Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park
Round Trip Mileage: 2 miles
Elevation Gain: 180'
The name of this trail refers to the ancient trail from Nāpō'opo'o to Ho'okena that was widened and rebuilt to accomodate horse traffic in 1871. Known as a "Two Horse Trail," these trail improvements allowed two horses to pass one another. In 1918, the government paved the trail north of Hōnaunau, but the southern portion, now known as the 1871 Trail, was never improved for vehicle traffic. The northern portion of the trail is protected inside the Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park, but the majority of the trail is an easement based on laws concerning ancient trails when Hawai'i became a state. This ancient trail has a wealth of archaeological remains including structures, temples, and even an ancient ramp that provides access to the cliffs of Keanae'e.
Also take a look at our page for the main area of Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park.
Trailhead: Drive Hwy. 11 south of Kailua-Kona for about 20 miles and turn makai (toward the sea) between the 103 and 104 mile markers on Hwy 160. Turn left into Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park. The National Historical Park has restrooms and water.
Gear: Standard hiking gear. Bring plenty of water and sun protection.
Hike: From the large parking area in Puʻuhonua o Hōnaunau National Historical Park, walk to the southern end of the lot to the left of the buildings and find a dirt road leading southerly. You can also start this hike by doing the Coastal Trail through the main part of the National Historical Park (or leave the Coastal Trail for the end of the day for a small loop). If you've never visited the main part of this National Historical Park, I highly recommend spending some time there. From the dirt road at the southern end of the parking lot, hike a short distance and find the beginning of the 1871 Trail marked with an information kiosk. Begin hiking the old trail through several ancient sites. Stay on the trail and out of the archaeological sites. After less than a mile, reach the intersection of the 1871 Trail and the Coastal Trail. You can take a short detour down to picturesque Alahaka Bay or just continue on the 1871 Trail. Once you round Alahaka Bay, find the Alahaka Ramp, an impressive feat of engineering that provides access to the Keanae'e Cliffs and the ancient village of Ki'ilae. Mark Twain called Keanae'e Cliffs "a petrified Niagra," and prior to the construction of the ramp, access to Ki'ilae was by ladder or rope only. The earliest mention of the ramp is from 1868, but the ramp likely existed prior to that time. The ramp requires periodic maintenance. It had deteriorated so much in the early 1900s that cowboys called the ramp the "one foot out trail" because they always kept one foot out of the stirrups in case they needed to bail off their horse. Today, the National Park keeps it in pristine condition. You'll also notice a few gated lava tubes along the ramp. You could once visit these tubes, but the Park Service closed them recently because they became unsafe. One even led to a vantage over the ocean. Pass the ramp and continue along the 1871 Trail as it passes even more archaeological remains (stay on the trail). Eventually find a pit toilet north of the trail. About a mile from the trailhead, find a metal gate along the trail marking the boundary of the National Park. Return the way you came.
The 1871 Trail actually continues past the National Park boundary, but it becomes very difficult to follow. It heads through an inland, stagnant forest and eventually winds up at a residential community where public access is difficult to determine. I don't recommend continuing past the National Park boundary.