Things To Do In Maui With A 5 Year Old The 5 Top Hawaii Hiking Adventures: Hawaii’s Most Outrageous Trails

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The 5 Top Hawaii Hiking Adventures: Hawaii’s Most Outrageous Trails

Hawaii’s adventure tourism is a treat that most visitors simply don’t get to experience – they come to relax on the beach, enjoy higher levels of amenities, and only short walks (eg from the car or walking on the beach). But there is another “side” to Hawaii – and that is adventure sports in this beautiful natural environment. One of the oldest axioms about adventure insists that for real adventure you must be outside your “comfort level”! So some of the top 5 hikes listed here are quite difficult and can take even the most avid backpacker out of their comfort zone – but they will be able to confirm the incredible parts of Hawaii that few see.

Because the islands sit in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, have a unique history, and are quite vast, the terrain is exotic, exciting, and often unique even to the seasoned world traveler. Hiking conditions can be strange and dangerous – from actively eroding windward rock trails in Tahiti-like green jungle – to active lava conditions on the Big Island where you can get close to a “river of lava”. So… out of thousands of trips to choose from, what are the top five in terms of inspiration, sheer outrage, beauty and adventure? Below is the opinion of one author who is a 30 year veteran of Hawaii travel adventures.

Number 5: Alakai Swamp Trail. Waimea Canyon in western Kaua’i is often called the “Grand Canyon of the Pacific”. As you drive along the dramatic highway that runs alongside it, it looks quite similar to the Grand Canyon – with carved, reddish canyon walls and waterfalls dotted here and there. Its dimensions are much smaller, but the resemblance is real. The upper part of the canyon adds to the uniqueness of the canyon in that there is a large platform inside the canyon that does not drain through the canyon. It is a 4-5 million year old collapsed crater and hosts unusual plants and topography in an isolated high marsh due to a “drainage problem”. As you walk amidst incredible, unique plants and scenery, you can see Mount Wailaelae, often cited by climatologists as the wettest place on planet Earth (on its windward wing). The beauty, unique life forms and unusual features of the Alakai Swamp area make it a world-class destination. Length: 8.0 miles Difficulty: Mild to Moderate Elevation Change: approx. 50 meters

Number 4: Haleakala Crater into the Pacific Ocean. Maui’s most famous hike begins at the eerie and very inspiring mountaintop crater called Haleakala. It is full of cinder cones and old lava flows. Many visitors head here for the awe-inspiring sunrise – but few consider hiking all the way down to the ocean! It’s one wild hike with over 10,000 feet of elevation change. The good news is that it’s downhill, but those with bad knees better not try it. With the twists and turns of the trail up and down the mountainside, hikers are treated to indescribable views of places like Koolau Gap and views down to the Pacific Ocean all the while. Some experts have rated it as one of the top 5 hikes in the United States. The views, the remoteness, the change in altitude and the diverse tropical landscape make it worth it! Length: 22 miles (one way) Difficulty: Very Difficult Elevation Change: +10,000 feet (but all downhill)

Number 3: The summit of Mauna Loa, The Big Island of Hawai’i is more than twice the size of the rest of the Hawaiian Islands combined. It hosts 2 mountains over 13,600 feet above sea level. Both – Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea – are wide and varied – with green rainforests on the windward side and literal desert on the leeward side.. You can drive to the top of Mauna Kea to an incredible array of astronomical observatories, but the summit of Mauna Loa requires only challenging hikes (and the Mauna Loa volcano is still classified as very “active” by geologists). There are actually three trails to the top of Mauna Loa – so I’d say if you take the shortest route, it’s still quite difficult! Due to the high altitude, even this shorter route is difficult at 12 miles. However, there is a cabin at the top of the crater that has bunk beds, blankets, and often water (need to check with NPS rangers). Length: 12 miles Difficulty: Extreme Elevation: 1000 meters

Number 2: Kalalau Trail The Na Pali Coast is often referred to as the world’s most beautiful place on the world’s most beautiful islands! The world famous Kalalau Trail begins and ends on the Na Pali Coast. It starts where the road ends on Kaua’i’s north shore, and then it’s 17 miles to Kalalau Valley. The trail follows the Na Pali Cliffs at various elevations – sometimes right at ocean level and sometimes up to 1,000 feet above the ocean. Within the first 20 minutes the views are as beautiful as any in the world. The valley at the end was inhabited by several thousand Polynesians before the arrival of Europeans. It is full of old fruit trees, vegetable beds, wild goats, wild pigs and even coffee trees, Length: 22 miles Difficulty: Difficult Elevation Change: 300 meters

Number 1: Big Island Active Lava Hiking Walking near hot lava can be dangerous, but it can also be one of life’s most adventurous experiences. As of 2011, active red hot lava can be emitted from several ever-changing locations on the Big Island. Thirty miles from Hilo, Kilauea Caldera has a smaller crater inside it called Halemaumau Crater. It has been boiling for a few years, but the national park only allows you to see it from a distance (about 1 km), so you can’t actually see the lava. During the day you see billowing smoke and at night you can see a hot glow coming from the lava lake which is out of place and usually hundreds of feet below the rim. More active and accessible lava flows that you can walk to have been on the eastern half of the island many times over the past 100 years at various locations. If you go when an active stream is accessible and you can get to it – you can go as close as you dare (watch out for algae burns). Other times there are active flows or craters up to 6 miles away, a wilderness hike – and many visitors over the years have ended up lost. Length: 100 yards to 12 miles Difficulty: Moderate to Extreme Elevation Change: 0-200 meters

The Logistics: Where to base camp and where to get supplies not every one of these adventure locations is easy or straightforward for the first time visitor. Of course, there are many options and it is hard not to believe that it can be done for a small fortune for a first or second visitor. However, for Alakai Swamp on Kauai at the YWCA’s Camp Sloggett, you can rent a room, rent a bed, or camp right inside Kokee State Park. Camp Sloggett is within easy reach of some of the most amazing day trips on the planet. It is best to get most all supplies in Lihue, although the town of Waimea at the base of the canyon has some small shops. To hike Maui extensively from its highest peak (Haleakala) down to the ocean, you have to take the entire trail. You can take a taxi, a shuttle or a shuttle buddy – or hitchhiking with your backpacks on your tracks is quite accepted on the islands. And for the Kalalau Trail on Kauai’s North Shore, there is another hostel just one mile before the trail operated by the YMCA (on the beach side of the highway at Haena Beach 5 miles past Hanalei). It’s just basic beds or camping, but it’s right on an incredible beach! For two hikes on the Big Island, there is actually a budget Volcano Hawaii hotel that is centrally located. I recommend you base camp on The Big Island at Volcano Village (within 1 mile of the only entrance to the National Park) as you can organize two of the five most outrageous hikes in Hawaii! National park staff and some sites can advise you on conditions and permits. Then, if I were you, I’d fly over to Kauai and do the other two… because it’s the only other island with two of these five fabulous trips.

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