The gentle Akaka Falls Loop passes a pair of dramatic cascades. // © 2015 HTA/Tor Johnson
Feature image (above): The view from the top of Pololu Valley provides spectacular ocean and sea cliff views. // © 2015 HTA/Tor Johnson
With its massive expanse and multiple ecosystems, Hawaii Island has trails for all types of hikers. Some routes wind through rainforests, others lead to waterfalls and still others meander through volcanic landscapes.
Even for clients with little time or energy, the destination offers satisfying options for short, scenic strolls. Here are five of our favorite easy trails on Hawaii Island.
Akaka Falls Loop (.4 mile)
Just north of Hilo on the island’s east side, this family-friendly paved footpath loops through a dense rainforest enlivened by groves of bamboo, orchids and ferns. The first highlight is a view of Kahuna Falls, a 100-foot-high beauty. Around another bend, clients get an eyeful of 442-foot Akaka Falls, a spectacular photo op. The region tends to be rainy, so visitors should bring jackets.
Kalopa Nature Trail (.7 mile)
Another good walk for families, this trail is located near Honokaa town, 40 miles north of Hilo. The area’s wet climate results in prolific vegetation, some of which is endemic to the island. Old-growth ohia trees, smaller trees, shrubs and lacy ferns abound here, making it a magical walk in the woods. At 2,000-foot elevation, it’s cool enough to warrant an extra layer of clothing.
Kilauea Iki Trail (4 miles)
On this popular trail in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, clients start with a stroll through a spellbinding rainforest. The descent into Kilauea Iki crater leads to a dramatic expanse of rocks and steaming vents. Young ohia trees poke up through lava from a 1959 eruption, creating a photo-worthy landscape. Since the park is located at 4,000 feet, clients should wear layers.
Kipukapuaulu Loop Trail (1.2 miles)
Here’s another Hawaii Volcanoes National Park gem. This upland trail snakes through some of the area's older forests, which are surrounded by lava flows from Mauna Loa volcano. Hikers can see rare plants and trees, easily identified thanks to a brochure keyed to numbered sites. Many varieties of birds serenade visitors, which explains the area’s nickname, Bird Park.
Pololu Valley Trail (1 mile roundtrip)
At the end of Hwy. 270 at the northern side of the island awaits this popular Hawaii Island hike. Near the trailhead, a lookout provides glorious views of cliffs that tumble to the sea. A short hike downhill leads to Pololu Valley, home of a black-sand beach. While not recommended for swimming due to strong currents, it’s a wild and wonderful spot to picnic while gazing at the waves.