By the time we made it to part 3 of this series, we realized a Top 10 list would not be enough to encompass all of the amazing animal adventures on the Big Island. For all of you who have continued to follow this post over the past several weeks, we now present the finale of the Top (13) Animal Adventures on the Big Island. Be sure to check out our list for the Top 10 Animal Adventures by Sea and by Land in case you missed them!
Hawaii is sometimes known as the endangered bird capital of the world. And while the title itself is not an enviable one, it does mean that the islands are home to an incredible array of very rare and exotic birds. Hawaii’s honeycreepers, nene geese, ‘io hawks, pu’eo owls, and ‘alala crows are all endemic species, meaning they are not found anywhere else in the world. In addition to these rare native birds, which primarily live in highland forests, the islands are also home to plentiful non-native species which can be viewed throughout low-lying and coastal areas. The Big Island in particular is a birder’s paradise. You can spend the day lounging on your lanai, sipping a tropical drink and watching for saffron finches and yellow-billed cardinals, or you can head into the mountains and bushwhack through native forest in search of the elusive i’iwi.
In the Air…
- A new bird-watching area has just opened on the dry west side of Mauna Kea, a known habitat of the palila. The fate of this critically endangered bird is intertwined with that of the endemic mamane tree; the trees provide the palila with shelter and food, while the palila is the only bird that can safely consume (and therefore disperse) the seeds of the mamane. The mamane‘s range has been greatly reduced in the past 150 years due to grazing by introduced Mouflon sheep. Consequently, the palila‘s habitat and numbers have shrunk at an alarming rate. The new bird-watching area has been securely fenced to protect the remaining mamane trees and create a haven for the Big Island’s remaining palila. Like other endemic forest birds, the palila is very elusive, but if you are determined to see one this area will be your best shot.
- Hawaii Forest & Trail is an excellent local guide service which can get you access to the restricted Hakalau National Forest Reserve on the wet eastern slopes of Mauna Kea, where other endemic forest species abound. This area is closed to the public for preservation purposes, so going with a guide service is the only way in. Once there, you will be in the midst of a thriving native forest that is home such rare species as the i’iwi, amakihi, elepai’o, and akepa.
- Kipuka Puaulu on the southeast side of Mauna Loa is another, more easily accessible bird-watching park just a few miles from the main entrance to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. It is a native wet-forest habitat that offers the best opportunity for spotting the birds that make their home within the park. Many of the other trails around Kilauea’s summit are too busy and too noisy for bird-watching, but on a weekday it is quite likely that you will have Kipuka Puaulu to yourself.
- Kaloko-Honokohau National Historical Park is just a short drive from the Holualoa Inn and is one of the Big Island’s best locations for spotting native marine birds. The shallow waters of these ancient, man-made fish ponds are a perfect feeding area for birds like the ‘akekeke sandpiper and the ‘auku’u heron. You are also likely to spot the kolea, or Pacific Golden Plover, whose migratory tracks led the ancient Polynesians to Hawai’i.
All of these amazing animal adventures are within easy reach of the Holualoa Inn. But you are of course also welcome to enjoy your own low-key animal adventure here on our 30-acre working coffee farm. Our makai lanai provides a sweeping view from which you can watch cattle graze in our lower pastures while egrets and ‘io circle in the skies above. Our grounds are home to a number of multicolored lowland bird species that can be enjoyed by birders both amateur and expert, and you are always free to visit with our beautiful resident chickens up in the nursery. Whether you plan to explore the island or stay close to your home away from home, the Holualoa Inn is the perfect choice for your Big Island getaway.