Monday, June 25, 2012

Big Island Trekking: From Coast to Volcanic Peaks

Itching for a longer overnight or multi-day hike to test your skills? If you've already done every trail in Maui's Haleakala National Park, including switchbacking down the back side of the volcano to Kaupo and the lunar-like Skyline Trail to Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area, then fly over to the neighboring Big Island.

Many hikers know about the Big Island's very tough summit trails up Mauna Kea, Hawaii's highest peak and Mauna Loa, a more massive mountain inside Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. But less well-known is the ambitious 175-mile Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail, which traces the shoreline of the Big Island from Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, around South Point and all the way up the Kona coast into Kohala to northern Upolu Point. 

Along its planned (but not yet fully implemented) route, this national historic trail passes historical heiau (Hawaiian temples), ancient Hawaiian village sites and a place of refuge, as well as beaches both lonely and crammed with sunseekers. Parts of the trail are utterly remote, while others border some of the busiest towns on the Big Island.

Be aware that Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail is not entirely open to the public yet, although some sections under National Park Service (NPS) and state land management are, including more than 15 miles along South Kohala's sun-baked lava coast between Kawaihae and sandy Anaehoomalu Bay.

Have you hiked any of the Big Island's overnight trekking routes or volcanic peaks? Which trails do you think are the best? How do they compare with Maui's Haleakala volcano or Kauai's Kalalau Trail along the Na Pali Coast? Let us know about your hiking experiences by leaving a comment! 

Related links:
Haleakala's Summit Wilderness: High Winds & Other Fascinatingly Dangerous Weather
Go Green, Local Style: West Hawaii (Big Island)
Go Green, Local Style: East Hawaii (Big Island)
National Parks of the Pacific Islands: Walk This Way 

Photo credits: Puuhonua o Honaunau National Historical Park (Michael S. Connolly, Jr.), Kohala Historical Sites State Monument (Michael S. Connolly, Jr.)