When most people think of Hawaii… Palm trees, the ocean breeze, salty air and sun kissed hair comes to mind (yes, I borrowed that from the well-known quote!), what they don’t realise is that Hawaii has so much more to offer than this, including being a hikers playground! On my recent holiday here, Sanjay and I, along with my sister explored the islands of Oahu, Maui and Hawaii (Big Island) where we hiked like never before… I also sweated like never before too! 😝 In this post, I’ll be giving you the hiking highlights.
Hawaii (The Big island)
lliahi Trail, Volcanoes National Park – 2.5km loop
A gorgeous rainforest trail, with views of the steaming volcanic vents of the Kīlauea summit caldera and the Halema‘uma‘u, crater rim. At the start of the trail we were met by a very passionate park ranger who convinced us to detour a little, down a path near the trail entrance, this path descended onto the solidified caldera floor! It was a short 20 minute walk onto the stunning, black volcanic floor which glistened when the sun hit it. The surface is rough and feels like shards of glass, you wouldn’t want to fall over here! This trail used to continue on towards the crater rim but due to the high volcanic activity, it was closed off. So we turned around and continued along the Iliahi trail which was relatively shady and were greeted with awesome views of Halema’uma’u. Both trails (including the detour) took us just under two hours to complete and there was hardly anyone on them!
Kalapana Lava Viewing Trail – 12.9km round trip
Kalapana is an oceanside town, that was destroyed by lava flow in 1990 and surprisingly a small number of people still actually live here, most of the houses don’t even have electricity! This is where you’d go to get up close and personal with the active lava flow (including the current flow into the sea) which is something Sanjay has been wanting to do for a long time! However due to the high volcanic activity, we weren’t able to get as close as we would’ve liked to 😲 For the safety of visitors to the area, the cordon to the active lava has been moved a lot further back, so unfortunately you won’t be able to get those epic photos of the bright orange lava oozing underfoot, but I’d much rather be safe than sorry! This trail is long, un pathed and the weather is very unpredictable… When we started out it was hot, dry and the sun was blazing down on us, a couple of hours later the wind was howling and the rain was pouring down. Make sure you are adequately prepared, lucky for us we were!
If you want to catch a glimpse of the fiery orange stuff without hiking for almost 13km, then visit the Jagger Museum observation area, which offers panoramic views of the Kīlauea Caldera as well as the on-going gas eruption of Halema’uma’u crater. It’s pretty spectacular!
Papakolea Green Sand Beach – 8.5km round trip
This beach is located at South Point, the southernmost point of Hawaii. The trail begins at the dirt road following on from the Kaulana boat launch car park. Locals will offer to drive you (in the back of a ute) to the beach for around $10 per person, the trail is only accessible by 4WD or hikers. The trail itself is relatively easy but it’s hot, dusty and sand is constantly blowing into your face, it’s well worth it though … This area is untamed, with wild waves crashing onto the jagged shoreline and a small but beautiful beach at the bottom of what was once a volcanic cinder cone, surrounded by grey cliffs with turquoise water glistening below. I have to say I was a little disappointed by the green sand though (caused by a mineral left by volcanic eruption), perhaps I just wasn’t looking properly but it didn’t look all that green to me or my fellow travellers! A word of warning, the rocks are slippery and the water is extremely choppy… exercise caution!
After our long hike the day before we were feeling rather tired and opted to catch a ride back to the car park… We got into the back of a crusty old ute, with a very uncomfortable plank of wood as the seat… A story for another day! 😝😉
Akaka Falls – Less than 1km loop
If you’re not in the mood to do a long and strenuous hike, then this one is for you! The trail is pathed and runs through a lush rainforest. The main attraction, the Akaka waterfall towers at 135 metres tall and the raging water plunges into a deep gorge below. The trail normally continues onto a viewing platform for the smaller Kahuna Falls then loops back to the start but this part of the trail was closed when we were there, so unfortunately I have no photos of it.
Nakalele Blowhole 1.3km round trip
This blowhole is equally as spectacular as it is dangerous. Created by seawater trapped in an underwater lava tube, with each wave, water and air are pushed through the hole, causing an eruption similar to a geyser. The walk down to the geyser is short but the rocks are slippery, please be careful when you get down there and don’t get too close, people have been sucked into the blowhole before… I’m not trying to scare you here, just be careful! Ideally you should try and stay on the dry rocks or to be super safe, view the geyser from the rocks above. If you’re interested the heart rock is also located here ❤
The cheesey couple shot
Twin Falls, Road to Hana – 2.4km round trip
The Twin Falls are the first in a series of waterfalls on the famous ‘Road to Hana’. It’s a relatively short trail made up of dirt and gravel, there are two forks in the road – The left takes you to the lower falls, the swimming hole here is very popular, we saw a few brave people jumping from the top of the falls into it (don’t do this if the water level is low though! The right will lead you to the Caveman Falls, which we didn’t get to due to the time constraints of trying to do the Road to Hana in one day! Ohh forgot to mention there’s a really cute little fruit/snack stand at the entrance too, in case you get hungry 😊
The sun decided to shine a little too bright for my shots!
Mt Haleakala Summit
The hikes up to and around the summit vary in length and it really depends on your ability and weather conditions as to which you should do but whatever your ability, make sure you head up there! With an elevation of 3055m (10023 feet) the views are truly impressive! Unfortunately, we had some unfavourable conditions bestowed upon us, so compromised a little and drove up Mt Haleakala and opted to do a couple of the shorter hikes around the summit before watching the sunset, literally from above the clouds!
Diamond Head Hike – 2.6km round trip
Diamond Head Crater is one of Hawaii’s most recognised landmarks and offers a pretty interesting hike… Involving dirt paths, loose gravel, potholes, stairs, a tunnel, a bunker and more stairs before you reach the viewing platform, which offers stunning 360 degree views! Try and go in the morning before the crowds arrive, the trail can get very busy making the viewing platforms extremely crowded.
Koko Head Stairs – 2.9km round trip
So if you’re after a hike with killer views and a killer workout to go with it…. This is the one for you! I’m not a fan of stairs on hikes and this one has 1048 of them followed by a steep incline to the top! The stairs shoot right up the side of the hill and get this, they’re not even proper stairs, rather the remnants of an old railroad! But it’s no ordinary railroad, the steps are way taller than standard (which meant I was doing lunges the whole time) and for shorties like me the worst part comes at around the 500th stair mark…the bridge, which is basically just planks of wood with large gaps in between them and a 12m (40f) drop below! (These are the days I wish I was taller, then I wouldn’t have to worry about slipping through a gap in an uphill railroad!) Oh and to make matters worse I dropped my sunglasses down the gap 😝 Ok seriously though, I’m not trying to put you off this hike, I just want you to know what to expect. The gruelling effort is worth it, once you’re at the top you are lavishly rewarded with incredible panoramic views of the entire island.
Just a steepness warning!
Ready to go…
The rest stop at the top of the stairs, before the steep incline…
On top of the world!
Feeling a little bit pleased with ourselves 😉
I haven’t even mentioned a quarter of the amazing hikes in Hawaii, but hopefully you now have a better idea about what’s on offer and consider getting a little adventurous while exploring these gorgeous islands!
Happy travels, Priti X