Ecologically diverse, Hawaii Island has four of the five major climate zones and 8 of 13 sub-climate zones—a lot of variation for one island—and you can experience them all by foot. The ancient Hawaiians cut trails across the lava plains, through the rain forests, and up along the mountain heights. Many of these paths are still in use today. Part of the King's Trail at Anaehoomalu winds through a field of lava rocks covered with ancient carvings called petroglyphs. Many other trails, historic and modern, crisscross the huge Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and other parts of the island. Plus, the serenity of remote beaches, such as Papakolea Beach (Green Sands Beach), is accessible only to hikers.
Department of Land and Natural Resources, State Parks Division. The division provides information on all the Big Island's state parks and jurisdictions. 75 Aupuni St., Hilo, HI, 96720. 808/961–9544. www.hawaiistateparks.org.
To get to some of the best trails and places, it's worth going with a skilled guide. Costs range from $95 to $165, and some hikes include picnic meals or refreshments, and gear, such as binoculars, ponchos, and walking sticks. The outfitters mentioned here also offer customized adventure tours.
Hawaiian Walkways. With knowledgeable guides, this company conducts tours in unique spots—a botanical walk in a Kona cloud forest, a hike on Saddle Road between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa, waterfall hikes, and jaunts through Hawaii Volcanoes National Park—as well as custom-designed trips. 45-3625 Mamane St., Honokaa, HI, 96727. 808/775–0372 or 800/457–7759. www.hawaiianwalkways.com.
Hawaii Forest & Trail. Since 1993, this locally owned and operated outfit has built a reputation for high-quality nature tours and eco-adventures. Sustainability and cultural sensitivity is a company mission. They have access to thousands of acres of restricted or private lands and employ expert, certified guides. Two levels of tours—Exploration and Discovery—cater to guest abilities and needs. Choose a Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge bird-watching tour, Kilauea Volcano excursion, Kohala waterfall trip, or the Kona Coffee & Craters adventure among many others. New this year is the circle-island "Epic Island Volcano Journey," which visits spots off the beaten path—three national parks/historic sites combined with caving in a lava tube and wrapped up with a farm-to-fork dinner prepared by a renowned chef. 74-5035B Queen Kaahahumanu Hwy., Kailua-Kona, HI, 96740. 808/331–8505 or 800/464–1993. www.hawaii-forest.com. From $69.
KapohoKine Adventures. This friendly outfitter offers several hiking adventures in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and surrounding areas, including a 12-hour tour that explores the region by day and sees the lava at night; a shorter day tour; and a tour that takes guests on a 4-mile round-trip hiking tour of an enormous, still-steaming crater. The Farm, Fork & Fire Tour explores sustainability by following products from local suppliers to a private kitchen demo, ending with dinner at the historic Volcano House. Tours depart from both Hilo and Kona. 224 Kamehameha Ave. #106, next to Palace Theatre, on Haili St., Hilo, HI, 96720. 808/964–1000 or 866/965–9552. www.kapohokine.com. From $109 per person.