It's not the purpose of this book to explain all the ins and outs of hiking. Hawaii abounds in opportunities to explore in a variety of terrains. The following are a few basic tips that might keep the novice adventurer out of trouble.
Waterfalls and Streams
Waterfalls are often attractive, and some can be approached by following streams. However, be aware that such a course can involve some treacherous travel on slippery rocks. If it starts raining or the weather is changing, the volume of water in streams can greatly increase, posing some real danger for those in the water. Ascending rocky steps while traveling up and downstream can also be dangerous. Many of the pools found at the base of tropical waterfalls provide some fun bathing opportunities, but the water can be murky so be careful with the jumping and diving. Also, be aware of the possibility of loose rocks tumbling down into the pools from cliffs above.
The Underground World
There are lots of caves to be found in Hawaii. On the Big Island especially, there are numerous lava tubes that can travel for long distances under the earth. Unless you are with a local guide, you should stay out. Some of the caves are kapu, meaning they're forbidden. It's possible to become truly lost, and the floors of some caves are littered with big piles of sharp rocks that have fallen from the ceiling. If you happen to venture into such a place, you shouldn't stray far from the entrance, and if you do, you should have multiple sources of light.
A Checklist for Hiking
If you're going to do a little hiking, here are a few pointers. Again, this information doesn't substitute for personal experience, but it should be useful to novices.
First, do your homework. Read up on your hike — you can purchase a book like Robert Smith's Hawaii's Best Hiking Trails (see Appendix B for more information). If the trail is in a state park, you can probably find hiking and trail information available at the visitors' center. Make sure you pick a trip within the range of your abilities, and check the weather before you go.
It's safe and usually more fun to hike with at least one other person. Tell someone who won't be joining you where you're going and when you intend to be back. Leave the license plate number of your car with the same person.
For day trips, carry a pack with water, sunscreen, insect repellent, snacks, and a working flashlight with extra batteries. And don't forget your hat and sunglasses. The items you wish to keep dry can be sealed in zip closure bags. A whistle (good idea for the kids) can alert others if you're lost or injured, and a cell phone has been put to good use in many an emergency. If you're hiking up to higher elevations, bring extra warm clothes. Always carry rain gear. Overnight trips require a bit more gear and planning. Refer to a hiking guide if you're not sure of what you might need.
On day trips, it's probably best to bring along all the water you intend to drink. Although a lot of the stream water is theoretically fine to drink, wild pigs, cattle, and other creatures have a way of polluting it. If you're planning an overnight trip, invest in a water filter, or else you'll have to carry quite a lot of water.
The old hiker's adage, “Pack it in; pack it out,” applies to Hawaii just as it does everywhere else. Hike out your garbage. If you see any that was left by some thoughtless, anonymous litterbug, be a good sport and carry it out too. Leave the flora and fauna alone, and help keep the islands clean.
While footwear for shopping and general walking about can be quite casual, hiking requires something more substantial than sandals. A light pair of hiking shoes or boots can protect your feet on most trails. If your hike takes you across lava, though, something more sturdy and substantial is called for. Lava can literally shred a pair of sandals or light shoes.
The Hawaiians talk about aloha ‘aina,“love of the land.” The natural resources of the islands can be experienced and enjoyed in many different ways. Love the land, respect it, care for it, tread lightly, and be safe. Keep it nice for the next visitor, and hopefully it will remain lovely for your next visit and for all generations to come.