Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge Adventure in Kona, HI

Hawaii Forest & Trail73-5593 Olowalu StreetKailua-Kona, Big Island, HI 96740
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Overview

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.

Description

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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LuisaP1538
"Sunrise on Manua Kea"
TripAdvisor user rating 5 out of 5
Reviewed January 19, 2019 NEW
Great experience! The organisation was perfect and the guide very prepared. Met all the expectations.
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GerardAdler
Oconomowoc, Wisconsin
"Spectacular summit sunset and stargazing from 12,000"
TripAdvisor user rating 5 out of 5
Reviewed January 19, 2019 NEW
My daughter, wife and I toured with Justin. There was 14 of us in a comfortable van. We left the Waikaloa area, and drove to a sheep shearing area and enjoyed a nice dinner. Justin was knowledgeable about the history, flora and fauna of the region, and the geology of the fascinating volcanic area. We reached the Summit of Mauna Kea, and had over 30 minutes to tour the 10 telescopes. The sunset was spectacular, one of the most unique vistas we have witnessed. We descended to an area around 12,000, and Justin set up the 11" telescope. He was an astounding guide to stars, galaxies, nebulae, and the moon. We returned to our cars after a memorable and highly informational evening. Our only concern was that we called Forest and Trail to change our pick up site, then called again as a reminder, and this change was not communicated to Justin, so their was initial confusion.
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Mobile52359375538
"Justin... Super Genius"
TripAdvisor user rating 4 out of 5
Reviewed January 19, 2019 NEW
Had amazing knowledge of star constellation. Would definitely reccomend to anyone that knows how to follow rules. Several people tried to take naps at high elevation because they were tired. Justin was extremely professional when he urged them not to on account of death.
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Navigate40390202672
"A wonderful experience"
TripAdvisor user rating 5 out of 5
Reviewed January 16, 2019 NEW
Everything is awesome besides the cold temperature… It's the most romantic thing to meet the light from million years ago! Must go!
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WilliamW519
"Great guided walk in Hakalau National Wildlife Refuge"
TripAdvisor user rating 5 out of 5
Reviewed January 16, 2019 NEW
My wife, adult son and I went on a guided walk through the forest in Hakalau National Wildlife Refuge on the slopes of Mauna Kea on a Hawaii Forest and Trail trip. Our guide was Gary and we had a great time. The refuge is working to preserve and restore the native high altitude forest on Mauna Kea and is home to a number of interesting and rare native Hawaiian birds and plants. Many are endemic to Hawaii. As a general matter, you can only enter the refuge with a guide. The birds were amazing, the plants quite interesting and beautiful and there were many beautiful views along the road to the refuge and on the trail. Gary was quite knowledgeable about the birds, plants and geology of the area. We had an interesting discussion. He did a great job spotting birds and plants. 3 of the 8 clients on the trip were birders. Two of us (including me) were hoping to photograph the native birds (lighting in a forest is often challenging for photography, but I got a number of good pictures of birds I had never seen before). And others (my wife and son among them) were out for a beautiful walk in an interesting forest. I think all had a good time. The logistics of the trip went well too. Breakfast and lunch were good and the van we drove in was comfortable. We will definitely go in another HFT trip.
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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.