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Tuesday, September 26, 2023

11 Best Hikes on the Big Island of Hawaii in 2023

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A Cook, Software analyst & Blogger.
Hawaii, US
7:24 am, September 26, 2023
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Best Hikes on the Big Island of Hawaii: Hawaii is more than just beaches. The Aloha State is full of scenic landscapes, ranging from the volcanic peaks of Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa to lush rainforests and coastal caves.

One of the best ways to explore the natural treasures of Hawaii is through hiking.

You’ll find plenty of incredible hiking opportunities on the Big Island, the third most visited Island in the state. There are many trails that lead to the Island’s hidden gems.

From going through lava tubes to getting to the best whale-watching spots, hiking here offers an unforgettable experience. 

Wondering where to begin?

We’ve got you covered with our list of the 11 best hikes on the Big Island of Hawaii: – 

Kīlauea Iki Trail #1

One of the must-see attractions on the Big Island is the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Kīlauea Iki Trail, a four-mile loop is located inside this impressive park.

It will take you through a lush rainforest and then onto the floor of the Kilauea Iki Crater. You can explore the old lava bed, which constitutes the remains of the 1959 eruption.

Best Hikes on the Big Island of Hawaii
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There’s still heat coming out of little stream vents across the floor. The trail then winds back up to the crater’s rim and into the rainforest.

You can even visit at night to witness the spectacular views since the park is open 24/7.

The elevation gain is around 740 feet and the usual time duration to complete the hike is around two hours. The park has a fee of $30 per vehicle which is valid for a week. 

Thurston Lava Tube Trail #2

There are around 150 lava tubes in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Thurston Lava Tube was discovered in 1913. The trail is only half a mile long and one of the easiest to take in the park.

Best Hikes on the Big Island of Hawaii

The experience of going inside this 500-year-old lava tune is unforgettable. There are orange lights inside that light the path for hikers. However, they are operational only from 8 AM to 8 PM.

If you’re visiting early morning or late at night, make sure you have a flashlight handy.

Got some more time on your hands?

The Kīlauea Iki trailhead is nearby. 

Pololu Trail  #3

With pristine beaches and lush towering cliffs, the Kohala coast is awe-inspiring. The Pololu Overlook offers jaw-dropping views and if you’re up for a hike, the Pololu trail is the one to take.

Best Hikes on the Big Island of Hawaii
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You can follow the trail to come down to the beach and enjoy a quiet scroll soaking in its beauty.

The trail is only half a mile and takes around 40 minutes. Make sure to tread carefully since the path can get slippery.

Visiting in winter?

You might even spot some whales. 

Akaka Falls Trail #4

This short and easy trail leads hikers to stunning views of the Akaka Falls plunging into a gorge from a height of 440 feet.

Located in Akaka Falls State Park, the trail is paved and traverses through a lush rainforest before leading to a viewing platform.

Best Hikes on the Big Island of Hawaii
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You can soak in mesmerising views of the Akaka Falls here and if you go ahead past the Falls, you’ll be able to view the Kahuna Falls too.

With an elevation of only 121 feet, it’s beginner friendly.

The park has a fee of $15 per vehicle and an additional $5 charge per person. 

Mauna Kea #5

Like the idea of hiking to the tallest peak in Hawaii?

Head to Mauna Kea for a challenging but exhilarating hike. Around 13,803 above sea level, Mauna Kea is also technically the tallest mountain in the world.

Its summit was considered to be the residing place of Gods by ancient Hawaiians. You can access the trailhead from the Onizuka Center for International Astronomy Visitor Information Station.

Make sure you get your permit and spend at least 30 minutes here to acclimate yourself.

Best Hikes on the Big Island of Hawaii
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In the beginning, the trail goes up a rocky volcanic scree, enabling hikers to an elevation gain of around 2,000 feet.

On climbing higher, you’ll get stunning views of Mauna Loa, which is the world’s largest active volcano. Moving forward, you will come across colourful volcanic cinder cones. 

At the ending point of the trail is a sign requesting hikers to not get atop the true summit.

