Hawaii is full of hiking trails, for everyone from beginners and children to the hardiest of hardcore hikers. An Island hike can take you through luxuriant rainforests to crystal-clear waterfalls or breathtaking views. However experienced a hiker you may be, remember that you’re venturing into unfamiliar territory. Here are a number of tips that will make your hike more enjoyable— and safer.
1. Don’t keep valuables in your car. Many hikes require you to park your car in remote locations. Theft in those situations is, unfortunately, not uncommon.
2. Don’t hike alone. It is easy to make a wrong turn and become disoriented when by yourself, especially on more advanced hikes. If you must hike solo, be practical and go only on trails you know you can handle.
3. Be down by nightfall. Since the Islands sit close to the equator, it gets dark very quickly once the sun sets. Be sure to finish your hike before then. An unfamiliar trail in the dark is no fun.
4. Watch where you swim. Many Hawaii streams and waterfall pools harbor an infectious bacteria called leptospirosis, which can be dangerous. When everyone jumps into the pool at the end of the hike, remind yourself you might be better off swimming at the beach.
5. Water. It’s warm in Hawaii. Don’t wait to start drinking until you are thirsty. Drink fluids before and throughout your hike in order to prevent dehydration.
6. Food. Bring snacks like fruit, a protein bar, or trail mix to keep up your energy. Sometimes hikes take longer than planned.
7. Hiking shoes. Once you get off cleared trails, you may need to climb narrow ridges or rocks. This may come as a disappointment, but your Crocs will not make the cut.
8. A windbreaker. In Hawaii, rainstorms and high winds can intrude on blue skies in the blink of an eye. Don’t get stuck on a mountain peak, soaked and freezing without a sweatshirt or light windbreaker.
9. Sunscreen. Hawaiian sun can be extremely harsh, especially on skin that hasn’t seen UV rays since last summer. If you don’t lather up with sunscreen, you may look like a lobster for the rest of your trip. A gradual tan is a much more pleasant path to take.
A version of this article was originally published in the Sept/Oct 2010 print issue of HAWAII Magazine.