highway 190 until reach between mile marker 21 and 22.
From Hilo area – This is about 60 miles or 1.10 mins from Hilo. Take the Saddle road to the dead end T and make a left on Highway 190 to mile marker 21 and 22.
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