Discovering the Kahuku Unit A Guide to Hawaii's Hidden Gem

Discovering the Kahuku Unit: A Guide to Hawaii’s Hidden Gem

When you visit the Kahuku Unit, you’ll find that there is no potable water available in this area. This means you should bring your own supply for drinking and cooking. You’ll also need a 4WD vehicle to access Kahuku Road above the cross fence, as it’s not open to regular vehicles. The nearest towns are Naalehu and South Point.

The Kahuku Unit is located on the shoulders of Mauna Loa in Ka’u district on the Island of Hawaii, which is the southernmost district of the United States. If you want to explore further, you can take the Old Mamalahoa Trail. It’s 3 miles long, mostly flat, and made of broken asphalt – perfect for mountain biking. Just make sure you have all the necessary safety gear before setting off.

Location and Hours

Go explore the Kahuku Unit! Just an hour drive from Kilauea Visitor Center on Hwy 11, mile marker 70.5, this unit of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park is open Thursdays to Sundays 8am – 4pm. Don’t forget though; the gate closes promptly at 4pm so plan your visit accordingly. Admission is free and you can start exploring right away.

Hiking Trails

The hiking trails are the star of the show here with 20 miles of varying degrees of difficulty, there’s something for everyone. Just a warning: no dogs allowed. All trailheads have sanitation stations so visitors can practice ROD (Recreate Outdoors Responsibly). Enjoy all that Kahuku has to offer!

Get ready to explore the Kahuku Unit individual trails! With plenty of breathtaking views and a variety of difficulty levels, these trails have something for everyone.

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Trail NameDistanceElevation ChangeHighlights
Pu’u o Lokuana Cinder Cone Trail0.4 miles130ftRemnants of WWII radar tower base, panoramic view of ocean and windmills, grass knolls reminiscent of Hobbiton
Pu‘u o Lokuana Trail2 miles130ftOhia forest, lava boulders, “secret” pasture, lava flow from 1868, watch for lava tree molds
Kamakapa‘a Trail0.5 miles40ftMowed grass path and cinder cone view
Palm Trail2.6 miles310ftRolling fields, fissure, good for biking
Pali o Ka‘eo Trail1.6 milesVista views, rollercoaster ups and downs
Pit Crater Trail2.4 miles1165ftAlternative route to Pali o Ka’eo Trail
Glover Trail5.6 miles round trip from ROD Quarantine Gate0.8 miles from ROD Trail to trailheads, 0.5-mile shortcut between Upper & Lower trails
Kona Trail4.6 miles round trip from Lower Glover Trailhead1.2 miles on the ROD Trail, crosses 1887 lava flow

Let’s start with the Pu’u o Lokuana Cinder Cone Trail. This short 0.4-mile trail offers 130ft of elevation change and is perfect for those just starting out. But don’t be fooled by its size – this trail has plenty of surprises in store. You’ll find remnants of WWII radar towers as well as panoramic views of the ocean, windmills, and 1868 lava fields. Plus, if you’re a Lord of the Rings fan, you may feel like you’ve been transported straight into Hobbiton thanks to the grass knolls that line the path.

For something a bit longer, try the Pu‘u o Lokuana Trail. Clocking in at 2 miles with 130ft of elevation change, this Ohia forest will have you weaving through lava boulders and secret pastures. Keep your eyes peeled for lava tree molds from the 1868 lava flow.

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If you’re looking for something shorter, the Kamakapa‘a Trail is only 0.5 miles long and features 40ft of elevation change. The mowed grass path and cinder cone view make it a great option when you don’t have a lot of time but still want to take in some incredible views.

Ready for something more challenging? Look no further than the Palm Trail. At 2.6 miles long and 310ft of elevation change, this rollercoaster of ups and downs is perfect for biking. Another good option for experienced adventurers is the Pit Crater Trail, which clocks in at 2.4 miles and 1165ft of elevation gain. It also makes for a great alternative route to the Pali o Ka’eo Trail.

Finally, Glover Trail provides 5.6 miles round trip from ROD Quarantine Gate and includes a 0.8 mile stretch on the ROD Trail. There’s even a 0.5 mile shortcut between Upper & Lower trails if you’re feeling adventurous. Kona Trail is another great choice at 4.6 miles round trip from Lower Glover Trailhead. Here you’ll cross an 1887 lava flow and get unbeatable views of the area.

History and Background

Explore a piece of Hawaiian history dating back over 600 years. You’ll find evidence of early Hawaiians who used this land for farming and hunting, as well as the supporters of Kamehameha the Great who retreated here. In 1793, cattle were introduced and paniolo were hired around 1830. Unfortunately, in 1868, a volcanic eruption destroyed Robert Brown’s home and ranch. During WWII, there was also a secret radar station located at Pu’u o Lokuana Cinder Cone. Finally, from 1912-1947, Park Ranch owned the area until it became public land in 2003.

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The Kahuku Unit visitor contact station offer 15-minute orientations by request. On Saturdays and Sundays, guided hikes are available at 9:30 a.m., and orientation talks every day at 10:30 a.m. So go visit to learn more about the rich history of the Kahuku Unit!

So what are you waiting for? Choose one or tackle them all – either way, you won’t regret taking a journey along the Kahuku Unit trails.