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Fine Art Images of Hawaii by Thomas Upton

Big Island Landscape Photography
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  • Thomas Upton

Hiking off the Kawaihae-Mahukona Road

Updated: Feb 2

Part of our fitness discipline is to take at least a one-hour walk each day when on the island. Much of the time, this just means walking through our neighborhood. But we are always on the lookout for trails that might provide an interesting alternative to the neighborhood walks.

So much of the Big Island is completely undeveloped, yet plainly marked “No Trespassing” (a pet peeve) that it can be difficult to find new trails that are OK to enjoy. One area where we have found several interconnected trails that are an interesting diversion is north of Kawaihae, along the Kawaihae-Mahukona Road towards Hawi. There are nice state-managed parks along the way such as Mahukona itself and Lapahaki. While driving north, after Kohala Ranch Road, you will see some small dirt turnouts and rough 4WD tracks that head down the makai side of the road towards the ocean. We picked one such track at random, parking at the top, and headed down the road on foot. We quickly encountered the abandoned vehicles and appliances that can be found all too frequently in wilderness areas here:

On the positive side, there were nice views of the volcanoes all along the way, looking east over Kawaihae:

This trail descended fairly steeply through a rocky open field, dotted with kiawe trees, for about ½ mile

before entering a grove of mostly kiawe trees near the ocean:

The trail continued to a T-junction with another trail that ran parallel to the shoreline for a long distance. We noticed that several of the downhill trails that leave the highway all intersect this coastal trail. You can make a loop going down one trail and returning on another, but it will involve some walking along the highway to return to your vehicle if you take this option. We followed the coastal trail and found some nice coves, campsites, and this peculiar heavily-walled enclosure:

We speculated that it might be a small heiau (temple), but there were few clues as to it's actual purpose. From this coastal trail there were a number of offshoots that led to rocky coves:

The entire round trip can be done in an hour or two, depending on how much you decide to explore. Be prepared to remove kiawe (mesquite) spikes from your shoes when you are done! We will head back again one of these days to try some of the other makai trails in this area. 🔼

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