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Puako Petroglyphs – A Walk Through Time

by | Oct 19, 2022 | Activities

A hiking trail

If you plan to visit the Big Island of Hawai’i or if you are a kamaʻāina (a Hawai’i resident) looking for a relatively easy, historical and amazing hike, this is the one to choose. This hike is one of my favorites.

Hiking isn’t my first choice when I have a free moment in Hawai’i. Truth be told, I don’t enjoy exploring hikes for the first time, but something about this one encouraged me to get past my fears and explore further.

Hawaiian petroglyphs

Hawaiian Culture

Living on the Big Island, I’m intrigued by anything Hawaiian. The music, dance, tradition, history and of course its people. The more I understand about where I live, the more I love living in Hawai’i. Petroglyphs are a piece of that history and these petroglyphs are essentially a historical recording of life events of the people who lived here. This is one of the most extensive petroglyph fields in the State of Hawai’i and is definitely a must see.

Holoholokai Beach Park & Puako Petroglyph Park


The Puako Petroglyphs are located in the Mauna Lani Resort. You enter the resort and come to a traffic circle. Stay to the right and follow the road until you reach the sign for Holoholokai Beach Park and Puako Petroglyph Park. It’s right next to the Fairmont Orchid. There’s plenty of parking and the trailhead is on your right.

Puako Petroglyphs Archaeological District

The Trail

Before you get started, be sure to bring plenty of water, as you would for any hike here on the Island and wear sunscreen, since there are a few areas that will be in direct sunlight. The hike is relatively easy, but you will be walking on uneven lava rocks and Kiawe tree roots. The Kiawe trees line the trail and have thorns that can puncture the best of shoes, so it is highly recommended to wear closed-toed shoes The trail is clearly marked, but is a bit uneven for some folks. The entire walk is about 1.2 miles by my estimation.

Puako Petroglyphs walking trail

While you’re looking down for trip hazards and thorns below, you will also need to look and watch out for overhanging branches above. I’m short in stature, but while walking with my taller family members, they did manage to hit a few tree limbs. It’s like walking in a Harry Potter movie with a canopy of mangled trees everywhere.

The trail crosses a dirt access road and continues to the main petroglyph field. You’ll know when you get there. Once you arrive at your destination, you will find a fenced area for your viewing and picture taking. There is also an outer path, which you can follow as well. Please remain on the trails at all times and do not walk directly on the field. The State also requests that you do not touch the petroglyphs or try to take rubbings.

Sign - protect the petroglyphs

Best Viewing

For viewing, the best time is when the sun is at the lowest angle in the sky. If you go in the morning hours or at dusk the carvings are easier to see because of the shading. Having the sun directly overhead, the images aren’t as easy to see.

Petroglyph trail

Rock Carvings

There are more than 3,000 ancient Hawaiian rock carvings in the reserve. Since I’m also trying to learn more Hawaiian words, I’ll share that they are called Kiʻi pōhaku which means images of stone. Carbon testing has dated these carvings to 840 – 1200 AD. Can you imagine making carvings about your life in 840 AD and living in the most remote place on earth? I sure can’t.

Puako Petroglyphs trail

Two Types of Lava

There are two types of lava in Hawaii: Pāhoehoe and ʻAʻā. . These carvings were done on Pāhoehoe, rather than ʻAʻā,, because of the smooth texture and ease to carve. What’s so amazing is there’s an entire field and some scattered throughout your hike. So keep your eyes peeled! There are 223 acres in this archaeological park, however the field itself is not that large.

Hawaiian petroglyph

What I like about this hike is, if you or your guests aren’t comfortable walking on uneven ground or exploring unknown places, there’s a super short hike on paved cement that shows some petroglyphs and some imitation ones that can introduce you to the petroglyphs. However, if you can endure the fear like I did, duck with overhanging branches and get past the kiawe thorns sticking in your shoes, the reward is so worth it.

Puako trail

I hope you enjoyed reading about one of my favorite historical hikes. If you would like additional information about Puako or the surrounding area, just reach out to me. I’d love to talk to you about my home on the Big Island of Hawai’i.

Phyllis Klicker, RS-77134


Phyllis Klicker, RS-77134
Realtor Salesperson
EMAIL: [email protected]
DIRECT: (808) 217-6816