Start 2018 With First Day Hike on Hawai‘i Island

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From top, counterclockwise: Kalōpā State Recreation Area, Hāpuna Beach State Recreation Area, Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park and Manukā State Wayside Natural Area Reserve & Nature Trail.

On Jan. 1, 2018, all 50 states will participate in the seventh annual national event that encourages everyone to celebrate the New Year with a guided outdoor exploration.

Make a New Year’s resolution to your health and happiness by kicking off 2018 with an invigorating First Day Hike at a state park on Hawai‘i Island.

The following is a sampling of four of Hawai‘i Island’s 18 state parks. For more hiking opportunities, go online.

Hike Safe: Hawai‘i First Day Hike Essentials

Just a few simple essentials include dressing in layers, having raingear, a hat and appropriate footwear and carrying food and water. Reef-safe sunscreen and sunglasses are encouraged. If you’re bringing your dog, it must stay leashed at all times. Pick up after your pet and properly dispose of waste and other rubbish.

Kalōpā State Recreation Area & Nature Trail. PC: DLNR


Kalōpā State Recreation Area & Nature Trail

The area features lodging, picnicking and easy family nature hike.

Kalōpā State Recreation Area rents duplex cabins. Cabin accommodations consist of eight-person units provided with bunk beds, toilet facilities and hot shower. A centrally located recreational dining hall is equipped for shared cooking and serving all cabin users. Furnishings include a gas range, water heater, refrigerator, limited dishes, cooking and eating utensils, tables and chairs, as well as restrooms. No linen, bedding or towels are provided.

Online reservations for the cabins at Kalopa must be made at least seven days in advance of check-in date, so this would be a great overnighter hike to take later in the month. Fees start at $12 per campsite per night.

The Kalopa Nature Trail is an easy loop through the heart of a native rainforest (.7-mile loop trail) at a 2,000-foot elevation. The forest has an upper canopy of large, old-growth ‘ohi’a trees, and beneath is an understory composed predominantly of smaller native forest trees and shrubs. Ferns are also abundant. About 25 different native species of trees, shrubs and vines can be viewed along the trail, though several occur only as a single individual. This is a good family walk. Allow about an hour to complete a leisurely walk.


The trail passes through the beginnings of an arboretum of Hawai‘i Island’s native plants. Additional trails in the adjoining forest reserve, including a 2-mile horse loop trail (100 acres).

The trailhead is located just off the parking lot. Information, including a trail guide, may be available at the park office located near the parking lot.

  • Trail Tips
  • Mountain biking is not allowed on this trail.
  • Stay on the trail.
  • Pack out at least what you pack in.
  • No open fires.

Where: The area is at the end of Kalopa Road, 3 miles inland from Māmalahoa Highway (Highway 19); 5 miles southeast of Honoka‘a. On the map above, it is the top right marker.


Hāpuna Beach State Recreation Area rents four-person A-frame shelters. PC: DLNR

Hāpuna Beach State Recreation Area


Hāpuna Beach State Recreation Area is a landscaped beach park with swimming during calm seas, bodysurfing during periods of shore breaks, sunbathing and other beach-related activities, picnicking and shelter lodging opportunities.

But beware: Although lifeguards are on duty here, the beach has dangerous rip currents and pounding shore breaks during periods of high surf. Waves over 3 feet high are for experts—all others should stay out of the water and away from the shoreline.

The Hāpuna Beach State Recreation Area offers hiking along the coastal trail (61.8 acres).

Hāpuna Beach State Recreation Area rents four-person A-frame shelters. These shelters consist of a single screened room with wooden sleeping platforms and a picnic table. Centrally located in the shelter complex is an enclosed pavilion with a range, refrigerator and tables. Comfort stations with cold showers and restrooms are available for shared use by all shelters.

