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  • Writer's pictureJessica Stough

The Best Hikes on the Big Island of Hawaii

Updated: Feb 6, 2022

“Hawaii is still the single most frequent fantasy destination, not because of political stability or conveniences, but because Hawaii seduces the imagination. It's the perfect postcard - no props, no fillers.” – Robert Wintner

I was reminiscing earlier this morning about our last trip being to Alaska, and that we are now headed in the complete and total opposite direction for this trip. I know some people dream of warmer places when winter approaches or has lingered too long in Iowa. Zac and I, though, are just ready for another adventure. If we happened to have landed on Iceland or Alaska again for this trip, to be honest, I think we would be just as excited.

That being said, I am still completely pumped to be so close to our trip. We are less than a week away from getting on a plane to Hawaii, and I could not be more excited to be making our way back there to explore a new-to-us Hawaiian island. I’m in the stage of vacation preparation where I start panicking that we do not have everything we need. Just yesterday, I ordered a new pair of headphones because my normal earbuds hurt my ears after too much use. I also ordered plenty of sunscreen (ginger problems!), my favorite travel makeup remover wipes, some Tide-To-Go (because we make messes), dry shampoo, and other travel-sized things.

I think, eventually, I might need to create a list of my favorite things for travel. Until then, I’ll get back to Hawaii. We may have visited two islands already, but Hawaii has so much more to offer than just those two. I’m ready to immerse myself into the rainforests, mountains, volcanoes, and everything else the big island has to offer. What I’m most excited about, aside from spending the time with my favorite person and two of of our great friends, is the hiking though! I figured I might as well keep with my best hikes mini-blog series and do another list, but for the best proclaimed hikes on the big island!

  1. Akaka Falls Trail – .5 miles, easy

  2. Donkey Trail Loop – .9 miles, easy

  3. Makalawena Beach – 2.7 miles, easy

  4. Awini Trail to Honokane Nui Lookout – 2.8 miles, moderate

  5. Papakolea Green Sand Beach – 5.6 miles, moderate

  6. Pu'u Huluhulu via Napau Crater Trail – 2.5 miles, moderate

  7. Kipuka Puaulu Trail – 1.1 mile, easy

  1. Waipio Valley Trail – 4.7 miles, moderate

  2. Malama Trail – up to 1.2 miles, easy

  3. Akaka Falls Trail – .5 miles, easy

  4. Rainbow Falls – .2 miles, easy

  5. Kaumana Caves – .1 mile, easy

  6. Kīpukapuaulu Trail – 1.1 miles, easy

  7. Puu Loa Petroglyphs Trail – 1.2 miles, easy

  8. Koko Crater Arch Trail from Halona Blowhole Lookout – .9 miles, moderate (on the list but actually on Oahu – keeping on my blog to protray Hikespeak's list accurately)

  1. Akaka Falls Trail – .5 miles, easy

  2. Kalopa Native Forest Trail – .9 miles, easy

  3. Kaumana Caves – .1 mile, easy

  4. Makalawena Beach – 2.7 miles, easy

  5. Awini Trail to Honokane Nui Lookout – 2.8 miles, moderate

  6. Pu'u Huluhulu via Napau Crater Trail – 2.5 miles, moderate

  7. Papakolea Green Sand Beach – 5.6 miles, moderate

  8. Mauna Kea-Humu'ula Trail – 13.4 miles, hard

  9. Mauna Loa Summit Trail – 12.9 miles, hard

  1. South Point – .5 miles, easy

  2. Papakolea Green Sand Beach – 5.6 miles, moderate

  3. Kau Desert Footprints Trail – 3.8 miles, moderate

  4. Punalu'u (Black Sand Beach) Bay– 5.8 miles, moderate

  5. Halape Trail – 13.1 miles, difficult

  6. Puu Loa Petroglyphs Trail – 1.2 miles, easy

  7. Kilauea Craters Trail – 8 miles, moderate

  8. Rainbow Falls – .2 miles, easy

  9. Waipio Valley Trail – 4.7 miles, moderate

  10. Pololū Trail and ʻĀwini Lookout – 3.9 miles, moderate

  11. Makalawena Beach – 2.7 miles, easy

  12. Mauna Loa Summit Trail – 12.9 miles, hard

  13. Mauna Kea-Humu'ula Trail – 13.4 miles, hard


As with my Iowa and United States “top hike” posts, I put those that repeated on multiple lists in bold. With the majority of the lists I reviewed for both Iowa and the United States, there were very few repeated – and even less that were repeated multiple times. However, I was pleasantly surprised with a few that seemed to stand out above the rest for Hawaii:

We have the majority of our itinerary already ready to go (but I don’t like sharing those until after we’ve completed the trip – because they can easily change!). However, I have very few of the hikes sprinkled into the itinerary yet. I cannot wait to start mapping out my plans for hikes to make sure we hit a good portion of the beauty that is Hawaii. There is something so different about seeing a new place from the trails than from the roads. The saying “the best view comes after the hardest climb” has always resonated with me so fully.

I have never quite been able to put my finger on why that saying feels so true, but recently, I think I stumbled across at least a good portion of the reason. Remember when I hiked with a bunch of people I met in a Facebook group, and they taught me about forest bathing? I honestly think that hiking to a destination feels so much better than driving to it because of the impacts forest bathing can have on the body:

Forest bathing in nature allows the stressed portions of your brain to relax. Positive hormones are released in the body. You feel less sad, angry and anxious. It helps to avoid stress and burnout, and aids in fighting depression and anxiety. A forest bath is known to boost immunity and leads to lesser days of illness as well as faster recovery from injury or surgery. (Source: Healing Forest)

If you have ever started a hike before the sun comes up – through trees and valleys, on rocks and across streams, up mountains and then, eventually, back down – then completed your quest hours after lunch was on anyone’s agenda, then you know what it’s like to be on your feet forever simply to be one with nature. That should be both mentally and physically exhausting. However, something about those days leave me actually feeling refreshed, rejuvenated, and ready to take on more of the world (maybe a little physically exhausted, but in the absolute best place mentally).


Now, it’s time for me to get back to planning for the week, vacation preparation, and enjoying the rest of my lazy Sunday. Although I'm all about being out in the woods and running or hiking, I'm also sometimes all about being on the couch and lounging.

I have to say, too, that the dogs truly appreciate it when I put the computer away. When I'm just lounging on the counch – sans computer – they have more options for snuggling. I can’t keep them waiting. Just look at Jackson's expectant face. If anyone can say no to that, they're certainly much more strong-willed than I am.

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