Hikes on the Big Island
Hiking Pu’uwa’awa’a

Best hikes to explore and enjoy the outdoors around the Big Island

With so much land mass that all the other Hawaiian Islands can fit into the Big Island, there are a lot of open spaces and amazing landscape to explore all these Big Island HIkes. Many of the best hikes on the Big Island are relatively easy and covers flat or rolling terrain with fantastic views and landscapes that invite you to keep exploring. You’ll enjoy all these wonderful hikes and hopefully some of these hikes will make your to do list when you visit the Big Island soon.

Fantastic Big Island hikes to explore around Hawaii Island

Best hikes to explore and enjoy the outdoors around the Big Island

Fantastic Big Island hikes on the west side of Hawaii

Makalawena Beach hike

Makalawena Beach hike

After you take a rough gravel road from the main highway 19 between mile marker 22 and 23, you end up at Mahai’ula beach. The hike to Makalawena beach is about 20 minutes starting from the parking lot area through barren lava fields and skirting beautiful coastline and beaches and other rugged terrain. Eventually you reach the dunes area of Makalawena with a gorgeous expanse of beach area which is not crowded and a large crescent shaped beach all for you to explore. There’s also a shallow lagoon area to explore further down from Makalawena and fun to check out the many tropical fish that hang out in the sandy bottom lagoon area. Makalawena is definitely one of the best Big Island hikes to experience and enjoy along the coastline areas on the west side.

Distance – approximately 2.7 miles round trip

Difficulty – easy on graveled paths lava trail and dirt road

Kiholo Bay

Kiholo Bay

One of the local Big Island hike to explore is at Kiholo Bay. The area around Kiholo Bay is where an ancient settlement was established with a large man-made fish pond. To get to the bay you have to enter from south of Mile Marker 81 on Highway 19 drive towards the ocean. At the road end, you hike up a trail leading to the north end of the fish pond and lava rock pahoehoe fields that end into the water. This stunning aqua blue water is striking against the stark black lava rock and makes it even more brilliant and clear to see all the sea life and tropical fish swimming around the bay and a wonderful hike to do for all hiking levels.

Distance – 5.5 miles round trip

Difficulty – moderate traffic on dirt and graveled road

Pu’ukohola historic cultural trail

Pu’ukohola historic cultural trail

One of the easiest and best hikes on the BIg Island to do is at the Pu’ukohola historic cultural trail. This relatively short trail through the national monument is easy and on paved trails leading to key historic sites in the park. Specifically, the monumental heaui (temple) that the first king Kamehameha built to enact omens that he would be king if the temple was erected. Along the route you will pass through two other temples (one sunken in the bay to honor the shark god) and a beautiful crescent shaped beach in the end to hang out in. Check out their website here for more details to exploring this area.

Distance – .9 miles round trip to the monument and coastal return and back to welcome center

Difficulty – easy on paved route at the monument and then a graveled route through the coastline area.

Pu’u Wa’a Wa’a
Hiking Pu’uwa’awa’a

Pu’u Wa’a Wa’a

One of the most challenging Big Island hikes is to climb Pu’u Wa’a Wa’w. A green cinder cone that is located on the upper highway 190 outside of Kona, Pu’u Wa’a Wa’a is a fun and challenging hike to the top on mostly dirt and gravel road and eventually more dirt trail past lush cattle fields. From the top you get some lovely views of the Kona area all the way down to the coastline through Kona and up north through the Kohala coastline areas. The route is through a fire road that goes easily on an easy slope and then becomes a grassy trail midway. You can also detour on a more beautiful native tree forest on the Ohia trail that eventually connects back to the fire road to the mid section of the trail area.

Distance – 4 miles round trip and heavily trafficked

Difficulty – moderate on the steep road to the bottom and flat on the road to the actual monument

Captain Cook Monument

Captain Cook Monument

The hike down to the Captain Cook monument is both thrilling and challenging on the climb back up to the top. This challenging hike is easy from the top to the monument located at the bottom with fantastic snorkeling in the area. This historic monument is where Captain Cook was killed by local Hawaiians after it was realized that he was not the god/omen they had expected on the sacred period for the god Lono. The hike back uphill is a challenge and typically hot and dusty so make sure you have enough water on the way back to the top because the trail is exposed and sunny all day long.

