Kalopa State Park
Visit and hike around Kalopa State Park

Kalopa State Park: Discover the Natural Beauty of Hawaii’s Forested Oasis and lush tropical forest in the Hamakua coast (updated 2023)

If you are looking for a complete forest bathing and unplugged destination you can visit along with rustic cabins that can stay in, Kalopa State Park on the rugged Hamakua coastline offers excellent hiking and retreat visit that is unlike any other part of the island. With over 100 acres of lush forest to explore in this park, the off the beaten location and big tree vibe of the park really sets itself apart from the other warm and beach appeal of the rest of the island.

A brief history of Kalopa State park in Hawaii

Kalopa State Park, located on the Big Island of Hawaii, holds a rich history deeply rooted in the island’s cultural and natural heritage. Here’s a brief overview:

Ancient Hawaiian Settlements: The area around Kalopa has a history of ancient Hawaiian habitation dating back centuries. Native Hawaiians settled in these lush, fertile lands, using the abundant natural resources for sustenance.

Missionary Influence: In the early 19th century, Christian missionaries arrived in Hawaii and played a significant role in shaping the region. The mission at Kalopa introduced new agricultural practices and contributed to the development of the local community.

Royal Connections: Kalopa is known for its historical connections to Hawaiian royalty. Prince Kuhio, a beloved figure in Hawaiian history, had a residence in the region, and the park is dedicated to his memory.

State Park Establishment: Kalopa State Park was established to preserve the area’s unique natural beauty and cultural significance. The park encompasses lush gardens, old-growth forests, and scenic landscapes.

Educational and Recreational Hub: Today, Kalopa State Park serves as a hub for educational programs, showcasing Hawaii’s native flora and fauna. Visitors can explore hiking trails, picnic areas, and learn about the island’s biodiversity.

Cultural Heritage: The park celebrates the rich Hawaiian culture through events, workshops, and cultural demonstrations, providing visitors with insights into the island’s traditions and heritage.

Kalopa State Park is a place where history, nature, and culture intersect, offering a serene and educational experience for visitors. Whether you’re interested in hiking through pristine forests, learning about Hawaiian culture, or simply enjoying the tranquility of the gardens, Kalopa State Park has something to offer every traveler.

Visit and hike around Kalopa State Recreation Park

Directions to Kalopa State Park

Located about upcountry on the slopes of Mauna Kea Kalopa park is about a 15-minute drive from Waimea and 40 minutes north of Hilo area. Follow the Hawaii Belt Road Hwy 19 from Waimea or from Hilo to the Kalopa State Park turnoff with signage and go uphill a few miles and follow the sign directly into the park grounds where you can park at two main parking areas.

The parking further uphill towards the cabins and covered pavilions is better if you want to stay overnight in the cabins that can be reserved here.

Directions to Kalopa State Park
Kalopa state park weather

Weather at Kalopa state park and Hamauka coastal areas

The weather here in the park upcountry is cooler and tends to be lusher with regular rainfall. Dress in layers and be prepared from changing weather to include warm sunny to torrential rain. You can check various websites regular to get a more accurate look at your visit to the park.

Tip – Wear sturdy shoes for muddy and slippery trails, rain gear and again wearing layers for sunny to very cool changes in elevation.

Weather at Kalopa state park and Hamauka coastal areas
Kalopa state recreation area

Hiking around Kalopa State Park

This Park area of mostly native forests and a fantastic way to enjoy the native flora, giant Koa and Eucalyptus trees, ferns, wild orchids and other native plantings. There are a variety of trails that you can do depending on your time and skill levels that we detail below. There is a kiosk by the camp grounds where you can pick up a hiking brochure for $1 and follow.

Check out the top hiking trails at Kalopa State Park below

Hiking around Kalopa State Park
Kalopa nature trail

Nature Trail

Difficulty – Easy

Length – ¾ mile

The most popular trail in the park that is right off the camp ground areas and easy ¾ mile trail that is family friendly. With about 20 stops to check out the main vistas, types of native plantings and other interesting facts about the park. The nature trail is easy a relatively fast to do and also educational.

