Many of Hawaii’s hiking trails are challenging to even the most seasoned trekker: the trails are slippery, narrow, difficult to navigate, with many at elevations to which your body may not be acclimated. Many trails are high on mountains ridges with sheer drop offs on either side of the path. The spectacular seaside cliffs, the deep valleys, waterfalls, and magnificent mountain streams are indeed beautiful beyond belief, but they can be dangerous and deadly.
Know The Difficultly Level Of The Trail
The hiking trails of Hawaii wander along the shore, through deep valleys, and across high mountain ridges. Know the difficulty level of any trail you attempt to hike before you trek out on an adventure. Do the research. Find out the distance and difficulties, rest areas, parking areas, and location. Do not overestimate your abilities or experience. Stay alert and focused. When hiking near steep inclines or earthen embankments, watch for falling rock. Be especially aware when near waterfalls or after a heavy rainfall.
Be Aware Of The Weather
Fierce winds and torrential rain can pop up suddenly with no warning. Avoid hiking on narrow muddy trails after rain; they are often slick and dangerous. Trails can become hazardous in a heartbeat with the chance of mudslides, flash floods, and falling rocks. Flash floods can turn a benign, gentle stream into a raging torrent.
Note The Time Of Day
Darkness falls quickly in Hawaii due to its location near the equator. Once the sun starts to sink beyond the horizon, it disappears before you know it. You do not want to get caught on the trail when darkness falls. Always practice safety first and, flashlight or not, never attempt to hike in the dark, and if need be shelter in place until daylight.
When planning any hike, keep the time of day in mind and made sure to allow plenty of time from departure to make it to your destination by nightfall.
Do Not Depend On Your Mobile Device
Once you leave the trailhead on any hike, you may or may not have a wireless signal. No matter if you are walking/hiking with your family or a group always let someone reliable, who is not going on the hike, know your route and when you expect to return. It is prudent to carry your cell phone; you may be able to reach out to family, friends or, in the case of an emergency, to first responders; but don’t count on it.
Be sure to drink lots and lots of water in the days before your hike to ensure your start out well hydrated. Carry the water you require with you on the trail. Stay hydrated and remember to drink as often as possible. Never drink from waterfalls or mountain streams. The water may appear crystal clear, but do not drink unless you boil it first. Frequent rainfall flowing over rotting organic materials carries Leptospirosis, a bacterial disease, into ponds, lakes, and streams. The nasty bacteria manifest symptoms like the flu, and you may not feel the effects of the illness for as long as two weeks. When it hits you, you will regret not carrying enough bottled water.
It Gets Hot Out There
Hawaii is blessed with lots of sunshine. You will feel its effects even on a cloudy day. Carry plenty of sunscreen and use it generously. It gets hot out there. You are active and sweating. To prevent heat exhaustion avoid hiking during the hottest hours of the day. Wear a hat and sunglasses and loose clothing. If you feel faint or fatigued, seek shade, hydrate, and loosen binding clothing.
Many island trails explore mountainous regions, where the temperature is considerably cooler than it is at the shore. On the Big Island, in a single day hike, you can trek through 11 different climate zones. As the elevation increases, the mercury drops. Make sure you have rain gear and the appropriate amount of layered clothing for comfort. It can get mighty cold, especially on the slopes of Mauna Kea.
Play It Safe
Never attempt to hike a potentially treacherous trail in beach shoes, sandals, or running shoes. The trails in Hawaii demand the best in extreme outdoor adventure footwear. Choose a sturdy hiking boot with a superior tread for traction.
When hiking, wear bright colors, preferably safety orange. There are hunters that use these trails as well.
Prepare To Be Amazed
To enjoy your trip to its fullest potential, be sure to bring a camera, maybe a pair of binoculars, plenty of water, snacks, insect repellent, and a first aid kit. Hawaii’s hiking trails will take you well off the beaten path to experience the “real” Hawaii away from modern conveniences and city traffic.