Tip – try to do the hike early in the morning when the sun is not so harsh

Distance – 4 miles round trip and heavily trafficked

Difficulty – moderate on the steep road to the bottom and flat on the road to the actual monument

Top hikes on the Big Island’s Kohala side

Polulu Valley hike
Hawi Big Island location and landmarks

Polulu Valley hike

One of the prettiest Big Island hiking trails with gorgeous views is on the Polulu Valley hike. From the end point and parking lot you get a spectacular view of Polulu valley and the other gulches further out. But don’t stop there, you need to explore the amazing black sand beach below and hike the relatively short downhill trail to the base. From here you can follow some short trails up river or walk down to the black sand and rocky beach. If there are no strong currents, then a nice dip and day on the beach is a must.

If you’re interested in hiking to the top of the next valley at Honokane Nui at the top observation point, it is an additional mile uphill to the lookout area. You can also hike down to the base and rappel in a area with ropes towards the top of the downhill slope and hike through a stunning native palm grove, dry taro patches, ancient rock walls and villages towards the beach area.

Distance – .9 miles round trip and heavily trafficked

Difficulty – moderate on the steep road to the bottom and flat on the road to the beach area

Waipio Valley hike

Waipio Valley hike

The Waipio valley hike is on the opposite end of Polulu valley with 7 gulches in between with a fantastic view on top from the lookout point. If you are up for a hiking challenge then walk down the 20% grade paved road on the left side which takes you to the valley floor. You can walk next to a meandering stream until it leads to the ocean. Along the way are wild horses that live in the area and roam around freely or looking for handouts. The ocean area is typically rough for swimming in, unless you get a nice calm day to enter the waters, or you can go closer to where the river enters in the ocean and take an easy dip there. Of course, the hike back uphill will be the real challenge and a cardio workout to get back to the top, so take your time and enjoy the views back uphill.

Distance – 3 miles round trip

Difficulty – moderate to challenging on the steep road to the bottom and flat on the road to the beach area

Top hikes to do on the Big Island’s southern side

Kilauea Iki hike – at Volcanoes National Park

Kilauea Iki hike – at Volcanoes National Park

This popular hike in the national park takes you through the rim areas of the park cliffs with overlook to the new and deep canyon where the lava bed collapse to form high cliff areas surrounding the volcanic opening to Halema’uma’u where the volcano is quiet for the moment. The Kilauea iki hike takes you through lush areas opening to barren fields and fantastic views on the rim trails to the canyon below. The Kilauea iki hike is one of the most popular hiking trails in the park covering forested canopy, gorgeous views of the crater area and eventually to open lava fields below.

Distance – 3.3 miles round trip

Difficulty – moderate on forested paths to exposed lava field areas

Pu’u Loa – at Volcanoes National Park

Pu’u Loa – at Volcanoes National Park

One of the largest fields of pictographs located on the island, the Pu’u Loa hike and petroglyhs is very spiritual it was where women would take their newborn’s umbilical cords and bury them with a carved pictograph hole to symbolize the pico or center of the child’s new being and a rite for the child to have a strong and wholesome life growing up in the area. The hike is 1.4 miles round trip in relatively flat and rolling lava forms on exposed landscape. There is no water or public facilities on site so come prepared.

Distance – 1.4 miles round trip

Difficulty – easy on rolling lava pathways and boardwalk area

Papakolea Green Sands Beach

Papakolea Green Sands Beach

This amazing hike to the one-of-a-kind green sand beach at Papakolea is easy and relatively flat. The trail from the parking lot follows the coastline most of the way to the beach which is a nice beach surrounded by small cliffs with stunning green sand made of olivine minerals which are created when fresh lava hits the ocean and develops into the mineral. You have to climb down a short series of stairs to get to the beach and if the waters are calm, it’s fantastic for swimming and snorkeling.

Distance – approximately 5 miles round trip

Difficulty – easy on beach gravel and sand

Cliffside hikes from Ka Lae along the rugged coastline areas

Cliffside hikes from Ka Lae along the rugged coastline areas

From the South Point area of the Big Island at Ka Lae, the rugged cliffs that drop dramatically to the deep blue ocean is a colorful and picturesque hike to explore along the cliffs. Mostly flat and easy to follow trails or lava rocks the hike takes you past all the cliffs, hidden sea caves of the dramatic coastline that leads towards the taller cliffs with windfarms which is off limits to hike in that area of pastureland.

