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Rainforest & Dry Forest Birding Adventure in Kailua-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: Rainforest and Dry Forest Birding Adventure gives visitors an up-close look at some of the most exotic birds in Hawaii’s rainforests. Guests (ages 8 and older) can enjoy this 11 to 12-hour adventure and are provided with continental breakfast, a deli-style lunch, walking sticks, binoculars, backpacks, warm wear, and ponchos.

Good To Know

from Ashley, one of our Kailua-Kona, Big island Travel Experts
  • Wear sturdy walking shoes, long pants, and a light jacket.
  • Guests are provided with binoculars for optimal viewing.
  • Bring your camera for the endless photo opportunities throughout the tour.
  • A continental breakfast is provided to tour guests.


from Rainforest & Dry Forest Birding Adventure
Rainforest - Our destination is the Puu Oo Trail, a historic cattle drive route, located at the 6,000 foot level of Saddle Road on Mauna Loa's northeastern flank. This is the windward side of the island and is often cloaked in misty clouds. It is enchanting to be serenaded by the forest birds as we make our way over three to four miles of sometimes rough lava trail, crossing over the 1855 and 1881 lava flows.

Some of the avifauna we hope to spot along the way are iiwi, apapane, amakihi, omao, elepaio, and the elusive akiapolaau, with its unique multipurpose beak. Many of these are found in the ohia and koa canopy.

Dry forest - At the Humuula hunter check-in station just off Saddle Road, we go into the Kaohe Game Management Area and four-wheel it to nearly 7000 feet on the western side of Mauna Kea.

The track leads to a locked gate that is the entrance to the Mauna Kea Forest Preserve. There we disembark the van and take in the spectacular views. Then we get down to some serious bird watching, on foot in the mamane-naio forest. Although the terrain is somewhat uneven, the hiking is easy. We are particularly interested in sighting the critically threatened palila, which feeds almost entirely on the green pods of the mamane tree.

On the drive to our two primary locales, we head north along the coastline before starting the climb to the old Mamalahoa Highway, keeping an eye out for open-country birds. From there we'll connect to the Saddle Road and begin car-birding, primarily for game birds as well as for the Pueo, or short-eared owl. Depending on the weather, we'll stop for a bit of breakfast along the Saddle Road, often at Mauna Kea State Park at Pohakuloa.

Schedule: Morning trips departing weekdays only from Hawaii Forest & Trail Headquarters. 11 hours round trip.

Rated: Easy to Moderate; ages 8 and over.

Included in the Tour: Continental breakfast including fresh local fruit, baked goods, 100% Kona coffee, tea, and hot chocolate. 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 10 guests.

Restrictions: Guests should be able to hike on uneven or rocky terrain. We sometimes encounter cool, wet or muddy conditions.

