Puako Keamuku Trail
The Big Island
Puako Beach Drive
Old Hawaiian trails are literal in their description, making the route of travel self explanatory and direct. The Puako-Keamuku Trail is a prime example of one such footpath. Running from Puako Point up mauka to the locality of Keamuku, the trail extends roughly 15 miles up approximately 3000 feet. The trail, once used as a transportation route traverses the slopes of Mauna Kea. Since the foot trail has not been in use for many, many years there are portions of the trail that are easier to access than other parts. When beginning in Puako, enter on Puako Beach Drive and near the beginning of the road you will notice Public Beach Access signs indicating water access. Across the street from these signs you will notice small dirt trails (some are blocked by metal gates). Park anywhere along the road, either side. The gates are the entrances to what once where useable small dirt roads. Now they are simply used for walking. Beyond any number of the gates the dirt roads lead away from the water, back up into the quite grasslands and forests of Puako. The view of Mauna Kea is spectacular, seen from an angle not typically experienced. The roads are well worn and intertwine and intermingle with one another and fork in various different locations. The forks narrow into footpaths and this is where the access of the exact old Puako-Keamuku trail becomes difficult to locate. An old trail map of North Kona and South Kohala would be helpful to have on your trip or a look through the book, Atlas of Hawaii, Third Edition edited by Juvik and Juvik. The original trail traveled east up towards to mountain, over what is now Queen Kaahumanu Highway and paralleled the Auwaiakeakua Gulch and the Keamuku Lava Flow, intersecting through Waikoloa Road up through Mamalahoa Highway to where it ends in Keamuku. However, since the trail now crosses three major roadways and many acres of private land, much of the trail is well overgrown and no longer walkable or accessible. Portions of the trail, Puako up to Queen Kaahumanu Highway is the easiest to walk. The walk from the highway up towards Waikoloa is through the barren blackness of the lava flow and the portion from Waikoloa up to the upper highway is overgrown with tall grass and scattered buildings outside the village center. At the upper road, or Mamalahoa Highway, just north of where the highway meets the Waikoloa Road, is a small right hand turn protected by a gate. Through the gate there is an old one-lane road that travels parallel to the existing highway. This is the old access road, which leads in the southern direction, to the Puako-Keamuku trail and the Keamuku site. However, parts of it are posted under private property of Parker Ranch. There are smaller dirt roads that intersect with the highway and travel a handful of miles south back over the Auwaiakeakua Gulch, the Popoo Gulch, Puu Iwaiwa to the foot trail that loops around Keamuku. However, while some miles of the trail are navigable, it is advised that permission to walk through private property is strongly encouraged.
Left off of Queen Kaahumanu Highway onto Puako Beach Drive.
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San Juan Islands