The weather is dry and windy so stay away from the edge with a sheer drop to the bottom and do protect yourself from the hot and dry heat in this explosed area.

Distance – approximately 1.5 miles round trip

Difficulty – easy on sand, dirt and lava rock

Punalu'u to Kamehame Beach

Punalu’u to Kamehame Beach

An off the beaten path, the hike to Kamehame beach goes through historic heaui, gorgeous coastal walks, the smooth rocks of the Ala Kahakai trail, lava rock fields with large cracks and then onto the gorgeous black and green sand beach at Kamehame beach which is a breeding ground for indigenous Hawksbill and green sea turtles or honu in the area and should be avoiced during breeding season from June to November. If you continue along the coastlines, you’ll also spot some stunning arches, coves and beautiful coastline to enjoy on this truly one of a kind hike on the south side of the island.

Distance – approximately 1.5 miles round trip

Difficulty – moderate on beach gravel and sand, lava fields and open coastal areas

Hike to Honomalino beach past Milolii - a beautiful Big Island hike
Hike to Honomalino beach past Milolii – a beautiful Big Island hike

Hike to Honomalino beach past Milolii

A very scenic hike on the coastline past the old Milolii village, the hike to Honomalino beach is varied with lush plantings of snake like cerious cactus plants, local trees and colorful lantana, you hike through coastal forest land, through sandy beaches, lava rock fields and jagged cliff side areas that are fascinating to walk through. Eventually you’ll spot a grove of coconut palms where the crescent shaped Honomolina beach stretches for a half mile and is fun to explore and swim if the weather and ocean is relatively calm to do into. You’ll enjoy this Big Island hike to Honomalino beach for the gorgeous scenery and varied terrain to experience along the way.

Distance – 1.5 miles roundtrip

Difficulty – easy on gravel, dirt and lava rock trail

Nahuku Thurston Lava Tube

Nahuku Thurston Lava Tube

Located at Volcanoes National park, Nahuku Thurston Lava tube is a gorgeous and easy hike through lush forests of native Ohia and giant tree ferns and other indigenous plants until you reach the opening of the lava tube which is lit up and fascinating to explore. It is a little damp and wet inside, but the walkway is flat and relatively easy to do. A fast and wonderful experience with information displays sharing about the history, fauna and lava tube development in the park.

Distance – approximately 6.1 miles round trip

Difficulty – easy on graveled paths with a staircase leading down to the trail and relatively flat afterwards

Top hikes to do on the Big Islands East side

Top hikes to do on the Big Islands East side

The east side of the island is lush with waterfalls, thick jungle and then varies to harsh lava fields with new black sand beaches. Check out some of these inspiring hikes to visit below.

Lake Waiau Hike

Lake Waiau Hike

At the top of Mauna Kea is one of the highest elevation lakes in the United States called Lake Waiau and located 2 miles below the trailhead at Mauna Kea summit. (At the moment access to the top of Mauna Kea is closed due to the protest on building the TMT telescope on top). A relatively short hike with great views but with the high elevation, you should take your time in the exposed area and high altitude. Go slow, drink water and enjoy all the fantastic views around the lake area.

Distance – approximately 1.4 miles round trip

Difficulty – Moderate hike on dirt and gravel

Hike to Narnia above Hilo

Hike to Narnia above Hilo

The relatively easy Narnia hike is mostly uphill climb through fire roads above the Boiling pots area off Wainuenue road ends at a spectacular viewing point with 5 waterfalls dropping to some wonderful pools. On non-rainy days the pools are relatively easy to enter and swim in and go right up to most of the waterfalls. Definitely a photo worthy place to visit to see a unique and off the beaten path hike above Hilo. The trail starts above Wainuenue past boiling pots (look out for parking off the road and before the bridge/waterfall area). Look for cars parking before the main bridge and take the fire road up mostly uphill until you see a large water tank and turn right to a forested area that opens up to fantastic views of the falls, spillways and waterfalls. Do not attempt to swim here on rainy days when the water is very rapid and unstable and also rangers come up regularly to give citations for going into state property.

