Big Island’s dramatic and often breathtaking landscape offers some incredible hiking for hikers of all levels. Explore some of our favorite hikes below. If you are looking for a guided tour, check out the organized hike tours offered by Hawai’I Forest and Trail.
This quick and easy hike is one that absolutely should not be missed! Take the small paved loop 0.4 mile path through a lush rainforest that will lead you to the 422 feet tall waterfall known as ‘Akaka falls. This is one of the most popular attractions on the Hamakua Coast and is easy to get to from Hilo.
Ala Kahakai connects the island through its 175 mile network of historical trails and cultural significant sites. Walk through ancient Hawaiian settlements and learn about natural ecosystems.
This shorter hike is only 3.8 miles round trip, but is challenging because of the usually overgrown path and the steep elevation change of 1,400 feet as you hike down into Kealakekua Bay. The hike is worth it once you get to picturesque and historical Kealakekua Bay. Snorkeling is popular here with the colorful reef and active marine life. The hike back up is more challenging so be sure you have enough water and proper clothes to shade you from the sun.
Volcanoes National Park encompasses nearly 523 miles of the island and is one of Hawaii’s most popular attractions. With hundreds of miles of hiking, sightseeing and awe-inspiring sights of volcanic craters, lava tubes, petroglyphs, and two active volcanoes (Kilauea and Mauna Loa) be sure to carve out a few days to explore this National Park. Some of our highlights in the Park include the Chain of Craters Road, Thurston Lava Tube, Kilauea Iki Trail, and the Pu’u Loa Petroglyphs.
You can find the entrance to this hike right off Highway 19 just south of mile marker 82. This is a relatively easy and flat hike to a tranquil and surprisingly turquoise, calm bay and brackish tide pools that are carefully preserved by a non-profit organization called Hui Aloha Kiholo. Chances are you will spot a honu (turtle) once you arrive at the bay, it’s one of the most popular places on island for them to hang out!
Birdwatchers, hikers, and mountain bikers alike all love visiting the two loop trails at Makaula ‘O’oma. 3,000 feet up on Hualalai Mountain, you will hike through a forest reserve and cloud forest. The lush green landscape of these trails are unlike what you might expect to find on Big Island’s west side but is perfect for when you need a quick change of scenery. Both trails are shorter, 1 mile and 2.3 mile total. To get to the trailhead drive to the end of Makahi Street off of Kaloko Drive.
Located west of Waipi’o Valley, the journey to Waimanu Valley is one of the most popular backpacking treks on Big Island. Not for the faint of heart, this is a seriously challenging hike. The hike is 16 miles round trip, an overnight stay is highly recommended. You will traverse a steep and rocky trail with over a mile of elevation gain – not to mention crossing a river and many smaller streams throughout the journey. During the hike, expect waterfalls, dense jungle forests, and breathtaking scenery every part of the way.
Located in Ka’u, Papakolea is one of the only green sand beaches in the world and was formed after an eruption of a cinder cone on Mauna Loa. Hiking into Green Sands Beach is not difficult, but there is no shade so it can be very hot. Park at the parking lot at South Point and follow the road for about 2 ½ miles. There are no amenities at the beach, so be sure to bring food, water, and proper clothing to cover yourself from the sun during the hike. Swimming at the beach is possible but can be rough at times.
Pololu Valley, one of the most popular easy hikes on island can be found at the north-eastern coast of the island on the Kohala Mountain. At the end of Highway 270 is where you will find the beginning of this 0.6 mile trail down into Pololu Valley. Pololu is the first of 7 valleys on the windward side of the Kohala Mountain and from the hike you can expect to see incredible valley views along the coastline.
This hike takes you up to the top of an ancient cinder cone where, on a clear day, you will have 360’ views of the coastline, Mauna Kea, Hualalai, Kohala, and Mauna Loa. The four-mile hike to the top will take you through native ohia forests and working ranch land, until you reach the base of the cinder cone. From there, walk up the green pasture-like pu’u (hill) to the top for an incredible view and catch a well-deserved rest before heading back down!
Waipi’o Valley, “Valley of the Kings” is the largest and easternmost valley of the seven valleys of the Kohala Mountain. The valley used to be the permanent home for many Hawaiian royalty until 1946, when a tsunami destroyed many of the structures in the valley. Today, there are still a few residents who live in the Valley. The hike into the valley is a short 1.5 mile walk down an incredibly steep, paved road, with an elevation change of 975 feet. Once in the valley, you can enjoy an afternoon on the black sand beach – but be careful because the waters are usually rough. Be mindful that much of the land inside the valley is private and sacred.
This 3-mile long paved path is a running, biking, and walking trail located off of Lako Street in Kailua-Kona. It is easy to access and relatively flat the whole length of the trail with some ocean and mountain views along the way. After about one mile the path joins Walua Road, so be careful of neighborhood traffic. This path is pet-friendly and a popular place for residents to walk their dogs!