Bird Watching Tour: Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge Adventure
Schedule: Morning trips departing daily. 11 - 12 hours round trip, departs from Waikoloa Kings’ Shops, Highway 190/200 Junction and 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. Deli style lunch, with assorted soft drinks, juices and bottled water.
Gear Provided: Walking sticks, binoculars, day packs, warm wear and rain ponchos.
Prices: Adult: $179.00, plus tax.
Group Size: Tour limited to a maximum of 12 guests.
Restrictions: Guests should be able to hike on uneven or rocky terrain. We sometimes encounter cool, wet or muddy conditions. Other tour restrictions may apply.
What to Bring & Wear: Sturdy closed-toe shoes or boots, long pants, and a light rain jacket.
Named by Hawaiians long ago, Hakalau means “many perches” and is still considered critical bird habitat today. Once part of 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. It is exciting to see the native plants sprouting through the old pasture grass. 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. Like our Rainforest and Dryforest Birdwatching tour 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. It’s a beautiful place with lots of birds.
We will head up to Mamalahoa Highway heading north towards Waimea and the Saddle Road. Once on the Saddle Road there will be 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 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. Plan on two and a half hours of driving each way. Don’t worry about the drive time; you’ll be amazed at the constantly changing scenery and fascinated by your Guide’s interpretation of Hawaii’s remarkable natural, cultural, and geologic history.
- How much hiking do we do? 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.