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 on 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 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. Check the statewide trail system website at hawaiitrails.ehawaii.gov for up-to-date information for hiking trails.

Department of Land and Natural Resources, State Parks Division. The division provides information on all the Big Island's state parks and jurisdictions. Check online for the latest information and advisories. 75 Aupuni St., Hilo, Hawaii, 96720. 808/961–9544; www.dlnr.hawaii.gov/dsp/parks/hawaii.

Going With a Guide

To get to some of the best trails and hiking spots (some of which are on private property), it's worth going with a skilled guide. Costs range from $95 to $179, 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.

Hawaii Forest & Trail. Since 1993, this locally owned and operated outfit has built a reputation for outstanding nature tours and eco-adventures. Sustainability, cultural sensitivity, and forging island connections are company missions. They have access to thousands of acres of restricted or private lands and employ expert, certified guides who are entertaining and informative. Choose an Endangered Native Habitats bird-watching tour, or journey deep into the Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge. Other tours include a Twilight Volcano Adventure excursion, Kohala waterfall trip, or the Kohala Canopy adventure. If you want to see it all in one day, you can't beat 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. Breakfast, lunch, and a farm-to-fork dinner prepared by a renowned chef are included. 73-5593 A Olowalau St., Kailua-Kona, Hawaii, 96740. 808/331–8505; 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. The Kilauea Hike & Glow tour leads guests to an enormous, still-steaming crater and into areas of the park not normally visited by tour groups. The Evening Volcano Explorer takes you to what remains of the lava-inundated town of Kalapana, explores the park, and ends with dinner at the historic Volcano Winery. The Lava Expedition tour traverses the flow fields looking for lava breakouts while the Secrets of Puna takes you along the rugged coast where you experience a region that's been besieged by lava flows over the years. Tours depart from both Hilo and Kona. Grand Naniloa Hotel, 93 Banyan Dr., Hilo, Hawaii, 96720. 808/964–1000; www.kapohokine.com. From $149.