If you’re looking for a fun hike that’s also a little challenging on the east side of Hawaii Island with a nice ending to spend in the water then Ha’ena aka Kea’au beach is a fantastic choice. Take a look at the details to this Big Island hike to Ha’ena Beach and you might want to plan a discovery tour in the near future for yourself.
The start of hiking through Shipman/Ha’ena Beach
The tropical hike to the secluded Shipman property (one of the earliest missionary families on the Big Island) and beach has been called Ha’ena, Kea’au and also Shipman beach. It’s a very photogenic black and white sandy beach – the only one for miles of rugged coastal terrain and lava rocks. The trail starts from the quiet subdivision of Hawaiian Paradise park on the end of Beach road with limited parking in the lot. It is the start of the Old Puna Trail where early inhabitants had created a trail through this rain forest along the coastal Puna region of Keaau. The Old Puna Trail is part of a statewide public Na Ala Hele Trail and Access System to beach areas open to the public even though it is surround by private Shipman property.
The hike is less then ninety minutes (each direction) and around 5 miles round trip and traverses old lava flows and into dense jungle (mosquito spraying is definitely a good idea before you start) and often muddy and challenging spots to cross through. You definitely have to be careful in many spots with challenging stone crossings and slippery areas along with muddy spots to walk around.
Parking and start of Old Puna Trail
Take Kaloli road from the main highway 130 to the end and make a right on Beach road all the way to the parking lot and there is a marker that shows the start of the trail. Parking is limited, but you can also park on the street if the lot is full.
Most of the trail is fairly flat or some rolling areas in exposed sun to dense tropical jungle with areas that are purely lava rock zones that you need to be very careful. Depending on rain in the area, this zone definitely has a lot of wet spots and muddy areas to go through so there are a lot of detours you need to look for in crossing the area to get back into the trails.
Enjoying the serenity and jungle
Along the trail, you’ll see many stone walls that show the entire length of the original Kings Highway that was a trail and then carriage trail running from Hilo along the coastline to Kalapana. There used to be a village Paki in the area that is not there anymore but in place are the rock walls, tall banyan trees, strawberry guava, Ironwood trees and local Ohia forests and miles of ferns and other flora.
While walking along the trail, don’t forget to also look down and around – it’s really magical!
Look out points along the trail
There are a few side trails that leads to the coast with fantastic cliff views along the entire rugged coastline.
There’s also a fantastic lava tube about 2/3’s of the way to the beach with a small side trail to the right where you can explore the opening in the shallow lava tube below.
Arriving Ha’ena beach
The trail starts to bend towards the ocean and you’ll see some Kapu signs on cattle fences. This trail at the time we visited had a stream going through the trail – if you continue towards the ocean, you’ll find some dry spots to cross over. You finally get to a small lookout point to view the lovely Ha’ena beach and protected lagoon like bay. Closer to the beach is the private property of the Shipman estate which has Kapu signs not to enter the grassy area because it is also a nene (Hawaiian goose) breeding ground. The large three acre estate contains large fish ponds that are a breeding habitat for the native Hawaiian goose. Famous celebrities were hosted at Ha’ena including Amelia Earhart, Paul Newman, Cole Porter and local legends like the Beamer family and other important artists and dignitaries from the islands visited.
Beach and lagoon area of Ha’ena beach
The beach and lagoon is the big draw at the end with suprisingly very cold water that is fed from the underground aquifers that open directly into the lagoon. If you are in luck you’ll find wildlife like honu, monk seals and even the endangered nene around the beach areas. The inviting and safe lagoon is a nice ending to the hike and you’ll see some beautiful impressions of the beach with the ebb and flow of the tide creating beautiful mixtures and instant art that changes with the next wave.
Heading back to the parking lot
You can choose to head back to the parking lot the same way you came from or you can also take a detour route along the coastline and walking through lava rocks over the rugged and scenic coast. There’s a lot of fantastic photo ops along the way, but if you decide to head back to the main trail, there are connecting paths that can lead you back to the main trail and directly to the parking lot.
More tips on hiking to Ha’ena Beach
Bring water and snacks for your own needs
Bring some mosquito spray for the entire trail hike through the Old Puna Trail.
This is a popular local hike so the parking lot is filled quickly but you can park on Beach road and walk to the trail head.
Please pay attention to the Kapu (do not enter signs) for private property.
There are no public toilets on site – so prepare accordingly.
There are many rocky areas and muddy spots so take your time in going through these difficult spots.
If you do go swimming, make sure you have no cuts or scrapes and clean yourself immediately after swimming.
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