Here’s How to Experience the Wild Side of Hawaii

Think less beaches and bottles, more “whoa, that’s a volcano”

May 3, 2017 9:00 am

This is 5x5x5, a series in which we team up with the seasoned outdoorsmen at Huckberry to give you advice on how a layman can up his wilderness-conquering game. This week: exploring the Hawaiian backcountry.

Before commercial aviation, Hawaii was a mysterious and exotic archipelago smack in the middle of the great blue Pacific.

Today, it’s about as accessible as any place on earth — but that doesn’t mean there’s no mystery left.

The proof? Right here.

We’ve got the only trail hike that leads to the peaks and cliffs where Jurassic Park and Raiders of the Lost Ark were shot. The (potentially) scalding volcanic national park and the wettest recorded place on Earth. And to ensure you come out on the other end with all your limbs and wits: the gear you’ll need to withstand it all.

The Gear

1. Beach Camp Shirt
Kelly Slater’s brand Outerknown just released a new spring apparel collection, and one of our standout favorites is this shirt, which is meticulously woven by master craftspeople in Portugal from soft organic cotton.

2. Wiley Sunglasses
Raen’s sunnies sport a lightweight, masculine silhouette for the modern adventurer.

3. City Slippers by Mohinders
These shoes are hand-woven in a remote Indian village (via secretive methods) from 100% buffalo leather and natural crepe rubber. It’s our go-to casual slip-on.

4. Aeris Jacket by Finisterre
An easily packable and sharp-looking rain jacket. Like all of Finisterre’s signature cold weather clothes, it grew out of a passion for surfing and plenty of pre-dawn starts. Lightweight fill and Japan-sourced micro-ripstop make this one of their most technically advanced jackets. To really sweeten the deal it’s fully reversible and packable as well.

5. Guide Belt
Outside Magazine’s new favorite belt from Arcade Belt Co., and their sturdiest design to-date, constructed from burly tech-web nylon while maintaining the brand’s signature stretch and comfort.

The Know-How

1. Go in the off-season
Head over after Labor Day to avoid the crowds at the beaches, parks and resorts — and for lower rates at said resorts.

2. Pack extra water 
If you plan to take it off-road in the backcountry, pack twice as many water vessels as you usually do backpacking or camping. There are few natural sources of potable water in Hawaii and although there are some water tanks stationed throughout the various trail systems, they are not reliably full when you need them. Travel with at least four liters of water per day per person.

3. Dress for the (erratic) elements
Hawaii has one of the most diverse climates, from arid desert to lush rainforest and everywhere in between. Bring your swimsuit, of course, but also layers — especially a rain jacket, hoodie or sweater. And up the SPF per your usual preference. Hawaii is the southernmost state by a long-shot, so be proactive and slather it on before the sunlight and radiation fry your face.

4. Scout destinations on social media
Checking the local weather forecast is helpful, but we recommend using Instagram hashtags for the different islands and beaches, a tip we picked up from ol’ Kelly Slater himself. You’ll get a better picture (literally) of whether rain or shine is to be expected, and how crowded your destination is.

5. Salty liquids and spicy foods
And speaking of Kelly Slater, the part-time Hawaiian recommends drinking something with some salt to retain water and get your electrolytes. Also, bring some food with a little cayenne pepper in it to help your nose run: you carry a lot of viruses in your nose. Lastly, fly at night to cut down on radiation exposure.

The Destination

1. Kalalau Trail, Kauai
Rated one of our country’s most dangerous hikes, the 11-mile Kalalau trail provides the only land access to Nā Pali Coast State Park. The trail traverses sea cliffs and five lush valleys — which you may recognize from Jurassic Park or Raiders of the Lost Ark — and passes the wettest recorded place on Earth before ending at Kalalau Beach. Camping is only allowed at Hanakoa or Kalalau Beach, and permits are required if you plan on camping or hiking past Hanakoa.

2. Kalalau Lookout, Kauai
Watch a sunset at the Kalalau Lookout at Kōkeʻe State Park, which you’ll find around mile marker 18 on Kokee Road.

3. The Dolphin, Kauai 
For fresh fish, eat a Flyin’ Hawaiian sushi roll at The Dolphin. Or if you’re really taking the authentic Hawaiian experience to heart, make your own poke bowl with fresh-caught tuna.

4. Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, Hawaii
Explore this park by land and sea using this insider’s guide to help with planning and recommendations. Made up of two volcanoes, the super active Kīlauea and the massive Mauna Loa, Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park just might be the best (or most dangerous) place in the world to play “Ground is lava.” The calderas make for an otherworldly wilderness experience.

5. Helicopter Tour, Hawaii
A helicopter tour of the Big Island is a must. For an effortless two-hour trip, Blue Hawaiian lets you add on a landing at the stunning, 1,200-foot Punalu’u Falls. If an all-day excursion is more your style, the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai’s Volcano Adventure includes multiple flights, an active volcano hike and overnight stay in a rainforest cottage.


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