  • Trail Tips
  • To further enhance your visit to Hapuna Beach SRA, State Parks has contracted work to be done on the comfort stations and other facilities in the park. This will require the closing of the comfort stations while they are being worked on. During the renovation work, portable toilets and shower will be made available to park patrons normally using these facilities. For public safety, remain outside of the marked work areas during your visit.
  • The first of three phases of capital improvement construction that will last almost a year is underway. These will affect the makai and mauka areas of the Hapuna Beach section and the park’s Waialea section.
  • The first phase of work, which began in October 2017 in the Hapuna Beach North section, has required closure of the comfort station and pavilion—a portable toilet is provided. Replacement has also begun of the concession pathway, beach and shower pathways, and pathway from the upper parking lot. Security fencing will be installed. This phase is expected to be completed by Jan. 7, 2018.
  • The park will remain open during each phase of work; however, closures should be expected in the specific areas impacted, including pathways, comfort stations, pavilions, showers and parking areas. We apologize for the inconvenience as we complete these important upgrades to the park.

Where: Hāpuna Beach is North of Kailua-Kona, around mile marker 70 on Highway 19. Turn makai (towards the ocean) at the sign for Hāpuna Beach State Park and continue for .25 miles to the large parking lot. Do not leave valuables in your car! Visitors to the Big Island now pay a small parking fee to help maintain the park. Parking is free for locals. On the map above, it is the top left marker.

Kealakekua Bay. PC: DLNR

Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park

Kealakekua Bay State Historical Park is the site of the first extensive contact between Hawaiians and Westerners with the arrival of Captain Cook in 1779.

The area features viewing of Hikiau Heiau, a traditional religious site, and the Captain Cook monument at a distance across Kealakekua Bay (4 acres).


In order to access the land at or visit Ka‘awaloa Flat (the location of the Captain Cook Monument), visitors have two options:

  • Hike from the uplands via the historic Ka’awaloa Trail.
  • Take a guided kayak tour through one of the three permitted commercial vendors listed here.

Transiting the bay by individuals is allowed so long as the vessel has a valid permit (both private and commercial rental vessels). Permitted vessels are prohibited from landing at Ka‘awaloa Flat, or launching from Napo‘opo‘o wharf. Visitors do not need to acquire their own permits when renting a kayak, but must confirm from the vessel owner that the vessel they rent possesses a valid permit for transiting the bay.

To apply for a vessel permit to transit Kealakekua Bay, download the appropriate (commercial or non-commercial) application, fill it out, save it to your computer and then email completed application to [email protected]

Where: 81-840 Makahiki Lane in Captain Cook. On the map above, it is the second marker down on the left.

Manukā State Wayside, Natural Area Reserve & Nature Trail. PC: DLNR

Manukā State Wayside, Natural Area Reserve & Nature Trail

Manukā State Wayside, Natural Area Reserve & Nature Trail includes a rest stop with an opportunity to picnic among a collection of native and introduced trees. A 2-mile nature hike through the adjacent Manukā Natural Area Reserve offers an experience in Hawaiian natural history (13.4 acres).

Manukā offers open shelter camping at a single site. Fees start at $12 per campsite per night.

On the flank of leeward Mauna Loa in South Kona, Manukā Natural Area Reserve is a 25,000-acre reserve encompassing a wide range of habitats. These include subalpine shrublands and forests, mesic montane kipuka forests, wet montane forests, lowland mesic forests and lowland dry forests.

Recent lava flows add a variety of pioneer vegetation types, as well as uncharacterized and unsurveyed lava tubes. Concentrations of the Hawaiian hoary bat occur in the area. A rare lowland grassland and anchialine pools are included as well.

The trail takes hikers through a forest of native Hawaiian plants and animals. It offers an experience in Hawaiian natural history, featuring lava flows of different ages, a pit crater, cultural sites and native and non-native species of plants and animals. Bring plenty of water. Mosquitoes are prevalent. Allow two to three hours to complete the loop.

Trail Tips

  • Mountain biking is not allowed on this trail.
  • Stay on the trail.
  • Pack out at least what you pack in.
  • No open fires.

Where: Manukā Nature Trail is located in the Manukā Natural Area Reserve, but accessed via the adjacent Manukā State Wayside off Māmalahoa Highway (Highway 11), 19.3 miles west of Na‘alehu. The trailhead is located just off the parking lot—follow the signs to the start of the trail. The pit crater is at the top of the loop, after which you will begin descending back toward the trailhead. On the map above, it is the bottom left marker.


About the First, First Day Hike

First Day Hikes originated more than 25 years ago at the Blue Hills Reservation—a state park in Milton, Massachusetts. Last year, more than 62,000 people took part in guided hikes that covered over 114,165 miles on 1,300 different hikes across the country.

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