Nature Trail

Ferns on the nature trail
Ferns on the nature trail

Old Jeep to Perimeter Trail

Difficulty – Moderate

Length – approx 3.8 miles

This mostly flat and dense forest trail is about one mile in length and connects to several other short trails but on the longer side you can continue on the Perimeter trail which is another 2 miles in length with an elevation gain of 450 feet. Skirting the perimeter of the park, you’ll get nice vistas of dense forest, old growth trees and beautiful meadows before the trails connects to other trails including:

Ironwood trail = connecting from the Old Jeep Trail, Perimeter trail to the Gulch Trail

Old Jeep to Perimeter Trail

WIld orchids at Kalopa state park
WIld orchids at Kalopa state park

Scenic hikes on the Gulch Rim Trail

Difficulty – easy

Length – approximately 3 miles from parking area through Robusta Lane or Blue Gum Trail

Gulch Rim Trail – perhaps the most scenic location on the park, the gulch trail skirts the rim of the Kalopa gulch starting at the top of Mauna Kea and is about 200 foot deep. The rim area is lines with old growth trees of mostly Koa, Eucalyptus, Waiwi and some Ohia trees along with other native shrubs and plants. To get to the Gulch Rim Trail from the parking lot take the Robusta Lane which is only .3 miles until you hit the Gulch Rim.

You can access the Blue Gum Trail from the Old Jeep trail which is about .5 miles and then connects to the Gulch Rim Trail.

Scenic hikes on the Gulch Rim Trail
Scenic hikes on the Gulch Rim Trail

Scenic hikes on the Gulch Rim Trail

Other details to visiting and hiking around Kalopa State Park

Pets are not allowed into the park area

There are restrooms but no water available in the park

There are also picnic pavilions but closed temporarily from Covid.

Before you enter the trails wipe your feet at the entry points where there is a shoe brush station to brush your shoes of any contaminants that might affect the local Ohia trees in the park.

To book a camping spot or reserve a cabin, check out the Kalopa park website here for more details.

Other details to visiting and hiking around Kalopa State Park

More inside tips to visiting Kalopa State Park

Certainly, here are some inside tips to make your visit to Kalopa State Park on the Big Island of Hawaii even more enjoyable:

  1. Check Park Hours: Confirm the park’s opening and closing hours as they may vary seasonally. This ensures you have ample time to explore and enjoy the park.
  2. Visitor Center: Start your visit at the park’s visitor center if available. Here, you can pick up trail maps, learn about the park’s history, and get information on any guided tours or events.
  3. Hiking Trails: Kalopa State Park offers several hiking trails that meander through lush forests and beautiful gardens. Research the trails beforehand to choose one that suits your fitness level and interests.
  4. Wildlife Viewing: Keep an eye out for native Hawaiian bird species, such as the ‘apapane and ‘io, as well as the colorful and elusive ‘i’iwi. Birdwatching can be particularly rewarding in this park.
  5. Cultural Programs: Check if the park offers any cultural programs, such as hula performances or traditional Hawaiian craft demonstrations. These activities provide insights into Hawaiian heritage.
  6. Garden Beauty: Explore the park’s beautiful gardens, featuring a variety of native and exotic plants. Take your time to appreciate the botanical diversity and vibrant colors.
  7. Picnic Facilities: Kalopa State Park often has picnic areas where you can enjoy a meal surrounded by nature. Pack a picnic and savor it in the serene setting of the park.
  8. Photography: Bring your camera or smartphone to capture the park’s scenic beauty. The lush greenery, colorful flowers, and tranquil landscapes make for stunning photographs.
  9. Weather Preparation: The park’s location in a rainforest area means it can rain unexpectedly. Pack a lightweight rain jacket or poncho to stay dry in case of showers.
  10. Leave No Trace: Practice responsible outdoor ethics by picking up after yourself and disposing of trash properly. Leave the park as pristine as you found it.
  11. Respect Cultural Sites: If you encounter cultural or archaeological sites within the park, such as ancient Hawaiian structures, show respect and do not disturb them.
  12. Footwear: Wear comfortable and sturdy footwear suitable for walking on uneven terrain. Some trails may be muddy or rocky.
  13. Bring Insect Repellent: Insect repellent can be handy, especially in the forested areas, to protect yourself from mosquitos and other insects.
  14. Plan Ahead: Plan your visit in advance, considering the activities you want to enjoy and the time you’d like to spend at the park. This ensures you make the most of your time there.

Kalopa State Park offers a serene escape into the natural beauty of Hawaii, along with opportunities to connect with the island’s culture and history. By following these tips, you can have a memorable and enriching experience in this hidden gem of the Big Island.

Other Hawaii topics to check out close by

Best hikes to do on the Big Island

Visit to Honokaa town on the Hamakua Coastline

Explore Waipio Valley

Top things to do in Waimea / Kamuela town

Explore Lapahoehoe Point

Conclusion to visiting Kalopa State Park

Conclusion to visiting Kalopa State Park

For Big Island fun, you’ll love explore all fun activities and attractions around this hiking experience At Kalopa State Park. Hope this gives you some ideas about visiting this fantastic park on the Hamakua coastline.

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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.