How to Hike the Private Hualalai Volcano


Hawaii is full of mountains and past evidence of devastating volcanic activity. Four recognizable peaks provide beautiful panoramic views atop this sacred island. Mauna Kea is the highest, which rises nearly 14,000 feet above the sea, Mauna Loa is a close second, and Hualalai is a more distant third. An exclusive UTV/hike to Hualalai craters takes place (at least twice per week) on this volcano which is privately owned and not open to the public. This is a “must-do” experience for adventure seekers, individuals interested in island nature, and all who appreciate supporting the growth of this land.

You can see Maui through the clouds from Hualalai mountain in Hawaii.
The island of Maui from Hualalai

Hiking to Hualalai Craters

Many of the mountains are publicly accessible on the big island of Hawaii. You can reach Mauna Kea, or Mauna Loa on foot via a long hike. Hualalai is different. Some online sources claim tourists often visit Hualalai, but this cannot be true. Our guide, Kimo, unlocked the trail gates and asked the mountain permission before our hike.

On a clear day you can see Maui from the first crater. Haleakala is the most visible volcano on that island which reaches just over 10,000 feet high. We spent our first few days there and found the best hiking trails on Maui.

Hiking to the craters on Hualalai is a special experience requiring an invitation. Hualalai is considered an active volcano, and its forests are still in the stages of regrowth. This hike provides an opportunity to witness this growth and contribute to it as well, in more ways than one.

One of several craters on Hualalai mountain in Hawaii.
7,200ft atop Hualalai

The UTV ride begins at an elevation near 5,000 feet. Kimo will guide you through the young forest and lead you to the edge of craters resting at an elevation of around 7,200 feet. The hike will NOT lead inside the deep craters, nor will you summit the mountain. Those would be extraordinary experiences, but are not part of this adventure. However, you will learn about life on this mountain, and you will see sights that most tourists are not allowed to see.

Ask Kimo about the history of Hualalai and he will share a story, or two. Such stories may lead you to envision wild boars crossing the trail in a hurry before vanishing into the ferns as if they were part of the forest. You may feel drops of rain (or tears) because you picked flowers while heading uphill, or you might begin to feel the heat of the lava after failing to offer food to a famished goddess.

To the Edge and Back

Your private UTV ride and hike will last five hours (7am – noon). Expect cloud cover at this elevation, but be thankful if the mountain is able to keep them at bay. You may find that clouds tend to swarm the mountaintops of Hawaii late in the morning and well into the afternoon. Fortunately, you will not have to hike the entire way. Kimo will drive you up the rocks and through the trees most of the way. Do not fear; there will be one restroom along the way when you reach the red cabin. Eventually, Kimo will park and guide you to various craters on foot.

The average hiker will not find the trail to be overly difficult. My activity tracker recorded just over 10,000 steps, and 60 floors worth of elevation gain. I was surprised by this information because the hike seemed fairly easy. Perhaps, the bouncing of the UTV contributed to some of this elevation gain. Kimo makes brief stops to allow each group to rest and take in views of the island. It may be that he often leads groups who are less accustomed to hiking uphill. Our group was not lacking in endurance, especially the young boy who asked many questions as we navigated the craters edge.

UTV ride to Hualalai craters

An Unforgettable Experience in Hawaii

After the hike you will have the opportunity to eat some lunch on the mountain and share a story of your own. As the experience ends you will help further the growth of the forest on this mountain by planting a new tree. Kimo will provide the young tree and choose the most appropriate place for planting.

The cost of this 5-hour adventure is $200 a person, and 100% of that cost goes back to supporting this sacred area. The UTV can hold four adults, not including the driver. If you do not book a group of four, you may be taking this adventure with another couple. The ride and hike are both family friendly. A short video of our experience to the Hualalai craters will soon be available on our youtube channel – Pawsitively Adventurous.

The newest tree on Hualalai mountain

Are you planning to visit Hawaii? Are you seeking a unique adventure to remember? Would you like to support this beautiful island and play a role in its reforestation? Book a slot with Kimo on Airbnb.com and make the most of your trip to Hawaii. The ride and hike to Hualalai craters was the finale to our trip in Hawaii, and it is an unforgettable experience.

I’m a certified personal trainer in San Antonio. After adopting Abbey, I created Places for Pups to help you get outside, exercise with your dog and have fun doing it.

We have mastered hiking in Texas Hill Country. Though we emerge from the woods unharmed, we are not responsible for you or your pets. You are solely responsible for trying exercises, or places discussed on this site.

Grab the best hiking gear and go dog friendly.  I wish you good fortune on the trails to come.

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David Earley

CPT, CES

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