10 Incredible (And Easy) Big Island Hikes
There are so many great hikes on the Big Island of Hawaii. Hiking is truly the best way to experience the unique island landscape up close. Even if you don’t have much time to spare, you can easily fit some (or all) of these Big Island hikes into your itinerary.
Our family loves to hike and would always find a hike to do when we visited the Big Island on vacation. After moving to Hawaii, we’ve found even more great new hikes.
These easy Big Island hikes are all perfect hikes to do with kids.
Things to Know About Hiking on the Big Island
Hawaii has a unique and diverse ecosystem with hundreds of endemic (found only in Hawaii) plants and species. These Big Island Hikes will take you through lava fields, a cloud forest, dense jungle, high native forest, an incredible waterfall, a lava tube, and along the coast.
Because the Big Island is so much bigger and less populated than Oahu and Maui, the hikes on the Big Island are often much less crowded. That being said, some of the most popular trails can get busy (but never anywhere near as busy as Diamond Head on Oahu).
The best way to avoid the crowds is to hike early in the morning or later in the afternoon.
All 10 of these hikes are unique and beautiful but I marked my absolute favorite with *Epic Big Island Hike. If you only have time for one or two hikes, you’ll definitely want to do one of the epic hikes.
For a guided tour of the Big Island without actually going on an organized tour, purchase and download Gypsy Guide’s Big Island Tour. It really adds to your travels around the Big Island.
Map of the Best Easy Hikes on the Big Island
Use this map to navigate to the trailheads. Most of these hikes are not far off of main roads making it easy to incorporate a few hikes into your Big Island itinerary.
-The hikes are listed clockwise around the island starting at the northernmost hike- Pololu Valley Trail.
Pololu Valley Trail *Epic Big Island Hike
Distance – 1 Mile Out and Back
Elevation Gain – 350 Feet
The Pololu Valley Trail begins at the picturesque Pololu Valley Overlook and heads down a steep but well-developed trail to the black sand beach below. Views along the way down are so incredible that you will find yourself stopping at every switchback. The beach isn’t safe for swimming but it is a great place to relax and watch the waves roll in before heading back up.
This is one of the best short hikes on the Big Island so parking can be an issue here. Arriving early is usually the best bet to get a parking spot. If parking is full, a spot usually opens up shortly because many people are checking out the views from the overlook and not doing the hike.
Kalopa Nature Trail
Distance – .7 Mile Loop
Elevation Gain – 50 Feet
Kalopa Nature Trail is an easy loop through a lush native forest. The trailhead starts near the rental cabins in Kalopa State Park. Pick up an informative guide pamphlet for $1 to learn more about the different plants and trees.
The state park is located at 2,000 feet in elevation and can be much cooler than temperatures on the coast. This area gets a lot of rain so make sure to bring a rain jacket.
For information on other hikes in the state park, visit Kalopa State Park’s website.
‘Akaka Falls *Epic Big Island Hike
Distance – .4 Mile Loop
Elevation Gain – 100 Feet
If seeing a waterfall is on your Big Island must-see list, you don’t want to miss Akaka Falls. The Akaka Falls hike is an easy loop that takes you to a great viewing overlook to witness the incredible 422-foot waterfall. Not only is the waterfall amazing, but the lush greenery along the way also makes for an all-around perfect hike.
There is plenty of parking at Akaka Falls Trailhead but it does cost to park and hike the trail if you aren’t a resident of Hawaii.
$10 for parking and $5 for each person who hikes the trail. Kids 3 and under are free.
Kaulana Manu Nature Trail
Distance – .6 Mile Out and Back
Elevation Gain- 50 Feet
It rains A LOT on the saddle road but if you are lucky enough to get a sunny day, the Kaulana Manu Nature Trail is a wonderful easy hike. The trail goes through an old forest spared from lava flows and ends at a platform with views of the top of Mauna Kea. Though the hike is short, there are many informative signs along the way.
Nāhuku – Thurston Lava Tube *Epic Big Island Hike
Distance – .3 Mile Loop
Elevation Gain – 40 Feet
Thurston Lava Tube hike is located inside Hawaii Volcanoes National Park so you will need to pay the National Park entrance fee.
This short hike goes through dense rainforest to a 600-foot lava tube. The experience of hiking through a tunnel where lava flowed 500 years ago makes this hike unique and unforgettable.
