Hawaii Forest & Trail

Hawaii Forest & Trail: Unique Guided Big Island Ecotourism
Local Expert's Rating:
5.0 / 5
The Bottom Line:

Learn about the Big Island’s natural and cultural history on the wide-ranging interpretive and adventure tours offered by Hawaii Forest & Trail. This ecotourism company leads trips to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and other public lands as well as private acreage otherwise off-limits to tourists. From volcanic craters and waterfalls to rainforest birdwatching, this is a great choice for travelers looking for a more in-depth, guided exploration of Hawaii’s splendor.

- The HawaiianIslands.com Local Expert Team

Since the early 1990s, Hawaii Forest & Trail has offered ecotourism excursions around the Big Island focused on ecology, geology, history, and Native Hawaiian culture. With tours to popular areas such as Hawaii Volcanoes National Park as well as private acreage normally off-limits to visitors, this guiding company provides unique interpretive—and adventure—experiences.

Established by Rob and Cindy Pacheco and based in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii Forest & Trail features a high-quality team of experienced and engaging guides. Those tour leaders and interpreters are, alongside the wide-ranging Big Island access, the company’s foremost attraction. From insights into Hawaii’s volatile volcanism to tracking down elusive native wildlife, these Hawaii Forest & Trail guides can deliver more in-depth sightseeing than your average independent exploration.

The various tours run by the company cover a fair bit of ground, both geographically and thematically. Its Volcano Adventures, for instance, include a five-hour exploration of Hualalai Volcano, with treks through upland rainforest and lava tubes and dazzling Kona Coast views. Or consider the full-day “Volcano Unveiled” visit to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, which includes hiking and—when Pele the Hawaiian fire/volcano goddess is cooperating, anyway—nighttime views of Kilauea eruptions. 

There are also various waterfall excursions. They include the “Kohala Waterfall Adventure” combining off-road transport and hiking to view waterfalls on private lands and memorable views of remote Pololu Valley, one of the gems of the Kohala Coast. 

Then there’s the ziplining, a good choice for more thrill-seeking travelers (and also something that can be tacked on to a waterfall tour). Birders—and, really, all manner of nature nuts—will enjoy the company’s birdwatching outings. The “Kahalau Exclusive” tour, for example, often yields glimpses of such gorgeous and imperiled native Hawaiian birds as amakini, elepaio, and apapane.

The crowning Hawaii Forest & Trail trips—quite literally—are those heading high up Mauna Kea for jaw-dropping sunsets followed by some of the best stargazing you’ll ever enjoy. An 11-inch Celestron telescope brings the wonders of the cosmos up-close, while your guide points out constellations, the Milky Way, and other features. You’ll learn some ancient Native Hawaiian astronomy in the process, all while sipping hot chocolate to ward off the nighttime high-country chill.

Besides these set tours, Hawaii Forest & Trails gives you the option of private versions, including bespoke excursions and experiences for weddings, corporate groups, and other special events. Custom tours for families, couples, and anybody else looking for one-of-a-kind adventures are available via the company’s Signature Series.

Take advantage of expert guides and the ability to visit corners of the Big Island not available to the average tourist with Hawaii Forest & Trails.

Insider Tip:
Among the customizable options, Hawaii Forest & Trails partners with other tour operators to provide Big Island helicopter flights.