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Plan Your Visit

Elepaio on branch with leavesRelatively few nonnative plant species occur on the refuge. Please help to prevent the introduction of weed species such as firetree, Himalayan raspberry, and gorse by cleaning mud and seeds from boots, gear, and vehicles before entering the Upper Maulua Unit.

People interested in visiting Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) have a few options for accessing the Refuge.  One option is to visit the Refuge on your own.  Another option is to visit the Refuge with a commercial guide.  The last option is to visit the Refuge during the annual Open House which typically occurs in the middle of April and October each year. 

Visit the Refuge on Your Own:

The Upper Maulua Unit of Hakalau Forest (NWR) is currently open to the public for wildlife-dependent activities such as hiking, bird watching and photography. All other units of the refuge are closed. Access to Upper Maulua is permitted on Saturdays, Sundays and holidays between sunrise and sunset. Access to Upper Maulua is via Maulua Road which intersects with Keanakolu Road at Maulua Gate at the upper end of the unit. The main gate must be closed and locked after entry or exit. Vehicles must be four-wheel-drive and must remain on Maulua Road or parked on the shoulder.  

Every visitor to Upper Maulua is required to have a reservation. Reservations can be made by calling the Hakalau Forest NWR office at (808) 443-2300, between 8:00 am and 4:00 pm, Monday through Friday at least one week prior to entry. Visitors will be asked to provide (1) their telephone number; (2) the number of people in their group; (3) license plate numbers(s) of vehicle(s) to be used; and (4) description of vehicle(s) to be used. A four-wheel-drive vehicle is required for the 50-mile trip, which takes almost two hours each way from Hilo or Kona.

To get to the refuge via the Saddle Road (Highway 200), at the 28 mile marker take the Mauna Kea Summit Road. About 2 miles up the Summit Road, turn right onto a four-wheel drive road. This is Keanakolu Road. There are no signs indicating Keanakolu Road or the refuge at this point. Drive 16.6 miles along Keanakolu Road. Pass the Refuge Administration site turn off and continue a few miles further along Keanakolu Road. You will see a sign on the right that reads “Hakalau Forest NWR-Maulua Tract”. Enter here. The gate is locked. You will get a lock combination when making reservations to visit the Maulua Tract. 

Come prepared for wet, chilly weather and bring food, water, rain gear and extra clothing. 

Visit the Refuge with a Commercial Guide:

Hakalau Forest NWR currently has several commercial natural history and bird tour guide operators under Special Use Permit (SUP).  Commercial tours have access to the Pua Akala Unit, an area of the Refuge that isn't open to the general public except during our annual Open House in October.  In this area of the Refuge visitors have a good chance of seeing some of Hakalau's most endangered birds.  If you are interested in this type of experience please contact the companies below to see what type of tour options exist.  Make your reservations accordingly.

                                  Hawai`i Birds LLC
  Hawai`i Forest and Trail
800-464-1993, 808-331-8505
  Hawai`i Nature Explorers
  Terran Tours 
  Victor Emanuel Nature Tours 
(multi-day, multi-destination trips)

Visit the Refuge during an Open House

Hakalau Forest NWR hosts an Open House around Earth Day in the Spring and during National Wildlife Refuge Week annually. Guided rainforest hikes will be offered between 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. to observe rare and colorful native birds and plants; and to learn about Refuge Management Practices. There is also the option of touring the 130-year-old koa cabin and the Refuge greenhouse. Other information about conservation in Hawai`i will be available.  Visitors must provide their own four-wheel-drive transportation to the Refuge, which is a two-hour drive from Hilo, Waimea, or Kona.  Reservations are required and may be obtained by calling the Refuge Office in Hilo at 808-443-2300.  A map, directions, and additional information will be emailed/mailed to participants. To obtain information about dates, please check our calendar, events page, and/or home page.  Dates will be posted as soon as they are determined.


Page Photo Credits — © Dan Clark
Last Updated: Apr 16, 2015
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