Rainforest & Dry Forest Birding Adventure in Kailua-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: Rainforest and Dry Forest Birding Adventure gives visitors an up-close look at some of the most exotic birds in Hawaii’s rainforests. Guests (ages 8 and older) can enjoy this 11 to 12-hour adventure and are provided with continental breakfast, a deli-style lunch, walking sticks, binoculars, backpacks, warm wear, and ponchos.

Good To Know

from Ashley, one of our Kailua-Kona, Big island Travel Experts
  • Wear sturdy walking shoes, long pants, and a light jacket.
  • Guests are provided with binoculars for optimal viewing.
  • Bring your camera for the endless photo opportunities throughout the tour.
  • A continental breakfast is provided to tour guests.


from Rainforest & Dry Forest Birding Adventure
Rainforest - Our destination is the Puu Oo Trail, a historic cattle drive route, located at the 6,000 foot level of Saddle Road on Mauna Loa's northeastern flank. This is the windward side of the island and is often cloaked in misty clouds. It is enchanting to be serenaded by the forest birds as we make our way over three to four miles of sometimes rough lava trail, crossing over the 1855 and 1881 lava flows.

Some of the avifauna we hope to spot along the way are iiwi, apapane, amakihi, omao, elepaio, and the elusive akiapolaau, with its unique multipurpose beak. Many of these are found in the ohia and koa canopy.

Dry forest - At the Humuula hunter check-in station just off Saddle Road, we go into the Kaohe Game Management Area and four-wheel it to nearly 7000 feet on the western side of Mauna Kea.

The track leads to a locked gate that is the entrance to the Mauna Kea Forest Preserve. There we disembark the van and take in the spectacular views. Then we get down to some serious bird watching, on foot in the mamane-naio forest. Although the terrain is somewhat uneven, the hiking is easy. We are particularly interested in sighting the critically threatened palila, which feeds almost entirely on the green pods of the mamane tree.

On the drive to our two primary locales, we head north along the coastline before starting the climb to the old Mamalahoa Highway, keeping an eye out for open-country birds. From there we'll connect to the Saddle Road and begin car-birding, primarily for game birds as well as for the Pueo, or short-eared owl. Depending on the weather, we'll stop for a bit of breakfast along the Saddle Road, often at Mauna Kea State Park at Pohakuloa.

Schedule: Morning trips departing weekdays only from Hawaii Forest & Trail Headquarters. 11 hours round trip.

Rated: Easy to Moderate; ages 8 and over.

Included in the Tour: Continental breakfast including fresh local fruit, baked goods, 100% Kona coffee, tea, and hot chocolate. 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 10 guests.

Restrictions: Guests should be able to hike on uneven or rocky terrain. We sometimes encounter cool, wet or muddy conditions.

