by Karen Rose
Translated from Hawaiian, Ala Kahakai means ‘Trail by the Shoreline.’ This scenic hike along the Big Island coastline retraces footsteps of ancient Hawaiians for 175 miles. The trail expands from the most northernly point of the island, down the western shores to South Point, then north into the Puna District.
Ala Kahakai is An Ancient Trail Beside the Sea
Established in 2000 as a National Historic Trail, Ala Kahakai meanders its way through the historically and culturally significant remains of ancient fishponds, dwellings, and other archaeological treasures. Ala Kahakai Trail connected hundreds of ancient island communities dating back over 1500 years when the first Polynesian settlers inhabited the Big Island.
Ala Kahakai Trail is a combination of several Big Island trails, and traverses both public and private lands. Through sections of trail that connect to the shoreline, hikers have access to some of the Big Island’s most spectacular beaches, especially along the Kona and Kohala coast.
Ala Kahakai Trail: An Archaeological Walk Through Kaloko-Honokohau
A commonly recommended starting point of Ala Kahakai Trail is the section that begins at Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park just north of Kona. This site offers an abundance of archaeological features and requires minimal physical endurance. But lace up your shoelaces because the fun part is about to begin!
Headed several miles north on the trail toward Kekaha Kai State Park, Ala Kahakai crosses a half-mile stretch of lava into the breathtaking Makalawena Beach and north toward the popular Kua Bay. From here, the trail becomes a rocky adventure over coral and lava to Kukio Beach which fronts the Hualalai Four Seasons Resort.
Ala Kahakai Trail: An Ancient Trail Along Beachfront Resorts
About 10 miles north of Hualalai is Anaehoʻomalu Bay in the Waikoloa Beach Resort area. This 15-mile stretch of trail between A-Bay and Kawaihae has several points that allow shoreline access to the beaches for hikers who wish to experience shorter outings. One recommended easier hike is from A-Bay, which fronts the Marriott Hotel, north to the Hilton Resort. The hike is beautifully scenic and relatively easy until the trail reaches the golf course where it becomes laden with sharp lava rock.
Ala Kahakai Trail: Spotting Ocean Life Near Mauna Kea Beach and Hapuna Beach
Another recommended short hike is the section of trail that links Mauna Kea Beach and Hapuna Beach. It’s less than a mile long yet boasts magnificent views of the ocean. If you’re lucky you may even spot some Hawaiian Spinner Dolphins, or in the winter, Humpback whales. Grab a map and some water, pick your section of trail, and enjoy your Hawaiian hiking adventure!