Interpretive/Nature Trails

Kaulana Manu Nature Trail Opens in Shadow of Mauna Kea | Big Island Now


November 23, 2020, 10:46 AM HST

The DLNR’s Na Ala Hele Trails and Access Program announced on Monday the addition of the Kaulana Manu Nature Trail, nestled in the shadow of Mauna Kea. The trail and its interpretive features have been in the making for 15 years.

Looping a total distance of less than one mile through a section of native forest at an elevation of 5,500 feet, the trail is complete with visuals that include ‘ōhi‘a and koa trees, and a soundtrack featuring native birds like the ‘ōma’o and the ‘elepaio.

“This trail isn’t really just for birds,” said Jackson Bauer, of the Na Ala Hele Program. “In Hawai‘i, our megafauna (large animals) are birds because large mammals didn’t evolve in the islands. Coming on this trail you see pretty much 100% native forest with common trees like ‘ōhi‘a, koa, ‘ōlapa, and everything in between — ground ferns and a few beautiful, endangered plants and insects.”

The trail has a total of nine big interpretive panels and 25 small plant identification signs. The experience invites trail walkers to consider how humans interact with and impact our natural environment. Even over the span of just a short walk, visitors can learn a great deal about the flora, fauna, and threats to this and other native forests.


“Rain and drizzle are pretty typical here, and the birds actually love that,” Bauer said. “We are in the presence of Laka (a goddess of the forest) and this mist is her lei hoaka adorning the trees. On a sunny day, you might not hear too many birds, though you might be a drier hiker.”


The trail is at the 21 mile-marker on the Daniel K. Inouye Highway 200 (Saddle Road). The State Legislature provided $1 million to construct the comfort station and parking lot. On Monday, a kīpaepae was held, which is a ceremony that signifies the opening of a new path to travel.


Read More:Kaulana Manu Nature Trail Opens in Shadow of Mauna Kea | Big Island Now