Best Walking Paths on the Big Island of Hawaii: Uncover Local Secrets & Hidden Gems

Ready to lace up your walking shoes and explore the breathtaking landscapes of the Big Island of Hawaii? With its diverse terrain, you’re in for an adventure that’ll take you from lush rainforests to stark volcanic fields.

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Whether you’re a casual stroller or an avid hiker, there’s a path that’s just right for you. Imagine walking through valleys steeped in history, past ancient petroglyphs, or along stunning coastlines with the Pacific Ocean as your backdrop.

Get set to discover the island’s hidden gems and favorite local spots. You’ll find that each trail has its own unique charm, offering an unforgettable experience with every step you take.

The Best Walking Paths on the Big Island of Hawaii

When you’re craving a trek across the Big Island’s varied landscapes, nothing quite compares to the wealth of walking paths at your disposal. As someone who’s spent years meandering these trails, each path promises a unique slice of paradise, revealing sights and sounds you’ll treasure long after your hike is over.

One path that never fails to impress is Akaka Falls State Park, home to the iconic Akaka Falls. Take a leisurely half-mile stroll through lush rainforest, and you’ll be rewarded with a view of the spectacular 442-foot waterfall—an image that will stick with you like the sweet aroma of the island’s flora.

For lava enthusiasts and those craving geological wonders, the Kilauea Iki Trail plunges into the heart of a volcanic crater. An impressive 4-mile loop takes you from a rainforest viewpoint down to the still-steaming crater floor, recently shaped by Pele’s wrath. Feel the ground’s warmth beneath your feet—a reminder of the island’s living pulse.

History buffs will relish a walk along the King’s Trail (Mamalahoa), where every step treads across paths once reserved for royalty. The trail winds through ancient lava flows and petroglyph fields, offering a tangible link to Hawaii’s rich past.

For a coastal experience, don’t miss the Pololu Valley Trail. Descend into one of the Big Island’s majestic valleys and find yourself walking between high cliffs and black sand beaches. The trail is a challenging yet rewarding 2.5 miles round trip that culminates with the stunning ocean horizon stretching infinitely before you.

Lastly, the Mauna Kea Summit Trail brings adventurers to the heights of Hawaii. Starting at the Visitor Information Station, brace yourself for a 6-mile trek to the summit. As you ascend through changing ecosystems, with the barren moon-like landscape above the clouds, remind yourself that you’re climbing the tallest sea mountain in the world, reaching beyond the clouds.

  • Akaka Falls State Park: Half-mile loop, 442-foot waterfall
  • Kilauea Iki Trail: 4-mile loop through a volcanic crater
  • King’s Trail (Mamalahoa): Walk through ancient lava flows
  • Pololu Valley Trail: 2.5 miles round trip, black sand beaches
  • **Mauna Kea

Exploring Lush Rainforests

Deep within the heart of Hawaii’s Big Island, you’ll uncover worlds reminiscent of ancient myths amidst the lush rainforests. Imagine the melodies of native birds serenading you as you meander along the trails, each step unveiling a verdant landscape steeped in the essence of aloha.

Thurston Lava Tube, nestled in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, offers a walk that isn’t just about the plants; it’s a journey back in time. Here, you wander through a natural tunnel formed by molten lava, now draped in greenery and resonating with a mystical air that’s palpable. This trail isn’t strenuous, yet it captivates with its surreal beauty—a forest sprung up in the relic of a volcanic past.

For those who yearn to witness the harmony of water and foliage, don’t miss out on Nahuku. This short loop lets you explore a rainforest that seems to burst forth from the fertile volcanic soil. The path will lead you to an enchanting, cascading stream—a hidden gem within the lush undergrowth.

Remember the Onomea Bay Trail as well; it’s less talked about but every bit as breathtaking. This proverbial ‘road less traveled’ weaves through botanical gardens and emerges beside a rugged coastline. You’ll see Hawaii’s dazzling flora on full display, and if the timing’s right, you might even spot a whale breaching the ocean’s surface.

Finally, be sure to consider the Kohala Ditch Trail. Historically it channeled water through the sugar plantations, but today, it’s an invitation to trek alongside streams and flumes through the dense tropical forest. This walk is a blend of nature and legacy, speaking volumes of the island’s rich history.

Each of these trails brings about a unique embrace of Hawaii’s natural splendor. The Big Island’s rainforests await to envelop you in their inviting arms, revealing their wonders with every step you take. Whether it’s through the echo of birdsong or the whisper of leaves, you’re sure to find an unforgettable story being told under the canopy of Hawaii’s green treasure.

Discovering Ancient Petroglyphs

While roaming through the Big Island’s emerald rainforests and beholding its thundering waterfalls, don’t miss unfolding another layer of Hawaii’s rich heritage—its ancient petroglyphs. These are more than just etchings; they’re a direct line to the tales and traditions of Native Hawaiians.

As you set foot on the Puako Petroglyph Archaeological Preserve, you’ll be treading a path that has captivated me since my first visit years ago. Imagine walking among over 3,000 carvings that echo the island’s ancestral voices. It’s a must-see for anyone with a curiosity for Hawaii’s cultural roots. Here’s what you’ll want to know:

  • Location: Nestled on the Kohala Coast, the preserve is easily accessible and a short trek from the main highway.
  • Best Time to Visit: Aim for early morning or late afternoon to catch the carvings in the best light—and beat the heat.

Next on your petroglyph journey is the King’s Trail, also known as Ala Kahakai. This trail provides a glimpse into the past, with sections paralleling the coastline and passing through ancient settlements. Keep an eye out for petroglyphs depicting humans, canoes, and various symbols that represent aspects of daily life and spirituality for ancient Hawaiians.

