Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge Adventure in Kona, HI

Hawaii Forest & Trail73-5593 Olowalu StreetKailua-Kona, Big Island, HI 96740
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Offered by Hawaii Forest & Trail, the Bird Watching Tour: Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge Adventure lets guests enjoy Hawaii’s most beautiful birds and wildlife during an 11- to 12-hour experience. Each tour departs in the mornings and includes a continental breakfast as well as a deli-style lunch. Guests are provided with walking sticks, binoculars, backpacks, warm wear, and ponchos.

Good To Know

from Ashley, one of our Kailua-Kona, Big Island Travel Experts
  • Tour duration: approx. 11-12 hours.
  • Continental breakfast and a deli style lunch included in tour.
  • Walking sticks, binoculars, day packs, warm wear, and rain ponchos provided.
  • Approximately 2 to 4 miles of hiking completed throughout the tour.
  • Numerous photography opportunities during the tour.
  • Wear sturdy shoes and a light jacket.


from Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge Adventure
Named by Hawaiians long ago, Hakalau means "many perches" and is still considered critical bird habitat today. Once part of a large cattle ranch, it was the first National Wildlife Refuge established in the United States for forest birds. It is home to some of the rarest plants and animal species on earth. Hakalau Forest is a fascinating example of conservation in action. The forest you'll access is recovering from a hundred years of grazing by cattle and damage from pigs. Our permit allows us to bird the Pua Akala meadow. Giant koa trees, ohia-lehua trees estimated to be a thousand years old, ferns, and rare lobeliads are just some of the native plants encountered.

This Tour is great for:
  • Birders

  • Bird Lovers

  • Nature Lovers

  • Hawaii Veterans

Like our Rainforest and Dryforest Birdwatching Adventure the forest here is filled with the sounds of Hawaii's rare birds. Often, we will encounter researchers or resource managers on our walks who are always willing to share up-to-date information. Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge, because of the history of grazing, has a park like setting in the higher elevations, and is densely forested below. Our trail is a four-wheel drive road that bisects the meadow, and there is an elevation gain and loss of about 650 feet.

From Hawaii Forest & Trail headquarters, we will head up to Mamalahoa Highway heading north towards Waimea and the Saddle Road. Once on the Saddle Road, there will be an opportunity for some car-birding primarily for game birds and the Pueo or the Hawaiian Short-eared Owl. We stop in route on the Saddle Road for a restroom stop and a continental breakfast of fresh fruit, breads, and pound cake along with juice, Kona coffee, and an assortment of teas. After the breakfast stop, we follow the unpaved Keanakolu Road 11 miles to the Pua Akala tract of the Refuge.

Schedule: Morning trips departing daily. 11 - 12 hours round trip, departs Hawaii Forest & Trail Headquarters.

Rated: Moderate; ages 8 and over.

Included in the Tour: Continental breakfast including fresh local fruit, baked goods, 100% Kona coffee, tea, and hot chocolate. Plus, deli style lunch, with assorted soft drinks, juices and bottled water.

Gear Provided: Walking sticks, binoculars, day packs, warm wear and rain ponchos.

Group Size: Tour limited to a maximum of 12 guests. Minimum tour group must be 4 total.

Restrictions: Guests should be able to hike on uneven or rocky terrain.

Reserve Hawaii Customer Reviews

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TripAdvisor Reviews
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Montreal, Canada
"Mauna Kea Sunset Tour"
TripAdvisor user rating 5 out of 5
Reviewed June 24, 2018 NEW
Overall, the Mauna Kea Sunset Tour had been amazing to be apart of. The food that we ordered had been surprisingly good, really adding to the overall quality of the trip and organization. Our guide, Taj, had been awesome- well knowledgeable, polite, funny and welcoming to everyone. We cannot stress it enough, dress warm for the summit! Even with coats and gloves that the tour provides, it still gets really cold up there- make sure you have an extra pair of socks and long pants to keep the rest of your body warm. Well worth the cold though, as we would do it again anytime!
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Buffalo, New York
"Amazing Stars Tour"
TripAdvisor user rating 5 out of 5
Reviewed June 23, 2018 NEW
We really enjoyed the Summit and Stars Tour with Hawaii Forest and Trail. Some highlights of the tour for me were the sunset, the delicious brownies, and of course the stars. On the way up, the clouds and vog seemed concerning, but they cleared up. It was cool to see so many stars and constellations, including the southern cross and Maui's fish hook. This type was great!
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"Waterfall Hiking Tour"
TripAdvisor user rating 5 out of 5
Reviewed June 23, 2018 NEW
Everything was great about this company. From the person I booked with on the phone to the terrific guide who hiked us through the trails to the waterfalls and drove us in the giant jeep(forgot the proper name). All people who worked for this company were knowledgeable, upbeat, and a whole lot of fun!
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Fayetteville, Arkansas
"Mauna Kea Sunset and Stargazing Tour"
TripAdvisor user rating 5 out of 5
Reviewed June 22, 2018 NEW
We did this tour on June 13, it was the dark of the moon and the perfect night to do it! Geraldo was our guide and he was awesome. He gave us lots of really interesting information about the mountain and Hawaii. We stopped at the Sheep Station for dinner and to acclimate to the altitude. The meal was very good and hot! Then we headed up the rest of the mountain. What a ride that is! I was very glad that we had decided not to do it on our own. Geraldo was so great with the telescope, making sure we all had turns to see and learn how to use the telescope. The warm brownies and hot chocolate were a great treat before our star gazing. This turned out to be one of the highlights of our trip and I'm so glad we did it. We have never been disappointed by Hawaii Forest and Trail, they are top notch.
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Kailua-Kona, Hawaii
TripAdvisor user rating 5 out of 5
Reviewed June 22, 2018 NEW
What a wonderful adventure! Stargazing at the Mauna Kea Visitors Center and then to the top of the mountain above the clouds for a beautiful sunrise! Justin was very personable and knowledgeable. I highly recommend!
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Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge Adventure is located at Hawaii Forest & Trail73-5593 Olowalu StreetKailua-Kona, Big Island, HI 96740
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Frequently Asked Questions about Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge Adventure

How much hiking do we do on the Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge Adventure?
Expect to cover approximately 2 to 4 miles in 4 hours.

Is there elevation gain?
Over the course of the hike we gain approximately 650’.

What is the difference in the birds seen on Hakalau vs. Rainforest & Dryforest?
The Akepa and Hawaii Creeper are found in Hakalau Forest, while the Palila is found on the Rainforest & Dryforest Adventure.

Is it possible to use a spotting scope?
Due to the behavior of Hawaii’s endemic birds, the use of a spotting scope can be challenging. If you feel up to the test, we do encourage you to bring your own birdwatching gear. We do provide binoculars on the tour for guest use.

Is it possible to get photos of the birds?
Typically, there are many opportunities to photograph the birds along the way for the determined photographer.