Malama Trail to Puako Petroglyph Archaeological District

During our first night on the Big Island, while dining at Hawaii Calls at the Waikoloa Beach Marriot & Spa, I got a text from my hiking buddy Baron Yamamoto. It turns out that Baron not only enjoys waterfall hunting and ridge hiking, but he also loves searching for ancient Hawaiian petroglyphs. He told me that, since I was in Kona, I should check out some of the petroglyph fields in the area. I did my research and found that I was about a 15 minute drive away from one of the largest collections of petroglyphs in Hawaii. We decided to check out the petroglyphs the day after summiting Mauna Kea. I was stoked.

From the Waikoloa Marriot, we turned left onto Queen Kaahumanu Highway toward the Mauna Lani Resort Hotel and Bungalows. From Queen Kaahumanu Highway, we turned left into the Mauna Lani Resort. From there, we kept our eyes open for signage that would point us to the Puako Petroglyphs. Sure enough, there were a bunch of signs that brought us to a parking lot fronting Holoholokai Beach Park. We quickly located the trailhead near the back of the parking lot.

Start of the Malama-Puako Trail. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Start of the Malama-Puako Trail. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Paved start. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Paved start. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Some replica petroglyphs at the start of the trail. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Some replica petroglyphs at the start of the trail. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Text taken from one of the informational signs: “Ancient Hawaiians travelled across harsh lava flows to reach this spot. Back then there were few trees to shade them, drinking water was scarce and they had no sturdy shoes to protect their feet. What brought them here, this this particular spot? What made them work so hard with primitive tools, to the carve symbols you see? And why are most of the petroglyphs oriented toward the mountain? Most of the petroglyphs here are human representations. A few of them are animal forms. What do they mean? No one knows for sure. But, the care and energy used in their creation indicates this was a very special place. What secrets do you think the petroglyphs hold?”

A few more replica petroglyphs. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

A few more replica petroglyphs. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

The trees will eat you. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

The trees will eat you. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

The cave along the Malama-Puako Trail. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

The cave along the Malama-Puako Trail. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

The trail itself was very, very dry. You’ll quickly go from a well manicured gravel trail to a more rugged trail entangled with kiawe trees. At the start of the trail, you’ll find a collection of replica petroglyphs. You are free to touch and make rubbings from these replicas. They do make for a nice souvenir. The trail to the Puako Petroglyphs should take anywhere between 25 to 40 minutes. As you hike to the petroglyphs field, keep your eye out for a little cave to your right. You can crawl inside if you wish. Also, take note of some of the petroglyphs that surround the cave. You should not make rubbings of the petroglyphs that you find on the trail or at the petroglyph field.

Shortly after passing the cave, you will come to an intersection. Go straight to continue to the petroglyph field. Once there, you’ll be amazed by the sheer number of petroglyphs. It’s pretty amazing. This was my first petroglyph hike and I would have to think that this would be difficult to beat. I’d definitely have to come back to the Big Island and maybe visit Puu Loa field at Kilauaea Volcano to see a more extensive set of Hawaiian petroglyphs.

The Puako Petroglyph Field is just a few short feet from this sign. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

The Puako Petroglyph Field is just a few short feet from this sign. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Heya. Photo by Michelle Sagucio.

Heya. Photo by Michelle Sagucio.

Michelle checking out the petroglyphs. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Michelle checking out the petroglyphs. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

The massive petroglyph field. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

The massive petroglyph field. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

The open field. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

The open field. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Excited! Photo by Michelle Sagucio.

Excited! Photo by Michelle Sagucio.

An insane amount of petroglyphs. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

An insane amount of petroglyphs. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Some of the petroglyphs were very large. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Some of the petroglyphs were very large. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Note: Signage indicates that you should not walk on the petroglyphs or make any rubbings. There is a barrier to keep people off of the Puako petroglyph field.

Explorers: Coty Gonzales and Michelle Sagucio.

Total Time: 1 hour roundtrip.

Total Distance: 1.4 miles roundtrip.

Malama Trail and Puako Petroglyphs Tips:

  • Bring some paper and pencils to make rubbings on the replica petroglyphs at the start of the Malama Trail ONLY.
  • DO NOT make rubbings of the real petroglyphs at the Puako field.
  • Come prepared with enough water for this hike because it is a scorcher under the hot Kona sun.
  • Because of the aforementioned sun, remember to bring sunscreen!
  • This is a state and national historic site, so please treat it with respect.

Directions to Malama Trail and Puako Petroglyphs: The Puako Petroglyphs are located in the Mauna Lani Resort located about 30 miles north of Keahole (Kona) airport. Once you turn into the resort, follow the signs indicating the location of the Puako Petroglyphs. The signage will bring you to Holoholkai Beach park. Park in the parking lot. The trailhead to Malama Trail is found next to the parking lot.

About Coty

Founder of Exploration: Hawaii. Adventure, Minimalism, Vinyl, Typography, and Coffee + Matcha. A single space after a period, please.

2 comments

  1. Great find Coty!!! This place rivals the petroglyph field at the end of Chain of Craters road at Pu’u Loa. One day I hope to visit the other great petroglyph places like Olowalu Valley in West Maui and the Luahiwa petroglyphs on Lanai!

    • Thanks Baron! We also got to check out the petroglyph field at Waikoloa. Not as impressive as Puako, but still pretty cool. The Waikoloa petroglyphs are actually located along King’s Trail, which is a 15+ mile trail along the Waikoloa coast, that passes through some ancient ponds and heiaus. Problem with the Waikoloa petroglyphs was that there was definitely some graffiti petroglyphs. Next time I visit, I’ll definitely be checking out Puu Loa!

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