What to Bring & Wear: Sturdy closed-toed shoes

Reserve Hawaii Customer Reviews

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TripAdvisor Reviews
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Diane M
"Island bird Festival"
TripAdvisor user rating 5 out of 5
Reviewed September 24, 2017 NEW
The island bird Festival is what drew us to the Big Island. Lance gave a great tour in the morning. Gary was a great guide through the dry and rain forest. Very enjoyable time.
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San Diego, CA, USA
"Great Tours and Fantastic Guides"
TripAdvisor user rating 5 out of 5
Reviewed September 24, 2017 NEW
We have gone on several tours with Hawaii Forest and Trail and I can't say enough about them. They are a bit pricey, but they are very organized and think of everything. One of the tours I went on with them was part of the Hawaii Bird Festival, and they provided food and drinks throughout the day, had access to places we normally would not be allowed to go, and even thought of giving us cool towels at the end of the day to refresh ourselves with. The vans have great air conditioning, plugs for your mobile devices, and off road tires so they can go just about anywhere. The guides are great; very knowledgeable and helpful. You can't go wrong with them, regardless of the tour you take. I just wish they had branches on the other islands. But I've been back to the Big Island 2 times just so I could take tours with them!
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Delaware City, Delaware
"We were on the Hawaii Birding Festival trips"
TripAdvisor user rating 5 out of 5
Reviewed September 24, 2017 NEW
Oh my! The first thing super great was the van. It was a van like no other birding van, a Mercedes Sprinter. That was nice we could stand up and it was super comfy. Then came the breakfast, hot and fruity with fabulous coffee, what a way to start out on a beautifully misty morning. We then begant he birding and WOW! oh WOW! The guides were extremely knowledgeable. They told us all kinds of cool natural history associated with the habitat and the bird themselves. The birds are super specialized on the islands and we got to see all the special ones we set out to see. We had a fabulous brown bag lunch. Did I mention there was only paper trash and not one plastic--one use--water bottle to have to throw out or recycle. They reuse their own nalgene non BPA water bottles and have their own kitchen sterilizer. That was the most wonderful thing since we were on an island and the islands suffer from plastic trash on their beaches. I have never been on a birding trip where I felt so cared for and the earth was so cared for any where on earth--and I've been a lot of places, birding. I highly recommend this company for their land stewardship alone.
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Reading, United Kingdom
"Mauna Kea Summit & Stars"
TripAdvisor user rating 5 out of 5
Reviewed September 24, 2017 NEW
What a fantastic trip this was. Our excursion leader Joe was a great host, he had lots of interesting facts and stories to share with us on our bus journey. We had a good picnic , and were provided with warm coats and gloves at the summit, which were much appreciated The views from the summit were amazing and we saw a fantastic sunset. We now have knowledge of stars and star gazing that we never had before. All in all a great excursion well worth the money, thank you
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"Dry and Rain Forest Birding Tour and Mauna Kea observatory Tour"
TripAdvisor user rating 5 out of 5
Reviewed September 23, 2017 NEW
Both tour guides- Gary and Jeff were fantastic- very knowledgeable, accommodating, interactive, and thorough. I will ONLY use Hawaii Forest and Trail tours from now on. I wanted to learn about the flora, fauna, stars, birds, geology, night skies, and history of the island and I got all and more. Plus these tours not only feed your interests, they feed your appetite, as well! Gary (birding) and Jeff (Mauna Kea) are part of a business model that trains their employees to continuously learn more about this island 's evolution. These tours are like delightful experiential, nature seminars suitable for all ages. I will only recommend this tour company going forward. And the added bonus was that the tour guides leading the two tours I took were both outstanding. Five stars!
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Rainforest & Dry Forest Birding Adventure is located at Hawaii Forest & Trail73-5593 Olowalu StreetKailua-Kona, Big island, HI 96740
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Frequently Asked Questions about Rainforest & Dry Forest Birding Adventure

How long do the adventures last?
From start to finish, the tours are approximately 11 hours long. This can vary due to traffic, group size, and weather conditions.

When are trips available?
Morning trips are available every weekday departing from Hawaii Forest and Trail Headquarters.

Can children participate in the adventure?
Due to the amount of hiking and other outdoor activities involved, children under the age of 8 are not allowed to join the tour.

What is included in the ticket price?
Guests receive walking sticks, binoculars, day backs, warm gear and rain ponchos as part of the adventure. In addition, a continental breakfast including fresh local fruit, baked goods, 100% Kona coffee, tea and hot chocolate, and deli-style lunch, with assorted soft drinks, juices and bottled water is served.

How much hiking will we do?
Guests hike approximately 4 miles throughout the duration of the trip. It is recommended that those who have difficulty walking, hiking, or ascending stairs unassisted or cannot walk/hike on uneven terrain do not participate in the trip.

Will I be able to take photos of the birds throughout the trip?
Absolutely. There are plenty of photo opportunities throughout the trip duration.

How many people are on each tour?
Each adventure hosts 10 people maximum. We keep our group sizes small to ensure our guests enjoy their birding adventure.

What should I wear?
Closed toed shoes are required. It is recommended that guests wear comfortable layered clothing.

Will the tour still operate if it rains?
Yes. Tours operate rain or shine.

I need to cancel my tour. What is your cancellation policy?
Any cancellations made by the listed cancellation date will receive a FULL REFUND with absolutely NO CANCELLATION FEES. Any adventure reservations past the cancellation date cannot be changed or canceled.