Eastern Point of Hawai'i
Round Trip Mileage: 4 miles (to Kipu Point)
Elevation Gain: negligible
Gear: The eastern point of Hawai'i is windy and humid and sees lots of rain. Hiking around Kumukahi involves slogging on murderous fresh ʻaʻā lava. This stuff will shred a pair of running shoes in just a few miles. Sturdy boots are recommended.
Map: Topographical Map of Kumukahi
Overview: Kumukahi, the easternmost point of Hawai'i, held great significance to the ancient Hawaiians and offers a wonderful place to find solitude along a violent shoreline. The air here is the standard for "clean" because there isn't a pollution source for thousands of miles to the east. The hike described here travels from the parking area north along the sea cliffs of Kumukahi for a few miles to Kipu Point, where the coast begins to face more northerly. This coast is exceptionally rough with tall sea cliffs and there is no way to swim along this hike. Photographers will enjoy the waves crashing against the cliffs, especially when a storm is on the way. There is no trail in this area, but you will be following unmarked four-wheel drive roads created in the new lava flows. You will notice lots of fresh lava in this area. Since the 1960s, this part of the island has seen several new flows covering lots of property and extending the eastern coast of the island considerably. Most of the lava in this area is ʻaʻā lava, which is exceeding sharp and strong. A fall on ʻaʻā would be a memorable addition to your Big Island trip.
Getting to the Trailhead: From Hilo, take Hwy. 11 south toward Puna. Near Kea'au, turn south on Hwy. 130 toward Pahōa. At Pahōa, turn east on Hwy. 132. Follow Hwy. 132 until it intersects Hwy. 137 and you're looking at a dirt road. Cross the intersection onto this unmarked dirt road (it is still technically Hwy. 132) and follow it for about a mile until it dead-ends near a Coast Guard beacon. This road is usually in fine shape and can be negotiated by any passenger car. Park near the beacon in an obvious area.
The Hike: From the parking area, find a use trail or hike off-trail across lava due east toward the sea cliffs ahead. Near the sea cliffs, find a four-wheel drive road traveling north that parallels the sea cliffs. You will basically follow this road as far as you wish along this coastline. At Kipu Point, two miles to the north, the coastline abruptly turns inward and the coast faces northward. This is the extent of what is described here, but you could continue as far as you like along the public coastline (Hawai'i state law). The sea cliffs, fresh ʻaʻā lava, and crashing waves make for a humbling outing in a stunning natural place. You will likely be alone on this one. Camping is common, especially on weekends, by locals at the obvious campsites closer to the parking area.