This is a relatively short hike, and it will offer you grand views of the Kona coast. Well, even just the drive to the Kua Bay parking lot will offer you great coastal views, but a hike up to the top of the Puu Kuili hill means you get even more grand views from above!
It is a somewhat steep hill so it may not be considered completely easy, but it’s not too long. (Still, do make sure to bring along water with you! See more hiking essentials for Hawaii.)
I think the easiest or most convenient way to do this hike is from Kua Bay.
So, this will take you through a bit of what it might be like for you if you do it this way!
First, the quick list of what you can expect from the Puu Kuili hike.
Then, a few more pictures from this hike!
1. Drive to Kua Bay parking lot
2. Walk towards the Puu Kuili trailhead
3. Find the trail
4. Hike up the trail!
5. See amazing views of the Kona coast!!
Here's some info on Hawaii trip prep!
- Best shoes for hiking in Hawaii
- The perfect type of shirt for swimming in Hawaii
- Do you need water shoes for Hawaii?
- THE top things to pack for Hawaii
Save the Big Island video playlist to watch on youtube later!
The best of the Big Island:
- Big Island hikes with amazing views
- Where to see lava fields on the Big Island
- The big list of (mostly free) things to do on the Big Island
A bit more about the Puu Kuili hike!
Getting to Puu Kuili
So the Puu Kuili hike is within the Kekaha Kai state park.
There are 2 main entrances to the state park, and the Kua Bay entrance will be the Maniniowali entrance of the state park.
Coming from Kona town, you’ll be driving from south to north, and you’ll first past the Mahaiula entrance, and then you’ll keep driving to get to the Maniniowali entrance.
You’ll also get your first glimpse of the Puu Kuili cinder cones as you drive to Kua Bay!
Then once you turn off the highway and into the state park road, you’ll get a head on view of Puu Kuili.
You’ll basically take this road down to the end where you’ll find the Kua Bay parking lot. It’ll be a scenic coastal drive to get there!
The Kua Bay parking lot may be full, and if it is, the “overflow parking” is basically the side of the road.
If this is your first visit to Kua Bay, you might want to check out Kua Bay before you head off for the hike. Or, you can get in some beach time and swimming time as part of your post-hike recovery! There are bathrooms at Kua Bay too.
When you’re ready to get started on the hike, you’ll start walking on the same road you drove down, in the direction of Puu Kuili that you passed. (If you don’t want to walk as much, you could probably park closer to the Puu Kuili trailhead.)
Looking at this picture later, it looks like there’s a wide shoulder area right near the hill. So if you want to cut out some walking time, maybe you can park here instead of the Kua Bay parking lot? And do this hike on the way to Kua Bay? When you’re driving TO Kua Bay, this spot pictured above is past the hill.
Find the start of the Puu Kuili trail
So the trail can be a little difficult to find. There was no sign or marking at the time I went in 2019.
I very much recommend downloading the free app called mapsme. Once you have this app, you’ll then download the specific Hawaii map which will become accessible offline.
The Puu Kuili trail is on mapme so having the app will make finding the trail MUCH easier! In fact, using the GPS locator on your phone, you will likely have no problem!
But in case you aren’t using it, once you are in front of the cinder cone (the Puu Kuili hill), you are looking for a very obvious looking trail on the side of the road.
I didn’t use the app, and I actually started climbing up the hill on the wrong part thinking “this kind of looks like a trail,” going through dry brush which then eventually got me on the actual trail.
I followed the trail back down to see that the start is a very obvious looking trail. I also later saw that mapsme had the location of the start of the trail.
And then once you find the trail…
Climb up the trail and enjoy the views!!
Don’t forget to look behind you as you’re climbing up!
And that’s a bit of what you’ll see on the Puu Kuili hike at Kekaha Kai State Park!
So then what next?!
You can head back down the way you came and head to Kua Bay.
Or you can head down the other side in the direction of the secluded Makalawena Beach. Although it’s a kind of long walk!
Explore Kekaha Kai State Park:
- Kua Bay
- Makalawena Beach: hike there or off-road drive there
- Mahaiula Beach
- Things to do in Kekaha Kai State Park
HAPPY HIKING PUU KUILI!
Top things to pack for your Hawaii vacation!
The ultimate beach towel for travel?!Turkish towels are considered to be more absorbent and lightweight than your average beach towel. Be sure to check out turkish towels like these!
The cheapo way to waterproof your phoneYou can take underwater pictures with a simple waterproof phone case like this. Touch screen may not work well underwater - try the volume button to snap the pic instead!
Get your suitcase more organized!Packing cubes can make it so you're spending less time on your vacation looking for things! They are basically a form of drawers in your suitcase. Take a look at these packing cubes.
Wear less sunscreen by wearing a UPF swim shirt!Wearing a swim shirt means less skin that's exposed to the sun which means less sunscreen you need to apply! See about wearing swim shirts with UV protection like these when you're snorkeling.
Be sure to take a look at the reviews of this amazing tour on the Big Island:
- Kona's most popular tour: Swimming in the ocean at night with manta rays (likely to sell out)