The lava tube is lit up from 8 am to 8 pm every day. If you plan to hike the trail outside these hours, make sure to bring a flashlight or headlamp.
Because this is such a fun and easy hike, parking can be an issue. If the parking lot is full, parking in the nearby Pu‘upua‘i parking lot is a great option. Parking in the Pu’upua’i adds an extra mile (round trip) to the Lava Tube Hike but it is a nice trail between the two parking lots with views of the crater along the way.
Keanakākoʻi Crater Overlook Trail
Distance – 2 Mile out and back
Elevation Gain – 20 Feet
Keanakākoʻi Crater Overlook Trail is another hike inside Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.
The majority of the hike is along the Old Crater Rim Drive, a paved road that has been closed due to damage from the 2018 volcanic activity. Keanakākoʻi Crater Overlook is 1/2 mile from the eruption so it is currently the best place in the park for viewing the eruption.
The eruption status is constantly changing. For the most current viewing information visit the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park website.
Viewing the lava during the day is amazing but it is even more incredible at night! The red glow of the lava lights up the sky. Make sure to bring binoculars to get a closer view of the lava activity.
If you are fascinated by active volcanoes, read about the Pacaya Volcano Hike in Guatemala
Manuka Nature Trail
Distance – 2.1 Mile Loop
Elevation Gain – 425 Feet
If you are driving around the southern tip of the Big Island, the Manuka Trail is a great spot to stop and stretch your legs. This easy loop trail goes through dense vegetation and over lava rock.
Our favorite part of this hike is the plentiful Strawberry Guava trees all along the trail. The Strawberry Guava is an invasive species to Hawaii but the sweet fruit is a great treat to eat while you are hiking.
Read – 17 Varieties Of Fruit In Hawaii You Simply Must Try
*Make sure to bring bug spray, the mosquitoes can be really bad here.
Pu’uhonua 1871 Trail
Distance – 2 Miles Out and Back
Elevation Gain – Minimal
Pu’uhonua 1871 Trail is an incredibly beautiful trail over lava rock along the rugged coast. The trail is part of an ancient Hawaiian roadway and passes by several ancient structures. Along with beautiful ocean views and historic sites, you might also see some wild goats.
Parking for the Pu’uhonua 1871 Trail access is in the Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park parking lot. There is a fee to get into the historic site but you buy a Hawai‘i Tri-Park Annual Pass that gives you access to Volcanoes National Park and Haleakala National Park on Maui or an annual National Parks Pass for access to all National Parks in the United States. Check the Volcanoes National Park’s website for current prices.
There is no shade and it can be HOT on this trail. Make sure to bring plenty of water.
Makaula O’Oma Trail
Distance – 4 Mile Loop
Elevation Gain – 800 Feet
If hiking through a cloud forest is on your Big Island bucket list, you don’t want to miss the Makaula O’Oma hike. This hike is not far from Kona in the Honua’Ula Forest Reserve. The forest reserve is a small piece of public land surrounded by private property with a great established trail system.
There are two main loops (the sign at the beginning of the trail suggests taking a picture of the trail map so you don’t get lost). The longest loop is 4 miles but if you are looking for an easy hike, I would suggest going out as far as you feel comfortable and then heading back.
Malama Trail to Petroglyphs
Distance – 1.4 Miles Out and Back
Elevation Gain – 50 Feet
This is another hike that is all about the destination and not the journey. The easy hike takes you through a kiawe tree forest over a lava rock path. At the end of the trail is the protected Puakō Petroglyph Field, a huge section of flat stones covered with ancient Hawaiian Petroglyphs.
Near the beginning of the hike, you will find a gravel area surrounded by carved rocks. Don’t stop here! These are not the real petroglyphs, just a replica of what you will see at the end of the trail. I must that admit I walked that hike a few times only to turn around there. When I finally went to the actual petroglyph field, I was amazed. It is really an incredible sight.
If you are really interested in Petroglyphs, Newspaper Rock near Canyonlands National Park in Utah is also amazing. Read The Complete Guide to Canyonlands National Park for more information.
Malama trail is near the coast and can be really hot. Make sure to bring plenty of water.
Staying in Waikoloa? Read – 15 Amazing Things To Do In Waikoloa
The Big Island is such a unique and interesting place, you can’t go wrong with any of these easy Big Island Hikes.
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