Tag Archives: Hiking

Puna Coast Trail: Apua Point

This is the third and final part of a three-part description of a hike along the Puna Coast Trail in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (See part 1 here, part 2 here).

The last part of the trail before ʻĀpua Point crosses over the only stretch of ʻaʻā lava on the trail which, as can be seen in the photo at top right, is markedly more rough and jagged than pahoehoe lava. This ʻaʻā is part of a 1969 flow from the same eruption at Mana Ulu that produced the pahoehoe lava that most of the trail passes over. The Mauna Ulu eruption lasted from 1969 to 1974.

ʻĀpua Point is like a little oasis in a bleak landscape. Flows from the Mauna Ulu eruption reached the ocean on either side of the point, but the point itself was spared. The top photo is a panoramic view of the coast, stitched together (not well) from two photos, to show the view from ʻĀpua Point’s outhouse – actually a composting toilet. This toilet also represents the sum total of the facilities for anyone thinking of camping there.

ʻĀpua Point itself is a rocky coastline jutting into the ocean. But behind this wall of rock, a sandier area hosts fields of naupaka, sea purslane, and other plant life, as seen in the photo at bottom right. Also in the background of this photo, a passing shower runs along Hōlei Pali. As I mentioned in part one of this description, the trail can be hot, wet, and windy, but for my hike, I saw moderate breezes, some overcast skies, and just a few spritzing showers.

Swimming in the ocean along this coast is very dangerous because of high surf and strong currents. But at ʻĀpua Point there are shallow pools, suitable for soaking, that are protected from the surf by a border of rocks. There are also a few small sandy beaches such as the ones in the photo below.

Besides the composting toilet, there is one other structure on ʻĀpua Point. It’s a small shed with an open covered area beside it, surrounded by naupaka and a few palm trees. This covered area represents pretty much the only shade to be found on the entire hike. The shed is used by the Hawksbill Sea Turtle Recovery Project, which monitors and protects endangered hawksbill turtles which use this area for nesting. I believe the nesting season runs from May to September, so I might have to return sometime after that.

And speaking of returning, from here it was time to turn around and hike the 6.6 miles back to the car. The hike took me about 3 hours each way with, of course, numerous stops for photography and just to enjoy the views.

For more information about Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, go to nps.gov/havo/. For more information about the Puna Coast Trail, go to bigislandhikes.com/puna-coast-trail.

Puna Coast Trail: Along the coast

This is the second part of a three-part description of a hike along the Puna Coast Trail in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park (See part 1 here).

As the trail reaches the coast, it passes over an older flow that has a fair amount of vegetation on it. The bottom right photo shows the trail cutting through a swathe of naupaka, sourbush, and assorted grasses.

This area was, despite the threat of volcanic activity, well occupied by early Hawaiian people. Along the trail are several reminders of that including the structures below. The photo, below middle, shows the amazing abilities of plants to grow in even the most daunting locations. The roots are somewhere deep in the lava, from which the trunk of this noni snakes upward. The large, nobbly fruit can be seen on this plant. This fruit, when ripe, has a pungent aroma which supposedly smells like vomit!

The bottom photo shows an area of rocks and black sand on the coast, backed by an extensive field of naupaka. Beyond that, the trail passes close to a pair of sea arches seen in the top photo and the one at top right. This is a rugged coastline and, when the weather is rough, huge waves can crash up and over the lava. It’s also an unstable coast with rocks and sections of cliff liable to tumble into the ocean.

In the background of the top and bottom photos are the palm trees of ʻĀpua Point, which will be the focus of the third and final post about this trail, tomorrow.

For more information about Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, go to nps.gov/havo/. For more information about the Puna Coast Trail, go to bigislandhikes.com/puna-coast-trail.

Puna Coast Trail: From the trailhead toward the coast

Last month, I posted photos of colorful lava (here) that I saw on a hike I’d just done. In that post, I noted that ‘I’ll do a post about the trail once I’ve gone through the way-too-many photos I took that day!’ With all that’s been going on in the interim, processing those photos took a long time, but now I’m done. So here’s the first of three posts about the trail, not that you can follow in my footsteps right now because Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is currently closed.

As the name indicates, the Puna Coast Trail travels along the coast of the park, but it starts about a mile inland, across Chain of Craters Road from the Pu’u Loa Petroglyphs trailhead. The trail is 11.3 miles long and ends at Halapē campground, but I only hiked as far as ʻĀpua Point, 6.6 miles along the trail. This rugged trail can be hot, windy, and wet so sturdy shoes or boots, a hat, sunscreen, and raingear are a must. There’s no fresh water on the trail so take plenty, as well as enough to eat.

The trail starts by crossing the 1972 flow from an eruption at Mana Ulu. In the top photo, lava from this flow surrounds a small area of older lava. The ferns growing in the cracks are Polypodium pellucidum, an endemic fern known in Hawaii as ae (pronounced Ah Ay). These ferns are among the first plants to grow in new lava fields. The faint outline of the trail can be seen extending from the middle left of the photo to the cairn on the horizon.

