Coco, our wonderful Red Lab/Golden Retriever mix was not only a lifetime companion but also an active member of InstantHawaii. Coco can be seen in many of the hike and trail photos in this website and there were few trails she didn't try. A trouper, after 7 cancer surgeries and an artificial hip - Coco finally died on June 13, 2005 at the ripe age of 18.
Coco relaxes along the trail under the shade of a hardwood tree.
While there were many trails that Coco enjoyed, this one was close to home and one we frequented several times a week. A simple loop trail, this walk offers shady, hardwood pine forests with soft carpets of needles alternating with open meadows with ocean vistas - a perfect mix for a happy dog.
This trail is actually the tail end of the Puna Coast Trail and the start of the Old Puna Road Trail. It is also a part of the Ala Kahakai National Historic Trail.
Originally many Hawaiian villages dotted the coastline in this area. The coastal trail, known back then as the Old King's Trail, connected the various villages. Tsunamis eventually changed the coastline and destroyed most of the villages forcing people to move inland. The old trails moved into disuse as more modern transportation, along inland routes, became commonplace. Though these trails don't appear in many guide books, the trails still exist and are hiked by savvy locals and visitors alike.
This hike is in the Lower Puna district, between the towns of Kea'au and Pāhoa, in the Hawaiian Paradise Park subdivisions. To get to the trail start, take Highway 11 either from Kona or Hilo to the town of Kea'au (about 4 miles outside of Hilo, towards Volcano).
If you are coming from Volcano direction, you will encounter the town of Kea'au first. If you are coming from Hilo direction, you will see a left hand bypass turn to get onto Highway 130. Feel free to bypass the bypass if you wish to stop in the town of Kea'au for supplies or snacks. Otherwise, take the bypass all the way until it narrows and merges and becomes Highway 130. If you stop in Kea'au you can also get to Highway 11 by taking the main road through town, which winds around the high school and then lets you onto the bypass.
Continue on Highway 130 for a few miles until you reach Hawaiian Paradise Park on the makai (ocean) side of the road. The first intersection in Hawaiian Paradise Park is Shower Drive, the second is Kaloli Drive and the third is Paradise Drive. Make a left (the only direction you can go) onto Paradise Drive. If you see the 4th road in HPP, Maku'u, you have gone too far. HPP, Hawaiian Paradise Park is the nation's largest privately owned subdivision and consists of around 6,000 1 acre lots that extend all the way to the ocean.
Continue down Paradise Drive all the way to the ocean (about 4 miles). At the end of Paradise, the road makes a sharp curve left and follows the coastline (many of the houses here are vacation rentals). Continue on this road (part paved and part dirt) to the very end. At the very end is a dirt turnaround and you will see 2-tracks going off at the end of the turnaround. Pull your car off the road in this turnaround area.
Park the car and we will begin the hike.
Click here to view a map
Things To Be Careful Of
The following are general cautions and warnings for this trail:
This trail can also be driven (easiest from the end of the trail, not the beginning) if your vehicle has high clearance and 4-wheel drive. We do NOT recommend driving your vehicle onto the trail and then parking it on one of the side trails if you intend to leave your car. Many families will park on the side trails to be close to their cars and food - but if you leave your car unattended in these secluded spots you are probably going to have your car broken into. Our own car, parked on a secluded pullout off the trail, was broken into and our night-vision binoculars stolen. In general we have never had a problem parking at the turnaround, as there are numerous houses at the end of the road.
The water along this stretch of trail is unsuitable for swimming or snorkeling due to strong currents.
Be careful at the very edge of the cliffs as the rock may be unstable or the thin roof of a cave. Avoid climbing down the cliffs or into the caves.
Lava rock that is wet from ocean spray can be very slippery. Avoid sudden movement on wet or moss covered rocks.
Avoid this hike on extremely windy or rainy days. The trees in this area are easily uprooted during strong winds.
Never turn your back on the ocean. A rogue wave can quickly form and wash you over the cliff.
What You Will See
Standing at the end of the road, facing the end of the road, there is a trail straight ahead of you, wide enough to drive a vehicle. This is where we will start. As we begin this trail, we start in a lightly wooded area with a variety of brush including many flowering plants. In fact, much of this trail goes past not only wild flowers but also some yards with beautiful flowering trees and bushes.
The trail will have occasional splits to the right - feel free to explore them and, in fact, you can abandon the trail if you wish and simply follow the coastline - however, for this write-up we will stick to the trail - especially since this is the way Coco usually wanted to go.
Do not be disturbed if you see a person here or there living in a tent. This area is sometimes home to a homeless family or two - but nobody every bothers anyone else and, quite frankly, this would be a beautiful place to camp for a month or two.
You may also encounter other people on the trail. Locals living in the area often walk their dogs on this trail, or bike or hike the trail. Local fishermen frequent the area for the good fishing as well as to harvest 'Opihi - a delicious and expensive delicacy.
Continuing on the trail, we always keep to the left on the main trail. At this point all splits go off to the right. Follow the trail up and over a small hill, where the trail splits and goes around the bump on both sides and continue as the trail curves slightly to the left.
