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, walking sticks, binoculars, day packs, warm wear, and rain ponchos.

Menu:
Savory breakfast: Egg burrito, potatoes, fresh fruit, Island banana bread, croissants, oatmeal, 100% pure Kona coffee, teas, hot chocolate, and juices.

Lunch: Deli-style sandwich (turkey, ham, tuna or veggie), chips, cookie, sodas and juice drinks. Gluten free options available.

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.

What to bring & wear: Closed-toe shoes are required; long pants and a light jacket are recommended

Tripster Customer Reviews

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TripAdvisor Reviews
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BSteinberg
"Volcano Unveiled"
TripAdvisor user rating 5 out of 5
Reviewed October 19, 2019 NEW
Taj was an amazing tour guide. Very knowledgeable and passionate about his job and love for Hawaii. I recommend this tour to everyone visiting Kona
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polarlisa
"the best of a bad situation"
TripAdvisor user rating 5 out of 5
Reviewed October 14, 2019 NEW
Matio did his best with a cloudy day. :) The sunset was completely obscured, and there were hardly any stars visible. Despite that, we saw amazing things!!
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gbunny10
Kailua-Kona, Hawaii
"Mauna Kea sunset and stargazing tour"
TripAdvisor user rating 3 out of 5
Reviewed October 11, 2019 NEW
Unfortunately on the day we went there was no sunset and cloudy skies for stars. May not be worth the expense and time for the trip.
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Heather Z
"Mauna Kea Stargazing Adventure"
TripAdvisor user rating 5 out of 5
Reviewed October 10, 2019 NEW
Justin was our guide. He was very friendly and knowledgeable. He put everyone at ease to ask any questions. We loved this tour and hope to book it again when the access road to the summit is reopened.
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808Touring
"Great hike and guide!"
TripAdvisor user rating 4 out of 5
Reviewed October 08, 2019 NEW
Hike was relatively easy and very interesting with a variety of flora, fauna, waterfalls, as well as cultural features Our guide, Nick, was enjoyable and knowledgeable sharing Hawaiian history and culture along the way to our destination. Downside: 3 transfer stops. First to regroup passengers from hotel pickups, although we ended up all from the same hotel. Also picked up lunch and signed waivers. Second stop to transfer to an all terrain vehicle, then again later to transfer back to van. About 30 min wait time at each stop.. Waivers should be done on line or in van while driving to transfer point and lunch should be ready to just swing by and pick up,
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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.