Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge Adventure in 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: 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.


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.

Gear Provided: Walking sticks, binoculars, day packs, warm wear and rain ponchos.

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.

Big Island Customer Reviews

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TripAdvisor Reviews
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Victoria, Canada
"Great Waterfall Tour, more than just waterfalls! Great Guide! "
TripAdvisor user rating 5 out of 5
Reviewed February 15, 2019 NEW
My husband and I did the Hilo Tropical Waterfall tour in November and I have to say this was one of my favourite tours I have done on the Island. It’s more than just waterfalls, you are given a bit of a tour of the local area, farms, sampling of produce and history of the area as you wind your way up to the private land where you start going from waterfall to waterfall. It’s been a few months but if memory serves me right, our tour guide was Brett. I have to say, he was fantastic, my all time favourite tour guide. He has a really deep appreciation for the Hilo area, the people, and everything about it and he wants to share that with you. But he does it in a very subtle way, he doesn’t shove it in your face, he offers it to you to appreciate if you choose to. But it’s clear, he loves his job, and he wants you to have a great, fun, relaxing experience. He was very open to all the many questions I peppered him with during the four hour tour. His was simply great. We sampled some raw macadamia nuts fresh harvested from the farm land we were on. As well as a fruit, similar to Lychee but different but I cannot remember the name now, but they were delicious. We visited 4 sets of falls, the last one being the biggest and that’s where we spent a good 45 minutes swimming, paddle boarding etc at the falls. It was really beautiful and we loved it. After we walked back up to the main house on the property and had lunch on the deck overlooking the waterfall. I had the chicken macadamia nut salad sandwich which was very nice. If you love waterfalls and want to swim at one, this is the tour to do. Many waterfalls are on private land and not accessible unless you do a tour which I highly recommend doing. Loved this tour and would do it again.
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"Waterfall Adventure"
TripAdvisor user rating 5 out of 5
Reviewed February 14, 2019 NEW
Great trip! We were concerned about the weather due to the big storm the day before our trip. It turned out to be fabulous! The waterfalls were raging and beautiful! We did get a little sprinkle and some wind, but the equipment that Hawaii Forest and Trail provided kept us warm. Our Guide Mark was Fabulous! I would highly recommend this tour and this company.
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Linda W
Kailua-Kona, Hawaii
"Hualalai crater hike"
TripAdvisor user rating 5 out of 5
Reviewed February 11, 2019 NEW
Excellent, tough wine in places, but very doable. Great guide! Beautiful. Learned about plants and the local birds that live at that elevation. Guide was exceptional in pointing them out by sight and sound.
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"Sunrise from Mauna Kea."
TripAdvisor user rating 5 out of 5
Reviewed February 11, 2019 NEW
Wonderful trip with Mateo. Great views of the heavenly sky with hot chocolate. See the Southern Cross together with Polaris was a first. The summit trip was exhilarating with bracing wind and cold conditions with great views. Mateo was an encyclopedia of knowledge and clearly loves his work. Very inspiring.
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Whidbey Island, Washington
"Highlight of our trip to the Big Island"
TripAdvisor user rating 5 out of 5
Reviewed February 10, 2019 NEW
We wanted to go to the summit of Mauna Kea and booked the Hawaii Forest and Trail sunset and stargazing tour. Every detail of the trip was exceptional from the delicious dinner to the professional, educated, friendly guide. Email reminders and calls were especially reassuring. We look forward to going again some day!
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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.