Rainforest of tree ferns: prehistoric scenery on a forbidden trail

The last (for now!) blogpost of our Hawaiian adventures is about a pretty but also somewhat uncanny rainforest on Puna side of the Big Island that we explored using Ka-hau-a-Le’a trail, which is no longer recommended for visits by authorities and is officially closed. However, it is definitely among the most interesting hikes that I’ve done in my life thanks to a combination of several factors. The guidebook ‘Hawaii, the Big Island Revealed‘ was our inspiration again.

The day was rainy but very warm, appropriately for a tropical rainforest and that part of the island of Hawaii particularly, so the most appropriate attire was just our bare skin – you know it’s my favorite one anyways!

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So, I kept my clothes (i.e., only shorts on that day) dry in the backpack for later 🙂

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Given that the trail is formally closed and conditions were muddy, we didn’t expect to see many hikers (and we didn’t see any at all). Another indication for the lack of other visitors came from the fact that there were quite a few spider webs on the trails.

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Among more pleasant sightings were bamboo orchids. These are quite tall (taller than human) free-standing plants, which is unusual for orchids.

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But their flowers were very pretty, typically for orchids, and raindrops only added more charm to them.

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There were a lot of differnet plants,

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plants literally growing on top of each other,

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as you might expect from a rainforest, albeit not a very tall one.

However, one plant growing in abundance there was much taller than its kind that I’m used to.

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I’m talking about tree ferns, which made this forest look prehistoric. There was no sign of dinosaurs, however, only naked cavemen perhaps 😉

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Walking under ferns was unusual and their inwrought leaves looked pretty from below.

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Too bad they didn’t protect from the rain as good as these ones.

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One shouldn’t look up all the time in that forest thought, as the trail is strenuous and is full of roots sticking off the ground.

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Well, some roots were so hight above the ground that you’d just walk under them!

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This variety of plant forms inspired Tod to make a photo of me being one with the tree!

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We didn’t see any animals besides a couple of bugs and spiders, but we did see a lot of footprints of humans and dogs; in combination with the soft drizzle and exceptional quietness, all this gave the forest somewhat mysterious aura. We were happy to see that the trail was frequently tagged by orange straps.

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After two and half hours or so, Tod decided to go back to the car, but I wanted to continue till the edge of the forest. Yes, the forest was supposed to end in an hour and give a view of a lava field and an active and fuming Puʻu ʻŌʻō vent. Pretty soon after we parted, I got to this narrow but deep (a few meters) crack crossing the trail – a sure sign of recent geological activity in the area!

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And much sooner than I expected from the guidebook’s description, the forest ended indeed, with another, much more impressive sign of geological activity – a lava field!

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Actually, the forest edge didn’t only appear earlier than in the guidebook, which was published in 2005, but also earlier than in both Google and Apple maps! So the must have come from a relatively fresh eruption. In fact, it was somewhat steaming, but I couldn’t tell whether it was because the lava was still warm after eruption or just got warm in the sun earlier in the day, which would be enough to make the cooler drizzle turn into fog by the surface. But of course I didn’t want to test just how fresh the lava was! I could also see numerous fallen trees with their bases burnt. Due to the foggy conditions, I couldn’t see the vent itself, but the view of the relatively fresh lava field and the devastation it cause was impressive enough!

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Someone must have made this pretty menacing “monument” with a pig skull…

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Well, the message was clear – I shouldn’t go any further. So, I turned back after a short lunch break. The dramatic ambience of the place must have influenced my thinking, and on the way back I got quite worried about the numerous (and pretty big!) dog footprints and even had some unpleasant flash visions of finding Tod attacked by dogs and then getting chased myself. But the forest was the same quiet.

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It took me one hour from the edge of the forest to branching that lead to emergency helipad and 3 hours total to the car. I was happy to see that Tod made it back in one piece! However, my worry wasn’t entirely ungrounded – he did see 5 greyhounds on the trail, but apparently they were even more scared from the encounter and ran away quickly… Also, just a couple of minutes before my arrival, Tod had a convo with a local ranger, who came to the trailhead and amongst other things complained about “that blue book” that gave tourists all the wrong ideas 😉

Natural steam rooms: traditional naturist pastime reinvented

Saunas provide an easy opportunity to have a naturist experience to laypeople and are among favorite pastimes for hardcore naturists as well, but there is a hidden and unique (please let me know, if it isn’t!) place on the Hawaii island that brings it to the next level: a combination of geothermal steam vents, small caves and lush greenery creates the most natural and idyllic steam room imaginable!

Again, I found out about this natural wonder thanks to the guidebook ‘Hawaii, the Big Island Revealed‘ – and it would be hard to know about it otherwise, as it is on private land whose owner by no means seems to want to advertise it. Luckily, he doesn’t seem to mind the visitors much either, and the place is accessible for those in the know 😉 The guidebook also noted that locals enjoy the natural steam in their altogethers, as nature intended. 

So, these natural “steam rooms” are located in the otherwise not very notable forest north of intersection of Kamaili Rd and Pahoa Kalapena Rd.

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You’ll have to guess where the trails are, as they are not very distinguishable in the beginning but get better by the steam rooms.  Some of those are hard to notice behind the plants,

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but you’ll sense the heat and see the steam. Now, how is this for a steam room?

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An individual cabin adorned with ferns and orchids!

If you’re with a bigger group AND have a ladder, you may go for this steaming hole in the ground!



Next to it, there was a small cave with a ladder installed already. Then, I noticed steam coming above a meadow below.

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I went down there and took a chance for using the space for my personal hot nude yoga session (based on Bikram yoga sequences I used to do 2 years ago). This was a unique opportunity to do hot yoga in an open-air space, and it felt amazing.

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As darkness fell, I was staring at the first stars, and, getting warmed up by the heat from the depth of our planet, I couldn’t help thinking of being one with our vast universe, and my nakedness only facilitated the feeling. The lush vegetation around and the chorus of crickets and coquí frogs also reminded me that we were lucky to be in the part of the universe suitable for life; and I personally felt very lucky to be in that particular part of the universe that made me feel life was amazing!