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The Puna Coast Trail to Apua Point is a long and beautiful scenic trail over many different kinds of lava rock. Along the trail, there are ruins from ancient Hawaii, coastal cliffs and hardened lava flows from different eruptions over hundreds of years!
Time Required: 10 hours or an overnight trip
Location: Southern Coast of Volcano National Park
Distance: 10 mile (16km) round trip
Highest Elevation: 150ft
Elevation Gain: 150ft
Difficulty: 7/10 – Black lava rock with uneven footing under the Hawaiian sun with no shade
Season: Year round
Additional Requirements: N/A
From Kailua-Kona: Head south on Highway 11 (Alii Hwy) out of the city for roughly 95 miles until you reach Crater Rim Drive in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Take a right onto Crater Rim Drive and follow it south through Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to Chain Of Craters Rd. Follow Chain Of Crater Rd roughly 16 miles to the Apua Point Trailhead. The Trailhead is not very well marked. There is a bit of a shoulder on the road to pull over at and a sign marking the start of the Puna Coast Trail.
From Hilo: Just like from Kona, head south from Hilo on the Highway 11 for about 25 miles until you reach Crater Rim Drive in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Take a right onto Crater Rim Drive and follow it south through Hawaii Volcanoes National Park to Chain Of Craters Rd. Follow Chain Of Crater Rd roughly 16 miles to the Apua Point Trailhead. The Trailhead is not very well marked. There is a bit of a shoulder on the road to pull over at and a sign marking the start of the Puna Coast Trail.
WHAT TO BRING
- Comfortable Footwear: Hiking shoes.Make sure your shoes are broken in prior to tackling this hike to prevent unexpected blisters. You could get away with running shoes but having extra grip on the lava rock surfaces will definitely come in handy!
- Water: This hike may not involve a lot of elevation gain, but it is long and hot! Be sure to bring enough water for 8-10 hours of physical exertion. 4 quarts/liters recommended.
- Snacks: Bring some of your favorite snacks to enjoy along the hike as well. Try to avoid very salty snacks because they just make you thirstier. Some of our favorite snacks are trail mix, bananas, beef jerky and licorice. If you’re camping overnight, you will need to pack more than just snacks.
- Weather appropriate clothing: Keep yourself shaded from the sun. Wear a hat, shirt, and shorts. If you plan on staying overnight at the bay, a hoody, windbreaker or a pair of sweats. It doesn’t rain often, but it’s nice to be prepared for these situations.
- Sunscreen: It will most likely be sunny so if you’re like Mattson, who easily burns, bring sunscreen!
- Insect Repellent: Insect repellent can greatly improve your hiking experience.
- Camera: There are numerous photo opportunities you won’t want to miss.
- First Aid Kit: Lava rock is incredibly sharp and will cause cuts if you stumble and fall. Be safe and stay on your feet!
- Sleeping Gear: For the overnight hikers, sleeping bag, hammock, or tent.
- Headlamp/flashlight: If you are camping you will want a light for when it gets dark.
- This Guide: Print a copy of this guide to reference throughout the hike
Wildlife: Scorpions, back widows and centipedes can be found in shaded cracks and under rocks. They don’t bite often, but give your clothes and shoes a shake before putting them on in the morning.
Turtles: Endangered Hawksbill sea turtles nest at Apua Point. This is also a resting place for Green sea turtles. DO NOT camp in areas posted as turtle nesting areas.
Permit: All overnight backcountry camping requires a permit. Permits are 10 dollars and must be obtained from the backcountry office no more than 24 hours in advance (They can be reserved up to a week in advance). The backcountry office is located just off of Crater Rim Drive and is open from 8am-4pm daily.
Facilities: There is an outhouse at Apua Point as well as a water catchment tank. Check with a ranger at the permit house for information on the level of water in the catchment tanks.
Volcanic Area: The volcano is active and conditions are always changing. Stop into the Visitor’s Center to check for any trail closures or hazards.
Leave No Trace: It is important that we enjoy the outdoors responsibly and sustainably. Some key principles to consider when hiking to “Leave No Trace” are:
- Plan ahead and prepare: Proper planning allows adventurers to hike safely while minimizing damage to the land.
- Travel on durable surfaces: Stick to the trail when possible. If there is no trail, or you must travel off trail, stay on durable surfaces to reduce your impact.
- Dispose of waste properly: Pack it in, pack it out.
- Leave what you find: Leave rocks, plants, archaeological artifacts and other objects of interest as you find them.
- Respect wildlife: Observe wildlife from a distance. Never feed wild animals.
- Be considerate of other visitors: Be courteous to others to allow everyone to enjoy their outdoor experience.
To learn more about “Leave No Trace” visit http://www.leavenotrace.ca
Summary: The hike to Apua point is a hot, exposed trek over ancient lava flows. The trail can be difficult to follow at times, but as long as you keep the coast to your left, you will eventually reach Apua Point.
The hike to Apua point starts on the side of Chain Of Crater Rd (Route marker #1 on the map). A sign marks the beginning of the Puna Coast Trail which will take you to Apua Point. Follow the trail over the lava rock west with the coast on your left.
The Puna Coast Trail is not very well defined! The only way to be sure that you are still on the trail is to keep following the rock cairns. Rock cairns are basically just big piles of black lava rock, and they’re spaced out every few hundred feet. As long as you keep passing them, you’re on the trial.
After a few miles, far off in the distance, you will see about a dozen palm trees swaying in the wind. These palm trees mark Apua Point! If you keep following the rock cairns, they will eventually take you right to the coast.
Not too long after walking beside the coast, you’ll come to an ancient goat corral. These rock walls are the remains of an ancient fishing village destroyed by a tsunami after the 1868 Hawaiian earthquake. These rock walls might be your only chance for a little shade for the day.
From the fishing village remains the hike to Apua point is about 2 miles. The green palm trees should be fully in view so follow the trail as best you can to the point. When you make it, take some time to explore or relax on the beach and enjoy the sunset.
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Have fun out there!