  • Tips for Your Visit:
  • Wear sturdy shoes as the terrain can be rugged.
  • Bring water, sunscreen, and respect for the sacred sites.

Vision and consideration allow these stories etched in stone to last for future generations to learn from and admire. As you explore these ancient messages, let your imagination run wild to the times when Polynesian navigators ruled the seas, and Hawaii’s culture was in its nascent stages. Each engraving has a story, a purpose, a lesson from the past that remains relevant even in today’s fast-paced world.

Remember, while these trails may lead to popular tourist spots, it’s the lesser-trod paths that often hold the most profound experiences. The petroglyphs of the Big Island are among such treasures, offering a silent yet compelling narrative of a fascinating culture. So, take your time, look closely, and let the stones speak to you.

Walking Along Stunning Coastlines

As you continue your expedition on the Big Island, you’ll find that the coastlines offer not just a gentle breeze and the soothing sound of waves, but also some of the most awe-inspiring walking paths. Imagine strolling along the beach, with the Pacific Ocean on one side and towering cliffs on the other – it’s a scene straight out of a postcard.

Hāpuna Beach State Recreation Area is renowned for its vast white sands and crystal-clear waters perfect for a post-hike dip. You don’t want to skip the Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail, which traverses through this area. Spanning over 175 miles of coastline, this trail strings together a series of smaller paths that can be tackled in sections. It’s a treasure trove of cultural heritage sites, providing a peek into the island life of old.

If rugged terrains and dramatic landscapes are up your alley, the trail at Pololu Valley won’t disappoint. Starting at the end of Highway 270, the descent to the valley floor is steep but manageable and every step rewards you with unparalleled views of the Hamakua Coast. You’ll be greeted with sights of black sand beaches and can immerse yourself in the sound of the ocean crashing against the cliffs.

On the Kona Coast, walking paths like the Kekaha Kai State Park trail lead you to hidden beaches and secret coves, where the hustle of popular tourist spots seems worlds away. It’s here that you can capture a sense of seclusion and peace that the Big Island is cherished for.

Remember to pack your sunscreen, water, and a good camera because the vistas you’ll encounter are nothing short of stunning. And as the sun begins to set, the skies turn into a canvas painted with a palette of vibrant colors, a sight that has captivated your heart time and again during your Hawaiian voyages. Keep your eyes peeled for the green flash – that elusive yet magical moment just as the sun dips below the horizon.

Uncovering Hidden Gems and Favorite Local Spots

When you’re visiting the Big Island, it’s easy to be taken aback by the well-trodden paths to famous sites, but don’t overlook the beauty in the less obvious places. Locals know the ins and outs of this dynamic island and have favorites that often go unnoticed by guidebooks.

One such treasure is Waipi’o Valley, often referred to as the Valley of the Kings. It’s a place of incredible beauty, steeped in history. While it can be challenging to access due to the steep road down, the Waipi’o Valley Lookout offers a panoramic vista that’s simply unmatched. If you’re up for it, the hike down will reward you with views of taro fields, freshwater streams, and a beach often less crowded than others.

Nestled towards the north end of the island is Makalawena Beach. It’s a bit of a trek, requiring a hike over uneven lava rock, but the powdery white sand and crystal-clear waters awaiting you are worth every step. This spot is ideal for a quiet day of snorkeling and sunbathing, surrounded by natural beauty that feels like your own private slice of paradise.

For those who love a good mystery, the Kaumana Caves provide a fascinating look into the underground aspects of the island’s volcanic history. Located just outside of Hilo, these caves were formed by flowing lava and now offer a cool escape from the tropical sun. Remember to bring a flashlight and sturdy shoes as you explore the depths where ancient Hawaiians once traveled.

As you traverse the island, be open to moments of serendipity—talk to locals, visit the small-town coffee shops, and keep your curiosity at the forefront. There’s much to discover off the beaten path on the Big Island, and by stepping just a bit out of your comfort zone, you’ll find spots that resonate with the heart of Hawaii.


So you’ve got the inside scoop on the Big Island’s best walking paths. Whether you’re meandering through lush rainforests by Akaka Falls or tracing the rugged contours of Mauna Kea, each trail offers a unique slice of paradise. Remember to embrace the spirit of adventure—those hidden gems like Waipi’o Valley and Makalawena Beach are waiting to be discovered by intrepid souls like you. Don’t forget to duck into the Kaumana Caves for an otherworldly experience. Here’s to finding your perfect path and the unforgettable stories you’ll gather along the way. Happy trails!

Frequently Asked Questions

What walking paths are highlighted in the article?

The article features several walking paths on the Big Island of Hawaii, including Akaka Falls State Park, the Kilauea Iki Trail, the King’s Trail (Mamalahoa), the Pololu Valley Trail, and the Mauna Kea Summit Trail.

Are there any hidden gems mentioned in the Big Island of Hawaii?

Yes, the article uncovers hidden gems such as Waipi’o Valley, Makalawena Beach, and the Kaumana Caves, which offer unique hiking experiences and stunning natural beauty.

What can hikers expect to see in Waipi’o Valley?

Hikers in Waipi’o Valley, also known as the Valley of the Kings, can expect panoramic vistas, a challenging hike to taro fields, freshwater streams, and a less crowded beach.

Why is Makalawena Beach considered a secluded spot?

Makalawena Beach is considered secluded due to its powdery white sand and crystal-clear waters, coupled with the fact that it is less accessible and thus less crowded than other beaches.

What are the Kaumana Caves, and why are they significant?

The Kaumana Caves are a network of underground lava tubes that provide a fascinating glimpse into the volcanic history of the Big Island, adding an adventurous element to the island’s array of attractions.

Does the article suggest anything in particular for visitors?

The article encourages visitors to be open to serendipitous explorations off the beaten path to truly discover the spots that capture the essence of Hawaii’s heart.

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