Top right: An upwelling in an old lava flow has cracked open to reveal a variety of colors within. In the background is Hōlei Pali. A pali is a steep slope or cliff. When a flow goes over a pali, it can often be seen, safely, from a distance away.

Center right: A trail-marking cairn on a section of older lava that has been somewhat revegetated. The noni (Morinda citrifolia) shrub beside the cairn is another early colonizer of lava flows being tolerant of the harsh conditions found there. Noni is a ‘canoe plant,’ having been introduced to Hawaii by the first Polynesians who arrived in their ocean going canoes.

Bottom right: Cairns mark the trail across the expanse of lava from the 1971 flow, where very little vegetation can be found. This first part of the trail angles down toward the ocean, which can be seen in the distance.

Below: Colorful smooth pahoehoe lava lies on top of ropey pahoehoe lava, from the same 1971 flow. The kind of lava can change quite quickly as conditions change in the flow itself and the terrain it travels through. This also shows the colors in different layers of lava as well as an ae fern getting a toehold.

Bottom: A little hill of pahoehoe lava showing its different forms all jumbled up. I almost included this photo in the earlier post since its colors, textures, and swirls were unexpected art for me.

Tomorrow, part two follows the hike along the coast itself.

For more information about Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, go to nps.gov/havo/. For more information about the Puna Coast Trail, go to bigislandhikes.com/puna-coast-trail.

Goats butting heads

A herd of goats mill about on a trail in South Kona. In any sizable gathering of goats I usually see younger ones butting heads as they tussle with each other. This is practice for when they’re older and the jousts become a more serious contest for position within the group.

Colorful pahoehoe lava

This week’s Friendly Friday challenge theme is ‘Art Unexpected.’ See more responses here.

This was a timely topic since, a couple of days ago, I went for a hike in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. I headed out on the Puna Coast Trail, one of several longer trails west of Chain of Craters Road, that I haven’t explored before. (I’ll do a post about the trail once I’ve gone through the way-too-many photos I took that day!)

One of the highlights of the trail was the extensive areas of colorful pahoehoe lava. I’ve lived here a while now and I know lava doesn’t just come in basic black. I’ve seen lighter and darker flows; I’ve seen flows with a brown tint; I’ve seen flows with hints of red or green in them. But prior to this hike, I had never seen flows with such a variety of vibrant colors.

Instant Hawaii has a description of different types of lava (here) and they say “All the differences in pahoehoe flows stems completely from the temperature of the lava as well as chemical composition. Since both can change during a flow – it is possible to get all types of pahoehoe flowing from a single flow, over time.” I would also say that, what they call ‘quiet flow’ lava, is an apt description of these areas. When I was walking over them I thought they seemed harder and more metallic than the surrounding black pahoehoe lava, which tends to crunch a bit when walked on.

But the other thing I thought, as I found myself continually stopping, stooping, snapping photos, was that these flows were art, Madame Pele’s art, and that wasn’t something I was expecting when I set out on the hike.

For more information about Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, go to nps.gov/havo/.

Beach at Hualalai

This week’s Friendly Friday challenge theme is ‘Simple Joys.’ See more responses here.

This is one of the beaches at Hualalai Resort on the Kona coast. While the resort is private and access is restricted, Hawaii law states stipulates that the public has a right of access along the beaches and shorelines in the State situated below the “upper reaches of the wash of the waves.”

Any developments along the shore are required to provide designated public access points. The catch here is that sometimes parking at these places is limited and if it’s full, getting to the beach involves a much longer walk.

At Hualalai, there’s a good-sized parking lot, an easy walk to the coast, and a paved trail along the waterfront. Some beaches can be quite crowded but, in my experience, it doesn’t take much of a walk to find a stretch of sand that is either sparsely populated or entirely deserted. And in my book, walking along the coast, past palm trees and sandy beaches, is definitely a simple joy.

Signs: Practice makes perfect

I was hiking in Kalopa Native Forest State Park when I came across the trail sign above. Nothing too remarkable about that, but I happened to notice the back side of the sign (top left), which showed that getting the sign right took a bit of practice.

On a subsequent visit, I noticed that the back of sign at the other end of the trail (bottom left) had also seen a rejected first effort.

Bench near Green Sands Beach

Most people going to Green Sands Beach, near South Point, hike in or pay for a local to transport them in one of a variety of dubious-looking trucks. Once there, people head down to the beach to swim or broil on the green sand.

Beyond the place where the trucks stop is a pu’u and a hike over this hill and down the other side takes one to this bench, which overlooks the bay, though not the beach itself. It’s a quiet spot unless the wind is howling, which it often is, but the view is lovely and it makes a great resting spot before either carrying on along the coast, or returning whence one came.