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Hawaiian Rainforests

Wailua Falls, Maui rain forest.

Wailua Falls, Maui rainforest [Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA)/Tor Johnson].

Part of what makes the Hawaiian Islands such an alluring destination is the wide variety of landscapes. On the Big Island alone, there are 8 of the 13 different world climate zones, which make for a unique array of terrains. From the grasslands to tide pools, mountains, beaches and volcanoes, one of Hawaii’s most mysterious areas are the expansive tropical rainforests. Deep in the tropical forests lies adventure and history for bold explorers to uncover. Every island has its own secrets to unlock, with rich acres of lush rainforest, tropical streams and plummeting waterfalls as well as the exotic plants and animals that thrive in them. Whenever you plan your trip to Hawaii, be sure to add a rainforest hike to your itinerary.

Oahu: It may be difficult to imagine remote forested areas on such a busy island as Oahu; however, there are several heavily forested areas on the island that would satisfy any intrepid hiker’s fancy. The Ewa Forest Reserve extends from the northern side of the island, down through the central eastern area. The Honolulu Watershed Forest Reserve is located on the south eastern end of the island and the Mokuleia Forest Reserve curves along the western side of Oahu. Numerous guide companies on the island host rainforest hikes, eco tours and walks through the rainforests that highlight innumerable waterfalls, dense woods and sparkling views of places like the Valley of the Rainbows. If walking is not your preferred way to experience the rainforest, the Blue Helicopter Company can take travelers in Hawaii on a breathtaking helicopter tour from the sky.

Maui: Maui is known for over one hundred miles of colorful beaches; however, the rainforests on this island are also well worth visiting. From the West Maui Forest Reserve to the Iao Valley Park, this region is a thickly forested area on the northwestern side of the island. Here there are historic landmarks, gardens and hills to explore. On the northeastern side of Maui, along the same coast that hosts the Hana Highway, there is the Ko’olau Forest Reserve and the Hana Forest Reserve which runs toward the south. In this popular region, visitors to Maui can venture into the rainforests, discover the Seven Sacred Pools or lunch alongside secluded waterfalls. On the central southern end of the island, there is the Kipahulu Forest Reserve where vacationers can hike alongside as well as swim in natural pools or the Makawao Forest Reserve where you can take in the verdant scenery by biking through the rainforest.

Kauai: The rainforests in Kauai are laced among canyons, rivers and jagged mountains along the coast. Vacationers will understand why this island is known as the Garden Isle, since every horizon soars with green forests and mountains in the distance. On the northwestern side of the island are the famous Na Pali-Kona Forest Reserve and the Pu’u Ka Pele Forest Reserve. Visitors that are staying on the east and south sides of Kauai can enjoy the Kalepa Mountain Forest Reserve or the Nonou Forest Reserve. There is also the Moloa’a, Kealia and the Lihue-Koloa forest reserves on the northeastern side of the island. Some of the most scenic trails that avid hikers will not want to miss include the Kuilau Ridge Trail on the eastern side of the island and the cliff trail to Waipo’o Falls which offers magnificent views of rainforests, canyons, valleys and the ocean.

Big Island: The largest of the Hawaiian Islands is replete with rainforest areas that range from the north to the south. The Kohala Forest Reserve is the northernmost rainforest on the island followed by the Hamakua Forest Reserve. Here, the Akaka Falls State Park features enormous waterfalls and hiking trails through the rainforest. The Hilo Forest Reserve and the Hilo Forest Watershed Reserve are on the central eastern side of the island ranging over a large area which boasts of picturesque pools, waterfalls and verdant rainforest lands. Rainforest areas continue through the surrounding areas of the Waiakea, Ola’a and Puna forest reserves. The furthest rainforest region on the southern tip of the Big Island is located in the Kau Forest Reserve and the Waiakea Forest Reserve. The list goes on, as the miles of rainforest hiking trails on the Big Island are endless. Refer to our Big Island State Parks page to find out more details on where to witness these tropical treasures.

Molokai: The Molokai Forest Reserve is a part of the greater expanse that is located on the central eastern side of the island. In this region of central Molokai, visitors can enjoy staggering heights like the Waikolu Lookout over the rainforest. The nearby Kamakou Preserve is one of the most popular rainforest areas on the island, spreading over 3,000 acres over the highest mountains on the island. Because Molokai is so remote, not many visitors to Hawaii venture deep into these forests, which is the home to many endangered animals and birds. Among these are the exotic creatures are the Molokai creeper, the Molokai thrush and the emerald amakihi bird. Lucky hikers might have the chance to glimpse these beautiful creatures in such Molokai rainforests. With the highest cliffs in Hawaii, stunning valleys, mountains, coasts, waterfalls, rainbows, mysterious plants and unique animals, travelers to Molokai would be remiss to skip exploring the island’s tropical rainforests.


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