Insider's Guide to Big Island of Hawaii

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Tour code: 2804RDBA
Discover Hawaii’s remarkable wildlife on a full-day, small-group birdwatching tour into the Big Island’s Mauna Kea Forest Reserve. Travel on foot and by four-wheel drive as you explore dry forest and rainforest habitats that shelter the endangered palila honeycreeper, the Hawaii amakihi and the Hawaii ‘elepaio. Listen for the calls of endemic songbirds as you traverse an otherworldly lava trail, then follow a local, bird-loving guide along forest paths into the distinctive, high-elevation mamane-naio ecosystem.  


  • Birdwatching tour in Hawaii
  • Small group adventure in the Mauna Kea Forest Preserve
  • Different forest habitats with unique endogenous bird species
  • Expert local guides and bird enthusiasts

Why Our Insiders Chose This Tour

You trek through several different climate regions with other bird lovers in search of extraordinary tropical species like the arresting red 'i'iwi. It's a long day, but totally worthwhile -- especially if you spot the critically threatened palila.

Recent Photos of This Tour

What You Can Expect

Hawaii Birdwatching Small Group Adventure Tour

Hawaii Birdwatching Small Group Adventure Tour

Puu Oo Trail is a historic cattle drive route located at the 6,000 foot (1800 meters) level of Saddle Road on Mauna Loa's northeastern flank. This is the windward side of the island and is often cloaked in misty clouds. It is enchanting to be serenaded by the forest birds as you cross three to four miles (5-6 km) of lava trail. At the Humuula hunter check-in station just off Saddle Road, you'll go into the Kaohe Game Management Area and four-wheel up to nearly 7,000 feet (2,100 meters) on the western side of Mauna Kea.

Some of the avifauna you may spot along the way are iiwi, apapane, amakihi, omao, elepaio, and the elusive akiapolaau, with its unique multipurpose beak. In the dryforest, the track leads to a locked gate that is the entrance to the Mauna Kea Forest Preserve. Here, you'll have the opportunity to disembark from the van and take in the spectacular views. Then get down to some serious bird watching on foot in the mamane-naio forest.

You'll particularly focus on sighting the critically threatened palila, which feeds almost entirely on the green pods of the mamane tree. There are two other endemics of note to be found here: the Hawaii amakihi, and the local species of the Hawaii elepaio (noted for the white feathering on its head).

Customer Reviews

Elizabeth H

5 star rating: Highly Recommended October 2015

Knowledgeable trip leader, who was engaging and helpful when group members were slow. The areas were somewhat rugged, but the birds were inspiring and present. Our leader was also patient and helpful when group members had some initial difficulty sighting the birds. This experience is highly recommended.

John H

5 star rating: Highly Recommended August 2014

Intended for serious birders but not necessarilly "twitchers". Everything is provided - meals, snacks, drinks, walking sticks, raingear (which we definitely needed in the rainforest !) and even binoculars if you don't have your own. Guide was very knowledgeable and knew where to find specific birds. Fair amount of hiking including quite a trek over a lava trail to the rainforest. Organised locally by Hawaii Forest and Trail.

From USD $ 200.00

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