Recently, Albert and I (Lorna) have decided to explore more of the area south of Volcano. Mainly Punalu’u and the Kahuku portion of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. We picked Sundays as our “New Experience” day. Albert carries our backpack with water, sandwiches, sunscreen, and phone camera. We wear sunscreen and don a hat as this is summer and the rays are strong. The drive to Kahuku took about 75 minutes from Volcano.
To reach the Kahuku trail, head south from Volcano towards the very southern tip of the island, Ka Lae (another fascinating area to explore) known as “South Point.” Look for Kahuku signs to turn towards Mauna Loa (away from the ocean) and into the Park parking lot. The trail is a loop through pastures and lava fields ending with a splendid view atop Pu’u o Lokuana. It’s 2 miles long and ascends 100 feet. Start at sign 1 and end at sign 12. It should take 1-2 hours depending on how often you stop for photos, picnic, or just to enjoy the views. For health and safety: stay on the trail, wear sturdy walking shoes, and take plenty of water. Make sure to be wary of ground wasps, avoid unstable cracks in the lava fields, and avoid the cliff edges of the cinder pit. There are Clorox spray bottles available to wash your footwear in order to conserve the environment by reducing the spread of invasive plants and animals.
Some brief history: In 1793, Captain George Vancouver brought the first cattle to Hawai’i island as a gift to King Kamehameha. The wild cattle quickly multiplied and became a nuisance to native habitats and homes. To control the growing herds, Mexican vaqueros were recruited, becoming the famous Paniolo cowboys of Hawaiian lore and song. Thus, Kahuku ranch was born, which produced beef, hides, and tallow for 150 years. In 2003, some of the ranch became part of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park. Now the cattle are gone and native seedlings have been planted to restore the natural habitat.
Albert and I picnicked atop a pu’u and watched the shoreline, the windmills turning in the stiff ocean breeze, and smelled the sweet mountain air.
Make sure to plan your trip before 4 P.M. as the park has a sharp closing policy at that time. If you do want to see more of the park after it closes, there are driving paths that you can take to enjoy more time at Kahuku.