This is a part of our 9-day Big Island Itinerary.
Saturday, December 30. We are going on Kohala Waterfall Adventure with Hawaii Forest & Trail. When I was doing research on what we could see on the West side of the Big Island, I noticed great reviews for Hawaii Forest & Trail. This company specializes in the Big Island, they don’t have too many tours but theirs are about education as well as beautiful scenery. The company was founded by a naturalist, interested in evolutionary biology, endangered species and conservation.
Visit their Awards page, it’s impressive!
Another of their original ideas that made Hawaii Forest & Trail stand out for me was their partnership with private landowners. The work Hawaii Forest & Trail does on those private lands helps both preserve native ecosystems and educate visitors about them. Without this arrangement, those remote places would not have been accessible to the general public at all.
Kohala Waterfall Adventure is the tour from Hawi, that takes groups to a private nature reserve to walk on a maintained trail through a few beautiful waterfalls. It is an easy family trip. We would enjoy a bit more active adventure, but that was the only one available for our dates, and it turned out a very pleasant and informative experience.
According to the website, Kohala Waterfall Adventure tour takes 8 hours. This includes 2-3 hours round trip from Kona to Hawi for folks staying in Kona if they are picked up by Hawaii Forest & Trail bus. Since we stayed in Puako, much closer to Hawi, we decided to not board the bus, and just drove to company’s Hawi headquarters ourselves.
We arrived by car to Hawi a little early, and we were lucky to have come here on Saturday morning! Hawi Farmers Market under the banyan trees is open on Saturdays from 8 am to 3 pm, and we got to really enjoy it for about 20 minutes. The veggies were the freshest I ever saw at farmers markets, and the lilikoi syrup was heavenly good. We stuffed on it!
When it was time to depart for the tour, our group of 12 loaded into a 6-wheel-drive Pinzgauer (an Austrian military vehicle). 12 is the maximum size of the group, and even though our car was full, it didn’t feel overcrowded and the size of the group was just right. Our guide Denny was also our driver. He handed us daypacks, a bottle of water and rain ponchos. Later, during the walk and swim, he gave us walking sticks and towels. They even have sunscreen and bug spray upon request. We only needed to bring hats and swimming suits for waterfalls.
We started on the road, but soon turned and continued off-road on emerald hills, through lush meadows. We were lucky with the weather, the sun was shining, no rain. Our guide Denny parked the Pinzgauer near a fence, distributed walking canes and we started on the trail. The opulent green landscape transportes to another dimension and washes away worries and troubles of everyday life. That’s why we keep returning to Hawaii!
Kukui Nut Tree (or Candlenut Tree) is the official state tree of Hawaii. Its white blossoms are an official flower of Molokai. The tree has a spiritual meaning and is a symbol of protection and peace. All parts of the tree were used in Hawaiian rituals, medicine and everyday life. Kului Nuit oil is particularly well-known and widely used.
We stopped often and Denny told us about traditional ways of living, historical insights, about the land and plants around us, some legends, some present-day developments.
Denny took us to few waterfalls, all of them on private land. The focal point of the tour for me was swimming in one of the waterfalls. The water felt very cold and I didn’t think I could make it, but after an initial dive it felt heavenly. Being in the back of the waterfall, completely enclosed by a curtain of streaming and gleaming water was surreal and hypnotizing!
Next stop was a picnic at an open area over cliffs with views of the coastline below. It was the only occasion when for a short time we shared space with another group. The tour was well organised, informative, pleasant and friendly.
Previous: Day 5 – Swimming with Wild Dolphins and a Whale Shark in Hawaii
Next: Day 6, part 2 – Merriman’s Waimea Restaurant, Big Island
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Related: Hawaii State Symbols