The Big Island of Hawaii is known for its stunning natural beauty, from its dramatic volcanic landscapes to its pristine beaches and lush rainforests. One of the island’s lesser-known but equally enchanting natural wonders is its unique and diverse forests, which are home to a remarkable variety of plant and animal life. In this blog post, we will explore the wonderful woods of Hawaii, with a particular focus on the Big Island.
The forests of the Big Island are a product of Hawaii’s unique geology and climate, which have created a rich and varied ecosystem over millions of years. The island’s terrain is dominated by two massive shield volcanoes, Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea, which rise over 13,000 feet above sea level. These volcanoes have created a range of microclimates on the island, from humid rainforests to dry shrublands and everything in between.
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park
One of the most famous forests on the Big Island is the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which covers over 330,000 acres of land and is home to two of the world’s most active volcanoes, Kilauea and Mauna Loa. The park’s lush rainforests are characterized by towering tree ferns, towering ohia trees, and a wide variety of other native plants and animals. We wrote about the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park in our previous blog posts, so we only repeat some of it here. However, we want to remind you that National Par Fee-Free Day is coming up on 04/22/23, so it is an excellent opportunity to visit the park for free.
Pu’u Wa’awa’a Forest Reserve
Another unique forest on the Big Island is the Pu’u Wa’awa’a Forest Reserve, which covers over 33,000 acres of land on the island’s western slopes near the Kona area. The reserve is home to a number of rare and endangered species, including the Hawaiian hawk, the Hawaiian hoary bat, and the endangered Hawaiian goose. The forest is also home to several miles of hiking trails, which allow visitors to explore the reserve’s diverse ecosystem up close. You can find more information about directions and exploring the reserve here.
In addition to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and Pu’u Wa’awa’a Forest Reserve, the Big Island is also home to several other beautiful forests, including the Kaloko Cloud Forest and Honua’ula Forest Reserve, two must-visit destinations for anyone who loves nature and the outdoors.
Kaloko Cloud Forest
The Kaloko Cloud Forest is located on the slopes of Hualalai, the third-largest volcano on the Big Island. This forest is unique because it is a cloud forest shrouded in mist and clouds most of the year. The cloud forest is home to a variety of native bird species, including the Hawaiian honeycreeper, and is also home to several rare and endangered plant species. Visitors to the Kaloko Cloud Forest can hike through the forest and explore the unique ecosystem, unlike any other forest in Hawaii.
To get to the Kaloko Cloud Forest, visitors can take Mamalahoa Highway to Kaloko Drive and follow the signs to the Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park. From there, it is a short hike to the forest entrance. Visitors should be prepared for wet and misty conditions and bring appropriate clothing and footwear.
Honua’ula Forest Reserve
The Honua’ula Forest Reserve is another beautiful forest on the Big Island that is well worth a visit. This forest is located on the slopes of Mauna Loa, the largest volcano on the island, and covers over 19,000 acres of land. The forest is home to various native plant and animal species, including the endangered Hawaiian hawk, and is an important watershed for the island’s water supply.
Visitors to the Honua’ula Forest Reserve can explore the forest on hiking trails, which offer stunning views of the surrounding landscape and the nearby coastline. The forest is also home to several natural hot springs, a popular destination for those looking to relax and unwind in the beautiful natural surroundings.
To get to the Honua’ula Forest Reserve, visitors can take Saddle Road from Hilo or Kona to the Mauna Loa Observatory Road. From there, they can follow the signs to the forest and the hiking trails.
On the island’s east side, several forests of non-native eucalyptus trees are a popular destination for hikers and nature enthusiasts. These forests were planted in the early 20th century for lumber and have since become a unique feature of the island’s landscape. The eucalyptus forests are home to a variety of native and non-native bird species, and the hiking trails that wind through the forests offer stunning views of the coastline and the surrounding mountains.
The eucalyptus forests on the Big Island are also known for their medicinal properties. Eucalyptus oil is a popular natural remedy for various ailments, and many people believe the air in the forests has healing properties. Visitors to the woods can enjoy the fresh, clean air and the soothing scent of the eucalyptus trees, which are said to have a calming effect on the mind and body.
One of the fascinating aspects of the forests on the Big Island is their cultural significance to the Native Hawaiian people. For centuries, these forests have been the source of food, medicine, and other resources for the island’s indigenous population. Today, many of the plants and animals that are found in these forests are considered sacred by the Native Hawaiian people and are an important part of their cultural heritage.
The forests of the Big Island are also a popular destination for eco-tourists, who come to experience the natural beauty and unique ecosystem of this island paradise. Whether you’re interested in hiking, bird-watching, or simply soaking up the tranquility of the forest, there is something for everyone in the woods of Hawaii.
If you’re planning a trip to the Big Island, be sure to include a visit to one of the island’s many beautiful forests in your itinerary. Whether exploring the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park or hiking through the Pu’u Wa’awa’a Forest Reserve, you’ll be treated to an unforgettable experience of Hawaii’s natural wonders.
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We hope to see you soon – a hui hou!