Hiking is one of the best ways to get close to the natural beauty of the Big Island. No matter what activity level you prefer, the Big Island offers some spectacular hikes. If you want some short pretty hikes, you can walk the loop at Akaka Falls or hike the Palm Vista Trail or Palm Jungle Trail (both at the Hawaii Botanical Gardens). Another great hike already mentioned would be the two mile walk out to Papakolea Green Sand beach.
Two steep but amazingly awe-inspiring hikes would be the Waipi’o valley hike and the Pololu valley hike. Both have great overlooks that are worth visiting even if you don’t have the legs to hike down into the valleys and back up.
Pololu valley overlook is found at the end of highway 270, driving north and then west. From the Pololu valley overlook, you can walk down the trail. It’s a twenty minute hike down to the black sand beach. As tempting as the water looks, don’t go swimming. The ocean is rough and can be full of Portuguese man-of-wars. The hike down is on a trail called the Awini trail. If you still have some life left in your legs, you can continue on the trail along the beach. This part of the hike gets more strenuous but ends up at scenic Honokane Nui valley.
The Waipi’o valley also has great views. When I say that the hike there is steep, what I really mean is that it is unbelievably, relentlessly steep (especially on the way back up). It is a 25% grade, descending 900 feet in one mile. Once at the bottom, you can turn right (towards the ocean) and hike two miles to the black sand beach or turn left and hike inland towards the Hi’ilawe falls.
These next two hikes are found in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. The first is the Thurston Lava Tube. It can easily be found on the west side of the park and is considered a “must do.” It is an easy 20 minute walk through a tree fern forest and a well-lit lava tube. The entire loop is 1/3 mile.
The second hike in the park is called Kilauea Iki and was voted the number one hike on the Big Island by HawaiiMagazine.com. It gets repeatedly high marks on travel forums, and with good reason. It starts in a rainforest at the crater’s edge, descends 40 feet to the lava-paved, steaming crater floor, past the vent that built the Pu’u Pua’I cinder cone and then exits back through the rainforest. All in four miles. The Kilauea Iki trailhead can be found two miles from the visitor’s center. Bring lots of food and water, rain gear and sun protection. When you get to the crater floor, look for cairns to show you the trail.
Kilauea Iki Trail Map (trail shown in Blue)
If you would like to hike with some locals, check out the Kona hiking club and see their calendar. A great hike may align with your scheduled vacation.
If you desire further information on more Big Island hikes, visit Na Ala Hele which is the State of Hawaii Trail and Access Program.