The Big Island, with its rugged 4,000+ square miles, is not to be taken lightly. While the western side of the Big Island offers world-class luxury and comforts, the rural region of Hamakua to the northeast requires a bit more planning than a pair of flip flops and a beach towel. Mountainous, covered in dense rainforests, and offering some of the most stunning oceanside cliffs in the world, Hamakua is a destination for campers and outdoorsy types who would rather spend their trip hiking the trails than sunbathing on the beach.
For those intending to make a go of Hamakua, here’s what you should bring along:
If you’re spending more than an afternoon in the outdoors, a reliable, comfortable backpack is an absolute necessity. Do your research, go to a store, and try one on. Regardless of your budget, an investment in a good quality backpack is invaluable.
With its rugged terrain and uneven trails, throwing in a pair of hiking boots for your outdoor journeys in Hamakua is an excellent move for the prepared hiker/camper. While flip flops may get you through a stay at the resorts, the eastern side is less forgiving to one’s feet.
If there’s one thing the Big Island isn’t lacking for, it’s bugs. The severity and quantity differs depending on where you go and the time of year, but Hamakua and its thick tropical rainforests can eat a hiker alive. Throw some bug spray in the bag and tomorrow morning you will be thankful for preventing an intense case of itching.
The eastern side of the Big Island gets anywhere between 80-230 inches of rain per year, so packing a solid rain coat with you could be the difference between an enjoyable hike and a cold, miserable experience.
The Big Island is surprisingly geographically diverse. It’s not uncommon to climb over 2,000 feet in less than half a mile – in fact, the Waipio Valley in Hamakua is exactly that. Even if you’re fit as a fiddle, keeping a spare set of hiking poles around for when you or your party gets tired is a smart move.
A no-brainer for the outdoorsman, keeping your bottle filled with H2O is essential for a trip of any duration. Make sure yours is big, reliable, and easy to refill.
First Aid Kit
No matter where you go, keeping a solid, reliable first aid kit in your bag at all times could be a life-saving preventative measure. No one expects to go on vacation and suffer an injury, but these things do (unfortunately) happen.
You’ll never know when hunger might strike, especially with a long hiking trip. Keep a quick, easy snack on hand for every turn of the trail and your stomach will thank you.
Multitool or Swiss Army Knife
Better safe than sorry is the rule of thumb for an outdoor trip no matter where you go. If it’s your first time staying under the stars and want to make Hamakua your testing ground, you’ll be stunned at how often you use a Leatherman or Swiss Army Knife. If you’re a veteran, you’re already rolling your eyes at this one. Just pack it.
The UV index in Hawaii is famously harsh – as much as ¼ higher than Los Angeles. For those long hikes and lazy walks through tiny island towns, you’ll need a decent hat to protect your face and neck from the sun.
Nothing fancy, here – just a decent, reliable flashlight is necessary to keep you safe and well-lit in case of emergency, caving, or for those late-night hikes back to camp.