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Waipio Valley - Muliwai Trail

Big Island Hiking Trails Guide

Best Places to Hike on the Big Island

The Big Island has some of the best hiking trails in all of Hawaii; whether you're a hard-core trekker or just want to stroll and admire the scenery. Below are a few of our favorite Big Island excursions, sorted by the top hikes and additionally by region, to get you started. On each trail page, we've included a bit of what to expect along the trail as well as what makes each hike to special. Some are moderate-to-strenuous hiking trails, while others are gardens or parks that offer leisurely strolls. No matter which you prefer, we've included all the best hikes & trails on the island.

Green sand beaches, gardens, rainforests, waterfalls, volcanoes, petroglyphs- this and so much more awaits you on these incredible trails. We’ve done many of these hikes ourselves and think they’re some of the best Big Island hikes you’ll find. Need to know when’s the best time to hit the trail, where to camp, what to expect, and some trail highlights? Then check out some of our personal favorite Big Island treks below, and don't forget to explore our recommended Hiking Tours as well.

John Derrick
Published on: 07-20-2020
Published by: John C. Derrick

This entry includes resources for the Big Island's Top Hiking Trails, including tips, advice, trail rankings, maps, and more.

Top 10 Big Island Hiking Trails

Regardless of whether you're a novice looking for an easy morning hike or an experienced hiker longing for a full-day excursion, the Big Island of Hawaii offers an amazingly diverse array of trails. The numbered hikes listed here are our absolute favorites on the Big Island.

There's a lot to consider when ranking trails for visitors - trail length, difficulty, elevation change, views, accessability, and general safety. Let's countdown the very best trails on Hawaii's Big Island.

Kipuka Puaulu 'Bird Park' Trail

Volcano Region
#10 Rated Hike on the Big Island

A kipuka is an area of land which was once lava but has been surrounded on all sides by more recent flows. If left undisturbed for a long time, an ecosystem, such as that a Kipuka Puaulu, forms.

Puaulu, also called Bird Park, is an old ohia tree and fern forest which is home to many of the feathered residents of the Big Island. A 30-minute stroll along this 1-mile trail will reveal several different high elevation birds, including the colorful Khalij Pheasant.  

A restroom and picnic tables with barbecue pits are near the trailhead. 

Kipuka Puaulu Bird Park

Napau Crater Trail

Volcano Region
#9 Rated Hike on the Big Island

The trail zigzags through a field of jagged a’a and smooth pahoehoe lava from 1974 flows. The entire trail is over seven miles long and requires a permit.  However, the first leg, a little over a mile will take you to Pu’u Huluhulu, a tree-draped cinder cone. The surrounding views are barren, but stunning none the less.

This area is the site of Kilauea’s second-longest flank eruption in known history. The path is fairly well worn but make sure to follow the small reflective trail makers set out on the lava.

Napau Crater Trail

King's Mamalahoa Trail & Petroglyphs

Kohala Region
#8 Rated Hike on the Big Island

The trek along the Mamalahoa Trail, or King's Trail, leads to some of the most well-preserved petroglyphs on the island. Nearly 30,000 carvings of animals and people were left in old pahoehoe lava flows by the ancient Hawaiians. 

Wear sturdy shoes for hiking on the lava trail and bring water. There are several historical signs along the way to guide you.

King’s Mamalahoa Trail Petroglyphs

Chain of Craters Road

Volcano Region
#7 Rated Hike on the Big Island

Chain of Craters Road may be one of the unique hiking experiences you have on the Big Island. Stretching 18 miles and going from 4,000 ft. elevation to sea level, this scenic drive along the East Rift Zone of the volcano in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is pockmarked with craters of varying shapes and sizes, lava flows, and petroglyphs.

Along this road, visitors will find many interesting hikes (be sure to check out the Pu'u Loa Petroglyphs), breathtaking vistas, and the opportunity to explore past lava flows at the end of the road.

