Puna Coast Trail To ʻĀpua Point
HAWAI'I VOLCANOES NATIONAL PARK
ROUND-TRIP MILEAGE: 10.8 MILES
ELEVATION GAIN: 130’
The Puna Coast Trail travels deeply into the wilderness area of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park across harsh lava flows. It is one of the access trails to the backcountry camping areas. ʻĀpua Point is the first campground along the trail, and a good turnaround spot for a dayhike along the Puna Coast Trail. ʻĀpua Point features sparse palm trees and a dangerous but beautiful coastline. It means “fish trap” in the Hawaiian language, likely due to the extensive fishing villages that used to exist along this coast. This is a long, difficult hike along coastal lava flows and sea cliffs.
Trailhead: From the Park entrance, drive fifty feet and turn south on Crater Rim Drive. Follow Crater Rim Drive to Chain of the Craters Road. Drive the Chain of the Craters road to mile marker 16.5 and park at the Pu’u Loa Petroglyphs parking area.
Gear: Expect a long, hot, and windy hike. Wear sturdy boots, bring lots of water and extra food. Don’t forget the raingear.
Hike: From the Pu’u Loa Petroglyphs parking area, cross the Chain of Craters Road and locate an information kiosk about 50 feet off the road. This is the beginning of the Puna Coast Trail. The trail crosses rough lava flows. Ahu (cairns) keep you on the right track as there is often no real trail to follow. The trail slowly angles toward the sea cliffs as you cross lava flows from 1972 and then 1971. Some of these lava flows include vibrant colors. There are a number of eroded ancient sites in the area — stay on the trail and don’t disturb any of these areas. Eventually, the trail reaches sea cliffs and then parallels them for the remainder of the hike. The trail is set off from the cliffs usually, but always keep an eye on the ocean. Powerful waves can pound the shore here. Speaking of powerful waves, it’s worth mentioning that this entire hike is within the tsunami warning zone — hike to high ground immediately if you happen to feel a strong earthquake here. Continue hiking toward a large ancient site on the horizon. As you get closer, you can see that many of the walls are still in good shape. Don’t touch any walls or disturb any stones. If you look closely, you can spot a konane game petroglyph inside the walls. (Konane was played with white coral and black lava stones and was similar to checkers). Pass the ancient site and cross rough ʻaʻā lava flows from 1973. After crossing the ʻaʻā fields,ʻĀpua Point juts out and looms on the horizon. On the way, look sharp for two picturesque lava sea arches. Palm trees identify your destination — the beaches and coves of ʻĀpua Point. The natural beauty here is abundant. Use extreme caution if you choose to swim here. The southern coastline is deadly with strong rip currents, and you’re far from help. Once you’ve enjoyed ʻĀpua Point and it’s beaches, return the way you came. You’ll likely be hiking into a strong headwind on the way back.