Monday, January 14, 2013

Get small in Big Island's Kalopa State Park

With 600 lush acres, trails for both strolling and hiking, and well-kept cabins for rent, Kalopa Native Forest Reserve State Park is high on the list—if not at the top—of Hawaii's mountain parks. It's easy to miss, located almost three miles from the highway along the north end of the Big Island's Hamakua Coast (the northeast). Most tourists at this locale are making a beeline for Waipo Valley. Bring your outerwear. Kaplopa is set at 2,000 feet in elevation and receives enough rain to keep the forest green and growing. A huge lawn with picnic tables and exotic gardens surround the cabins (which are available for rent), so the park works as a lunch break followed by a family stroll. Adjacent to the cabins is a larger network of trails in the forest reserve, where colorful birds zip through a towering canopy of non-native trees like blue gums, as well as the natives, such as koa, ohia, and the loulou palm (Hawaii's only fronded native). Lava gulches, about 300 feet deep, add geologic interest and tell of the presence of Mauna Loa, located another 12,000 feet uphill from Kalopa. Hawaii the Big Island Trailblazer has hike descriptions and information about renting the cabins.