This summit is around 10 feet above the trail’s endpoint and is allowed only to be visited by high chiefs.

Hikers are advised to respect this local tradition. Before going on this 13.5-mile-long hike, make sure to have enough water since you could experience altitude sickness. 

Green Sand Beach Hike #6

The Green Sand Beach Hike will lead you to one of the world’s only four green sand beaches. Around 50,000 years ago, Mauna Loa spewed lava into the surrounding bay.

Best Hikes on the Big Island of Hawaii
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The green sand on the beach is the remnant of that lava that had high quantities of olivine.

The trail is around 5.6 miles long and takes about two hours to complete.

Ka’Awaloa- Captain Cook Monument Trail #7

From a rich history to breath-taking views and a challenging hike, the Captain Cook Monument Trail has many elements that make it special.

Best Hikes on the Big Island of Hawaii
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It’s a four-mile round trip and takes around two and a half hours to finish.

On the way, you’ll come across the Captain Cook Monument.

Constructed in 1874, it is erected in honour of the British soldier Captain Cook who landed on the Islands and was killed in 1779. 

The trail winds down the hill to the stunning Kealakekua Bay, the place where Captain Cook is believed to have landed.

Kalopa Nature Trail #8

Looking to get away from the touristy places to a more secluded natural haven?

Kalopa Nature Trail is the one to go for. Located on the island’s northern side, the trail traverses through lush ancient forests within the Kalopa State Recreation Area.

Best Hikes on the Big Island of Hawaii
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With around 20 stopping points, the interpretive trail offers a great opportunity for hikers to learn about the flora and fauna of the area.

Visiting with kids?

This is one of the easiest trails to take. There is no elevation gain and the thick canopy of Ohi’a trees offers ample shade throughout the hike. 

The Makalawena Beach #9

Soak up the sun at this picturesque white sand beach which can only be accessed through a short hike.

You can choose from two trailheads that offer access to it.

Best Hikes on the Big Island of Hawaii
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The North Trail is around four miles out and back. Main points of interest on the way include Awakee Bay and the Ōpaeʻula Pond National Landmark.

If you choose to take the shorter South Trail which is around 2.2 miles out and back, you’ll go over a lava field and rolling dunes and get close to the Mahaiula Bay. 

Mauna Loa Trail #10

The most massive mountain on the planet, Mauna Loa soars at a height of 13,678 feet. The mountain is located within Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Best Hikes on the Big Island of Hawaii
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Considering this altitude, the hike is challenging but your efforts shall be rewarded with spectacular views.

The trail traverses through vast lava fields and moves upward towards the cinder cone. Make sure you bring your camera along since the views through the ascend and descend are mesmerising. 

Waimanu Valley #11

A 16-mile-long hike with an elevation gain of around 7,000 feet sounds challenging but if you’re up for it, the Waimanu Valley hike offers an epic adventure into the wild.

From plunging waterfalls to secluded valleys, you’ll come across enchanting landscapes.

There are multiple water crossings on the way and also a private beach that add to the hike’s allure.

Best Hikes on the Big Island of Hawaii
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Spend the night at the designated camping location which is across the Waimanu River from Waimanu Beach. Make sure to bring along mosquito repellent. 

Whether you’re looking for an easy short hike to rejuvenate your senses in nature, or are an adventure junkie looking for an epic trail, the Big Island won’t disappoint.

So, pick the one that attracts you the most and get ready for an unforgettable hiking trip. 

Follow us for more such insights!


Q. What is the most iconic hike in Hawaii?

Located on Kauai, the Kalalau Trail is the most iconic hike in Hawaii. It’s a 22-mile-long round trip and offers breath-taking views of Na Pali Coast. 

Q. Which Hawaiian island has the most beautiful hikes?

Oahu is home to the most stunning hikes. From jungles to crater cones and beaches, there are various hikes that go through diverse landscapes, offering jaw-dropping views. 

Q. Does Big Island have good hiking?

Big Island is home to active volcanoes, pristine beaches, and lush forests and features a wide variety of hikes that go through these beautiful landscapes. 

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