Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Slopes of Kalopa

The cabins and camping at Kalopa Native Forest State Park are your best bet for rustic lodging on the Big Island–and arguably the best in Hawaii—especially if you don't mind chilling out at 2,000 feet. The well-kept grounds and clean cabins, on the northern end of the Hamakua (east) Coast are a reasonable base camp to visit Waipio Valley, Hilo, and even a day trip to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

But Kalopa is also a worthy destination itself, whether you're up for a picnic and wander-in-wonder around the manicured grounds and Polynesian arboretum trails, or would rather strap on the dayhikers and head out for miles-long jaunts into a trail system through the 500-plus acres of forest reserve that rises toward Manua Kea (another 11,000 feet higher). Non-native giant trees blend with natives, perfect habitat for a host of native birds (like 'io, the Hawaiian Hawk, and aku'u, a heron), as well as a few shrieking exotics pheasants and cardinals. Check out page 174 of Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer.