Hawaii Volcanoes National Park- Kahuku Unit
We have had a few guests come and stay over the last week. Each time a guest arrives I thank them for coming on behalf of the entire Island of Hawaii! We are grateful for those who choose not to cancel and make the best out of a unique situation. As an island that relies on tourism for so many jobs, the economy has taken a huge hit and many folks are being laid off island wide. Even the usually bustling Punalu’u Bakery in Na’alehu has had to lay off staff.
As I previously promised, I wanted to give a fair and honest assessment of the Kahuku Unit of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Honestly, I have driven past this part of the park a lot on my way to and from Kona, and never really thought to stop. Since this is now one of the few options for hiking in the park I really wanted to check it out. The Kahuku Park entrance is a mile from the South Point road turn off. If you plan to check out Green Sand Beach or South Point, you are already right here if you want to check it out.
We picked a day to go when the air quality in that area was not great (levels were reading at pollution quality of about 105) since we really wanted to see for ourselves and future guests what that could potentially mean to hike in. Honestly, the air quality wasn’t that bad, just a slight haze along the coastline while we were driving up. I have been in metropolitan cities that had worse smog than that!
This 116,000 acres of land along the flank of Mauna Loa was purchased in 2003 by HVNP. My understanding is this park is still in a developmental stage so don’t set your expectations too high. There is no running water here so be sure to bring plenty if you plan to hike. There is a port a potty if nature calls and the “visitors center” is very small with a few items to purchase. The day we went there were 4 employees in the visitor center and one Ranger. We literally spent just a couple minutes here and we were the ONLY people in here besides staff, but I didn’t get a warm and fuzzy feeling. No one asked if we had any questions or if they could help in any way, they just chatted among themselves and pretty much ignored us. (Remember, I did say I would give an honest assessment.)
If you want to on hike on your own or take one of the Ranger led hikes they offer this might be the right place for you. There are a handful of hikes, and most them are out and back along the same trail. They seem pretty family friendly if you have little hikers with you, not more than 300 feet of incline or decline. They range from 0.4 miles to the top of an old cinder cone to 3.8 on the Kona trail along Kahuku pastureland. The Ranger led hikes usually last about 3 hours and go about 2 miles. If you want to learn about the history regarding the lava flows here and about the flora and fauna this might be your best bet.
This unit is open from 9 AM to 3 PM Wednesday through Sunday so if you do want to hike, best plan your days accordingly. From Volcano Village it only took us about 55 minutes to get there as traffic is pretty light along Highway 11 these days.