When you come out of the curve the brush thins to a meadow. Within a few feet you will come to a junction: the trail continues straight, and also goes left to the houses and right to the ocean.
Ignoring the left trail, if you make a right here and go to the ocean you will find a cement foundation that used to house a navigational light. This is Kaloli Point; some of the lava you see is part of one of the longest flows in the history of the Hawaiian Islands. Sometime around 1420 lava began to flow out of the 'Aila'au shield. This flow continued for over 50 years, nonstop, and covered over 166 square miles of land and eventually reached the sea at this point. While much of this flow is covered by newer flows, almost all of Hawaiian Paradise Park and the surrounding areas have this ancient flow under them.
Returning to our main trail, we are going to go straight - which takes you to a line of pine-looking hardwood trees at the end of the meadow. If this is a clear day, you should see both Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea. If it is extremely clear between you and volcano, when you look over to the house line you should have a spectacular view of the active volcanic vent Pu'u O'o!
As we enter the tree-lined area on the opposite side of the meadow, the heat of the meadow gives way to a lush and cool forest of Casuarina (Australian Pine) trees. This is one of my, and Coco's favorite parts of this trail. The ground here is blanketed with a carpet of needles and the road goes up and down over the various lava tubes. More side trails lead to the ocean but as we continue on the main trail we also find that it goes to the ocean. This ocean spot is a nice area and one that Coco and I would use as a 'fall back' if our truly favorite area, just ahead, was taken. At the back of this coastal area is the continuation of our trail. Taking it we walk back into the forest and wind around. There may be, in this area, trees that have fallen over. Because of the hard lava rock ground the trees don't root very deep and can easily be pushed over by strong winds.
The trail makes one more curve left and then, at this point, there is a wide junction to the right that takes you, within about 40 yards, to the coast and a spectacular view of Pākī Bay. This spot is the main reason we take this hike and is a perfect place to stop for a good half hour or more. There are a number of rocks near the cliff that provide a nice place to sit, and you are on the very far edge of the bay offering you a fantastic view of the bay, and Mauna Kea looming behind it.
Pākī Bay with an early morning Mauna Kea in the background.
If you walk up the coast a bit, and look back towards where you were, you will note that the entire cliff is dotted with huge caves and sea arches. There should be sea birds living in the cliff, that are flying around disturbed by your presence, and if you sit quietly near the end of the bay for about 15 minutes you often see sea turtles feeding near the rocks.
During the winter months this is also a great place to look for humpback whales, which like to come into the bay with their newborn calves as the bay offers both food and protection.
The far side of the bay is the Shipman property - which is hidden behind the tree line. This estate is also home to a Nēnē breeding ground where the endangered state bird is being repopulated. A small black sand beach is also on the far side of this bay along with a large inland pond. Most of the far side is private property but shoreline access is available. However, we will not be going that far on this trip.
One of our favorite times of day to come to this spot was very early in the morning, just before sunrise. If you are at this point when the sun comes up you are treated not only to the fantastic sun rising from the flat ocean but the sun also lights Mauna Kea in a fantastic red glow. The day begins nice and cool and you will probably be treated to a rainbow or two in the distance.
Once you have had your fill of the beauty of this area go back to the primary trail and continue on. Just past our little diversion the trail goes to the left, and also continues on, winding to the right. We are going to take the left hand trail at this point... however, if you were to continue on the trial goes all the way around the bay and offers many different interesting areas as well as great places to collect shells and wade in the ocean.
Taking the left trail split we will leave the tree line and climb up a bit, winding around and into a meadow. There are hundreds of small orchids here, all wild, giving the meadow a unique look. Continue on the trail as it winds up and to a dirt road. Again you will be at the end of a dirt road, with houses, but your car won't be here. This is 'E' street. Take this street straight past a number of other roads, until it dead ends at the ocean. The junction here is the original road you took - make a left and there is your car at the end of the road.
This walk offers you many diversions and the ability to extend it into an all day affair, if you wish to walk all the way around the bay. Coco always preferred to go on but usually we would make it a shorter hide, much to her dismay.
Viewing This 180° Panoramic Image:|
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click and hold the left mouse button and
move the mouse left, right, up and down to pan the image.
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Use your mouse and left button to pan this 180° image of the bay head, ocean and sunrise.
Flowers You Can See Along The Way
All the flowers below were photographed either along the trail
or along the 'E' road on the way back to our car
Other pictures of Coco enjoying Coco's Trail
Coco enjoys the cool morning air and beautiful ocean view.
This poem was written the day after Coco died...
By Deborah Sellers
Last night's rain
beat down the peonies.
I see them
on my way to work,
bowed to the ground
and remember you crying
last night on the phone
during the storm.
an old friend would be dead
and there was nothing
I could do.
I didn't cry
until after and
not wanting to explain
my puffy eyes and
blotchy cheeks, didn't
go out that night,
but stayed home and told
my dog, you never met
Coco, but if you had, I think
you would have been good friends.
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