Chain of Craters Road

Papakolea 'Green Sand' Beach Hike

South Kau Region
#6 Rated Hike on the Big Island

One of only four green sand beaches in the world, Papakolea, or Green Sand Beach, is named for the presence of a greenish, semi-precious stone named olivine, which has been extracted out of the base of the Pu'u o Mahana cinder cone and deposited on the sand by the ocean’s waves.

This very secluded beach is located near Ka Lae (South Point) in the Kau district of Hawaii. The hike is a rugged 2-mile dusty labyrinth of ruts that eventually lead to the beach.

Green Sand Beach - Papakolea

Pololu Valley Awini Trail

Kohala Region
#5 Rated Hike on the Big Island

If you take the time to drive all the way to Pololu Valley at the end of Highway 270, don't settle for the view from the overlook! Take the time to explore.

The trail sometimes referred to as Awini Trail, that leads down to the black sand beach (Pololu Valley Beach) takes approximately half an hour to hike.

Pololu Valley Awini Trail

Makalawena Beach Hike

Kohala Region
#4 Rated Hike on the Big Island

Like anything worthwhile, Makalawena Beach makes you work a little bit to enjoy it. This secluded white sand beach is a crescent broken up by rocky lumps of lava. Palms and other trees rim the dunes near the northern end where you are greeted with picnic tables and some wild chickens.

To reach Mak Beach, as it's sometimes called, start at the far north end of Kekaha Kai's Mahai'ula Beach and find the rocky a'a path near the clump of palm trees. It's about a 20-minute walk across the lava to the beach.

Makalawena Beach

Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden

North Hamakua Region
#3 Rated Hike on the Big Island

This is a commercial attraction, but we encourage all visitors to make some time and stop at one of the most beautiful botanical gardens you'll find anywhere: the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden.

This stunning rainforest preserve is touted as one of the most beautiful locations in Hawaii; a distinction it well deserves. With the aid of the map provided by the garden, you will easily spend several hours ambling through the various sections of this magical lush wonderland. Every twist and turn leads to a new plant or tree.

Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden

Akaka Falls State Park

North Hamakua Region
#2 Rated Hike on the Big Island

Akaka Falls State Park, along with the northeastern Hamakua Coast, is home to two gorgeous waterfalls and an abundance of lush tropical greenery to delight visitors.

The stroll to reach Akaka Falls is almost as beautiful as the falls itself. After taking a short set of stairs, turn left and follow the paved pathway through amazing greenery and small waterfalls flowing into babbling streams. You will hear the dull roar of the waterfall before you see it. Just as you round a corner, you'll catch a glimpse of Akaka Falls free-falling 442 ft. through a green-lined gorge.

Akaka Falls State Park

Kilauea Iki Trail

Volcano Region
#1 Rated Hike on the Big Island

As you stand at the Kilauea Iki overlook you can see a lightly-etched trail stretching across the crater floor. From your 400 ft high vantage point you might be able to see little specks walking the path: those are people!

Kilauea Iki is an approximately four-mile loop that takes 2-3 hours. It skirts the rim of the crater, dips down and across the floor and back up to the overlook. The portion of Crater Rim Trail that runs along the rim is a dense high-elevation jungle populated with flowering ohia trees and graceful ferns.

Kilauea Iki Trail

All Big Island Hiking & Trails

Categorized by Region

Need Help? Check out our Big Island of Hawaii Regions Guide →

Volcano Hiking

Volcano Big Island Hiking Guide

Big Island Hiking Tours

One of the best ways to explore the Big Island is with an expert local guide- you really can’t beat their vast knowledge of the flora and fauna, history and legends, and their first-hand experience in navigating the trails.That said, not all tour providers are created equally; that’s why we’ve handpicked the absolute best Big Island hiking tours for you. Booking with these providers assures you’ll have some of the best guides in the business, on some of the top Big Island trails- whether you’re into birdwatching, an exciting zipline and hike combo, or a stroll on an exotic black sand beach.

Check out our great rates, amazing trails, and book your hiking tour today!

Recommended Big Island Tours
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