Distance – approximately 3.7 miles round trip

Difficulty – easy on a fire road of dirt and gravel

Note – this is located on State property and tickets have been issued for swimming in the various water areas and not advised to do so.

Pu'u Cinder cone at Pu'u Huluhulu trail

Pu’u Cinder cone at Pu’u Huluhulu trail

Facing majestic Mauna kea and the entrance is the cinder cone which you can climb up to on the opposite side of the Mauna Kea road leading to the visitors center. Make a left at the Mauna Kea road intersection and enter through the parking lot and the trailhead is on the left side of the cone and all uphill on the dirt trail leading up to the top.

The trail is relatively fast with gorgeous views of wildflowers, native plants and views of the surrounding landscape. Pu’u Huluhulu is translated into hairy hill in Hawaiian and is an isolated kipuka of grassland and dense vegetation and rises up approximately 200 feet above the barren lava fields on the Saddle Road.

Distance – approximately 1.1 miles round trip

Difficulty – moderate uphill on mostly gravel and dirt trail road

Kapoho hike to lighthouse road

Kapoho hike to lighthouse road

The new Kapoho black sand beach in the Kapoho area off the lighthouse road still has no name but is a stunning beach to see with fine black sand crystals and flecks of green sand particles inside. Outside of the beach there are a few tide pool areas to visit and the historic lighthouse that withstood many lava intrusions into the area with cool graffiti painted on the walls of the base. The trail follows an old lighthouse road that is flat and partially covered with ironwood trees for shade but at the beach areas, the whole beach is open and exposed. One the left side towards the light house are several tidepools which are fun to explore and safely soak with excellent views.

Distance – approximately 1.5 miles round trip

Difficulty – easy on beach gravel and sand, lava fields and open coastal areas

Ha'ena or Shipman beach hike in Hawaiian Paradise Park

Ha’ena or Shipman beach hike in Hawaiian Paradise Park

To get to Ha’ena beach drive to end of Beach Road off Shower Road, you can park off the road and follow the dirt trail approx. five miles roundtrip to Shipman Beach which is a protected beach and lagoon that is a mixed black and white sandy beach. You’ll find a lot of green turtles, the endangered Hawaiian geese and tropical fish in the lagoon to snorkel around.  The trail passes through lush jungle areas with coastline views of the area which are spectacular to take some small detour look out points. Finally reaching the beach and lagoon area with gorgeous black, white and green sand swirling around with the waves into beautiful patterns that are fun to watch.

Distance – 3.3 miles round trip

Difficulty – moderate on beach gravel and sand, lava fields and open coastal areas

Details to your hike

Prepare and bring plenty of sunscreen, water and cover for hot exposed areas

Stay on the trails for your safety

Check out the trail heads information, kiosk or maps or any visitors center or rangers station

Remember to leave no trace behind and bring out everything you pack in.

Practise good hiking etiquette when your outdoors.

Check out these other cool Big Island things to do

Black sand beachs on Hawaii Island

Best snorkeling spots around the Big Island

Must visit waterfalls around the Big Island

Free or cheap things to do around the Big Island

Conclusion to the hikes on the Big Island

Conclusion to the hikes on the Big Island

Hiking the Big Island is filled with so much diverse terrain from coastline areas to cinder cones and lush valleys or cool mountain areas to explore on the island . The Best hikes on the Big Island are diverse and unique to explore. Each hike experience delivers big time depending on your interest in adventure activity is and challenge. Hopefully that you’ll get to experience the best hikes on the Big Island here and come back to explore regularly to see all of the island.

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1 Comment

  1. Deb Ward

    The road to the summit of Mauna Kea is not currently closed, but does require a 4WD, and the road can be closed for inclement weather (snow, blizzard conditions, road clearing).

    Reply

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Noel Morata this Hawaii Life

Meet Noel Morata

Noel Morata is the creator of This Hawaii Life along with a small team of contributors. Living on the Big Island and traveling regularly to the neighbor islands, Noel and team actively search and share the latest information and updates to Hawaii travel, food, adventure and various lifestyle activities on the islands for your planning and vacation. Aloha and enjoy This Hawaii Life.