Puu Huluhulu Trail (Saddle Road) is a 1.2 mile lightly trafficked loop trail located near Kamuela, HI that offers the chance to see wildlife and is good for all skill levels. The trail is primarily used for hiking and birding and is accessible year-round.
Not to be confused with the Pu'u Huluhulu hike in Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park, this cinder cone with the same name sits between Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea on Saddle Road. This easy and quick hike is a perfect stop in the middle of Saddle Road and a good way to acclimate to high altitude before going up Mauna Kea or Mauna Loa. Pu'u huluhulu, Hawaiian for "hairy hill" (pu'u=hill and huluhulu=hairy), is a kipuka, a small stand of grassland and forest vegetation that has become isolated by lava flows through time. This pu'u huluhulu, found on Hawaii Route 200, is a native tree sanctuary and a nature trail. Frequently described as simultaneously the most noticeable and the most overlooked landmark along the Saddle Road, Kipuka Puu Huluhulu rises more than 200 feet out of the surrounding lava flows at the summit of the Saddle Road. Kipuka Puu Huluhulu is famous for the number and variety of rare and endangered Hawaiian plants and birds that inhabit it. As such, it is a protected wildlife area and fences keep destructive wild goats and feral pigs from coming in and damaging the delicate ecosystem. Please close all gates behind you as you enter and exit.
We rented a 4x4 Explorer from Harpers and went up Saddle Road from the Kona side. At the crest of Saddle Road, the world opened up into a surreal landscape covered in cinder cones; we knew going from sea level to almost 14000 feet would be quite an elevation change, so we decided to climb the short hike to the top of Puu Huluhulu to acclimate and take in the views. The trail started out from the left of the parking lot along a fairly flat path that then gently sloped up and then took a right turn up the cone. The area was like an oasis, with grasses and trees. The top had great views off into the distance, plus some cool views down the cone to the parking lot - it looked like you could just slide down the cone, but we decided against it as we would damage the environment plus could take a tumble through volcanic glass/rocks. Turns out the short hike was not quite enough acclimation and I recommend you also stop a while, maybe 20-30 minutes at the Visitor's Center. We drove right past it and while we didn't get headaches or get dizzy, but walking was a challenge when we first got out of the truck from less oxygen in the air. The whole trip was awesome and Puu Huluhulu really gave us a taste of what we saw up on Mauna Kea. Great short hike with some surrealistic views. Highly recommend this quick stop.