“A vast serpent upon the beautiful pasture lands”

National Park Week is April 22 - April 30. If you’re traveling to Volcano, HI during the annual celebration, include a visit to Kahuku in your plans, and connect with the park by participating in memorable events and programs all week long.

That’s how missionary Titus Coan described the lava from Mauna Loa that flowed through Kahuku in 1868. Located in the district of Kaʻū, Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park’s Kahuku Unit is a scenic one-hour drive from Volcano, HI. And although the lava is no longer flowing through Kahuku, there is still so much to see and do here. 

With National Park Week on the horizon, we’re starting to plan our day trip from Volcano to one of the park’s best-kept secrets. If you’re vacationing in Volcano during the annual celebration, you’ll definitely want to include a visit to Kahuku in your plans!

Located on the slopes of Mauna Loa, this upland park was once used by native Hawaiians for gathering resources, for warfare, for religious ceremonies, and other important purposes. By the 1900s, Kahuku had grown into one of Hawai’i Island’s biggest cattle ranches. And in 2003, the entire 159,000-acre ranch became part of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park.

Discover Kahuku’s Natural Beauty & Rich History During Park Week

Taking place April 22 through April 30, visitors and residents alike are invited to kick off National Park Week with a fee-free day on Saturday, April 22. The theme for 2023, “Your Park Story,” encourages all of us to connect with Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park by participating in memorable events and programs all week long. Here’s what’s scheduled for the Kahuku Unit: 

On April 22 at 9:30 am, meet at the Kahuku Visitor Contact Station for The Kaʻū Field System Farming the Rock. Step back in time as you take an old ranch road to the remnants of Kahuku’s field system. On this 0.5 mile, one-hour hike to Kipuka Kāʻopapa and back, you’ll learn how Hawaiians farmed this area and fed the large population of Kahuku long before pre-western contact was made. 

Or bring your family to Kahuku between 10 am and 2 pm on the 22nd for Journey at the Summit, a fun role-playing quest. Visit the welcome tent at the Kahuku Visitor Contact Station to pick up your family’s adventure pack with directions to activity stations throughout the park. At each adventure station, roll the dice to learn what your family’s quest will be. Once you’ve completed the quest, your prize awaits you at the welcome tent! 

On April 23, head to the Kahuku Visitor Contact Station at 9:30 am for an easy 1-hour hike to the breathtaking Pu‘u o Lokuana Cinder Cone. While hiking this 0.4 mile loop, you’ll learn about how the cinder cone formed and why it was (and still is) considered a kumu waiwai (a source of wealth) by Kahuku’s many different inhabitants while enjoying stunning views of lower Ka‘ū from the peak. 

On April 29th at 9:30 am, discover Hawaiian goddesses and sisters, Pele-honua-mea (Pele) and Hi‘iaka-i-ka-poli-o-pele, as well as the natural phenomena they represent. Starting at the Kahuku Visitor Contact Station, you’ll enjoy a moderate two-mile, 90-minute hike and see the legendary story of Hi‘iaka & Pele unfold in Kahuku’s natural landscape.

On April 30th, Realms and Divisions of Kahuku begins at the Kahuku Visitor Contact Station. This one-mile, 90-minute hike on Kamakapaʻa Trail begins at 9:30 am and explores Hawaii’s classification system, realms, and the vertical and horizontal land divisions that have been used for centuries.

Fun Fact:  The National Park’s Kahuku Unit is larger than the island of Oahu! 

Hike to the Pit Crater in Hawai’i Volcano National Parl'd Kahuku Unit.

Hike Kahuku’s Scenic Trails Year-Round

Can’t make it to the Kahuku Unit during National Park Week? If you’re planning a visit for later in the year, we’ve got good news for you: Kahuku is open Thursday through Sunday from 8 am to 4 pm all year, and it’s always free to explore this unit.

In addition to the Pu‘u o Lokuana Cinder Cone Hike and Kamakapa‘a Trail, anyone who wants to wander through Kahuku’s grassy expanse of rolling hills and ōhiʻa-fringed trails has plenty of enchanted options to choose from, including: 

  • Pu‘u o Lokuana Trail. This two-mile loop along historic ranch roads takes you to a lush hidden pasture. Along the way, you’ll see the flows from 1868 and lava tree molds.
  • Palm Trail Hike. Bike or hike through picturesque pastures, along the 1868 fissure with its volcanic features, and across the main lava channel on your way to one of the most amazing panoramic views in Kahuku on this 2.6 mile loop. 
  • Pit Crater Trail. This challenging hike starts at Pit Crater Trailhead. After 2.4 miles climbing up old pasture roads, you’ll be rewarded for your efforts when you reach the edge of the massive Forested Pit Crater and the pristine Hawaiian rainforest growing within its walls. 
  • Pali o Ka‘eo Trail. This 2.1 mile trail enjoys sweeping vistas of the coast of Ka‘ū from Ka Lae (South Point) to Nā Pu‘u o Pele before reaching woodland meadows at the top of a steep, grassy slope. To make it a loop, return by taking a portion of the Pit Crater Trail and road. 
  • The Glover Trail. For a 3.2 mile round-trip adventure, start this hike at Lower Glover Trailhead. Up for a longer hike? For a 5.6 mile round-trip loop, head from the ROD quarantine gate to the Forested Pit Crater.
  • The Kona Trail. On this 4.6 mile, round-trip trek starting at the ROD quarantine gate, you’ll hike through pasture land and across the 1887 lava flow, discovering remnants of Kahuku’s ranching era along the way. For easier access to the Kona Trail and Glover Trail, Kahuku Road above the cross fence is open to 4WD vehicles. 
Hawai’i Volcano National Park recently reopened the Kona Trail and Glover Trails in the Kahuku Unit.

Tutu’s Tips: We always recommend both rain gear and sun protection, since it’s not unheard of to experience both on the same day. Wear sturdy trail shoes or hiking boots, and carry plenty of water. Consider packing a lunch too! 

Albert and I like to take a hiking break and enjoy a picnic with shoreline views from atop a pu’u (hill). En route to the park, we often stop at Punalu’u Bakery to grab a takeout sandwich and a mouth-watering malasada for our picnic lunch. If you aren’t bringing a lunch, we do recommend packing a snack at the very least.

Come Home to the Cottages 

The Kahuku Unit is conveniently located 44 miles from Volcano Heritage Cottages, making them the ideal home base for your Big Island vacation. To get to Kahuku for Park Week or explore the trails anytime, head south on Highway 11 towards the southernmost point in the U.S., Ka Lae. Look for signs to turn right onto Kahuku Rd. near mile marker 70.5 of Highway 11, on the mauka (mountain) side. After a day exploring Kahuku, you’ll love coming home to the comforts of your charming cottage! Book a stay at Tutu’s Place or the Ola’a House in Volcano, Hawai’i today.