What to Bring & Wear: Sturdy closed-toed shoes

Big Island Customer Reviews

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TripAdvisor Reviews
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Kailua-Kona, Hawaii
"Awesome hike"
TripAdvisor user rating 5 out of 5
Reviewed March 22, 2019 NEW
Our guide was super informative and totally cool he explained the legends and took us to a water fall so we could take a swim, really cold but awesome.
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Chicago, Illinois
"The stars, the sun and Kim...."
TripAdvisor user rating 5 out of 5
Reviewed March 22, 2019 NEW
We took the early morning star gazing and Mauna Kea Sunrise tour. At over $200 per person plus tip, it wasn’t cheap, but I’ll remember the night, and in the end isn’t that what it is all about? Even with a few caveats it was very memorable and we were all glad we did it. The skies were clear and constellations were incredible. We had a little less than a half moon, beware of the moon, we were fine. Sunrise over the clouds is something you won’t forget. I wish there was less traveling and more time at both spots. And now the small details: We showed up at 2:40 as requested but didn’t leave until after 3 and would have loved to have hit my snooze a couple of more times instead of waiting to rollout. We drove to 2 other pickups along the way. We drove up the mountain and we drove down the mountain and then to breakfast and then to drop off people at the other 2 locations. So you are in the van a very long time. You will spend the majority of time in the van. Anyways, layer up, or wear there parkas, it will get cold. I read about brownies, we never saw that. I heard and read about telescopes or binoculars to view the stars, we never saw either. Kim our guide did a very nice job with the laser point. Kim who I gave a tongue in cheek hard time for being “disgusting happy” at 3 AM was indeed a bowl of sunshine. My wife and I spent a lot of time asking her questions and just engaging in conversation during down time. When my daughter’s special meal didn’t show up, Kim gave her, her own breakfast sandwich. She probably does a lot of little things like that, it’s nice to see that what she does comes so effortlessly. I hope the company recognizes her as an asset.
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David B
"We saw the palia along with more than 30 other species including the pueo and Hawaii amakihi"
TripAdvisor user rating 5 out of 5
Reviewed March 21, 2019 NEW
This was the second time that my wife and I have gone on a birding trip with Hawaii Forest and Trail. It was excellent and I would recommend Hawaii Forest and Trail for anyone who is interested in seeing birds on the Big Island, especially rare endemic Hawaiian birds. Our goal on this trip was to see the palila, a Hawaiian honeycreeper, of which there are only about 1,000 left in the wild. Taj, our bird guide made it happen! We saw the palia along with more than 30 other species including the pueo and Hawaii amakihi. Taj has a wealth of knowledge, not only of birds, but plants, history, culture, and the Hawaiian language. This was a full 12 hour day beginning at 6:00am and we hiked 7 miles over some rough terrain. We will definitely go with Hawaii Forest and Trail again.
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Washington DC, District of Columbia
"Mauna Kea Summit Tour"
TripAdvisor user rating 5 out of 5
Reviewed March 20, 2019 NEW
My husband and I really enjoyed our Mauna Kea Summit and Stars tour with Geraldo. He is an excellent guide who is full of energy and endlessly positive. He shared lots of insights on the native Hawaiian culture and the relationship of this culture with Mauna Kea. That added a richness to our experience. He also taught us a lot about the amazing array of stars that are visible from outside of the Mauna Kea Visitor Center. He made the trip worthwhile even though we won't able to get to the summit since the road was closed above the Visitor Center because of ice.
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"Volcano tour"
TripAdvisor user rating 5 out of 5
Reviewed March 19, 2019 NEW
2nd time using organization. Melanie and Taz are awesome! Friendly & knowledgeable!! Will use again!!
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Rainforest & Dry Forest Birding Adventure is located at Hawaii Forest & Trail73-5593 Olowalu StreetKailua-Kona, Big island, HI 96740
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Frequently Asked Questions about Rainforest & Dry Forest Birding Adventure

How long do the adventures last?
From start to finish, the tours are approximately 11 hours long. This can vary due to traffic, group size, and weather conditions.

When are trips available?
Morning trips are available every weekday departing from Hawaii Forest and Trail Headquarters.

Can children participate in the adventure?
Due to the amount of hiking and other outdoor activities involved, children under the age of 8 are not allowed to join the tour.

What is included in the ticket price?
Guests receive walking sticks, binoculars, day backs, warm gear and rain ponchos as part of the adventure. In addition, a continental breakfast including fresh local fruit, baked goods, 100% Kona coffee, tea and hot chocolate, and deli-style lunch, with assorted soft drinks, juices and bottled water is served.

How much hiking will we do?
Guests hike approximately 4 miles throughout the duration of the trip. It is recommended that those who have difficulty walking, hiking, or ascending stairs unassisted or cannot walk/hike on uneven terrain do not participate in the trip.

Will I be able to take photos of the birds throughout the trip?
Absolutely. There are plenty of photo opportunities throughout the trip duration.

How many people are on each tour?
Each adventure hosts 10 people maximum. We keep our group sizes small to ensure our guests enjoy their birding adventure.

What should I wear?
Closed toed shoes are required. It is recommended that guests wear comfortable layered clothing.

Will the tour still operate if it rains?
Yes. Tours operate rain or shine.

I need to cancel my tour. What is your cancellation policy?
Any cancellations made by the listed cancellation date will receive a FULL REFUND with absolutely NO CANCELLATION FEES. Any adventure reservations past the cancellation date cannot be changed or canceled.