When we first arrived on the Big Island, over a month ago, the world was still relatively normal. As normal as it ever has been. No-one was in “lock down” and the Global panic around the Coronavirus was only just starting to escalate (I talked about our trip so far in my previous post Hunkering down in Hawaii: social distancing on the Big Island)
Life in Hawaii was continuing as usual. We were lucky enough to be able to do some nice hikes and adventures on the Big Island before the Statewide “stay at home“ order, which has given me some time to update my blog! Hopefully my posts will provide some escapism and give you some inspiration on things to do in Hawaii once the world returns to it’s “New Normal”, whatever that may be.
Kona Cloud Forest & Honua’ula Forest Reserve
The “Cloud Forest” is a very worthwhile drive if you find yourself on the West side of the Big Island. It’s not mentioned in all of the guidebooks (the Lonely Planet one I have with me doesn’t list it), and we were actually told about it by the Manager of the complex where we were staying at the time. It’s always worth picking up tips from locals for “off the beaten track” adventures!
From where we were staying in the Keauhou area, it was around a 30-40 minute drive North via Kaloko Drive.
As you start to climb to higher elevations, be prepared to be driving through rain and mist. You are literally driving through the clouds, and the temperature falls as the elevation increases. From our temperature gauge in the car, we had lost around 20ºC since leaving the coast!
Follow Koloko drive around the 7 miles of switchbacks to the top of the mountainside, where the road ends in private property next to a water treatment facility. This is as far as you can go at this point, as all the land past the gate is private.
Makaula O’Oma Trail/Kaloko Trails
On the way back down the mountain (on the 3rd bend), you can turn right onto Makahi St, which will take you to the Makahi St trailhead.
There are a few trails you can do from this point, into the Honua’ula Forest Reserve. The two main ones are a small loop trail (around a mile), and a longer one of around 3 miles.
There are differing names (and spellings) of these trails dotted around the internet. I think the Makaula O’Oma Trail is the name for the longer loop. They are all part of the Kaloko Trails. You can read about the history of the trails and important information here at Path Hawaii.org
We initially decided to do the small loop to check out the forest. I only had trainers with me, as I had left hiking boots back at the condo, not expecting to do a big walk. I also wasn’t feeling great, so a short mile loop sounded fine.
Things didn’t go exactly as planned, though, and we ended up doing what we have jokingly come to call the “Extreme Makaula O’Oma Trail”. It’s really just a shortened version of the main trail.
This is where I will warn you that it’s probably a good idea to have these things with you when you set off on the forest trails:
– Hiking boots
– Waterproof jacket
– Water. Always. Even if you think you’re only walking half a mile. You will get dehydrated quickly in Hawaii!
– Some form of GPS – in our case the All Trails app – which helped us get back on track
– Insect repellant
A little way past the trail head, you’ll reach a notice board on your right, and a fork in the road. The trail we intended to go on, forked to the right, uphill. This is the Jurassic Trail. We misread the map, and the area is not well marked, so we took the left trail, downhill (I now see in the photo that there’s a small green string on one tree, which may be someone’s attempt to mark the shorter trail!)
The route we took goes steadily downhill through incredible jungle vegetation, with huge ferns like something out of The Day of the Triffids (if you haven’t read it, do so, it’s brilliant. And strangely apt for the current times). You will definitely feel as though you have stepped back into the Jurassic period!
Everything is green, vibrant and moss covered. The footing is very muddy and slippery, and there are lots of roots to clamber over, so this is not recommended for anyone elderly, with compromised balance, or wearing flip flops! I was surprised some people were stating on the All Trails app that this was easy and “child friendly”, but then we were doing a more difficult part of the trail that we intended!
After a mile or so, the trail flattened out to the right along a dirt road. If you continue along this, it will take you around the longer loop. We weren’t sure where we were at this point, so we decided to take the steep offshoot to the right. We still didn’t want to do a long hike, and my Husband’s (correct) assumption was that we should return almost parallel to the way we came. Worst case scenario, we could re-trace our steps!
We certainly got a leg work out we had not been expecting on the way back! The distance wasn’t extreme, but the elevation gain was. “We’re lost!”, “I only wanted to do a mile loop!” I gasped, as we continued our hike up the never ending slope.
Eventually, we got to the top of the hill, and turned right, back into the forest area, which took us past a sign for the “Jurassic” trail. That was the shorter loop we would have done if we had turned right at the beginning. Further on, we turned right again back to the trailhead.
The map below is from the All Trails app. I’ve roughly highlighted in purple the loop we ended up doing (in Kilometres on this map).
As you can see the longer loop trail is shown in red, which we will be doing when we return with proper supplies!
It was a really interesting hike in the end. Being immersed in the forest around all the flora and fauna was a welcoming juxtaposition from the black volcanic landscape which defines most of the Big Island.
I definitely recommend heading up this way if you can drag yourself away from the beach or pool!
I hope this post has inspired you to get out there and explore the Big Island (when you are able to!)
I’d love to hear from any of you who have done these or other hikes, and any recommendations you have.
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Stay safe and Mahalo!