Puu Huluhulu Trail, Mauna Ulu, and How To Prevent Pele’s Curse

With the Kilauea Iki and Devastation trails “in the bag,” so to speak, I was eager to explore Hawaii Volcanoes National Park even more. Puu Huluhulu was the next trail on my list. Translated, Puu Huluhulu means “hairy hill.” To the south of Puu Huluhulu is Mauna Ulu, which is a large shield volcano that erupted from May 24, 1969 to July 24, 1974. Legend suggests that this major eruption was a show of force from Pele’s brother, Keoʻahikamakaua, the spirit of molten fountains. We would hike through the remnants of the Mauna Ulu eruption to the top of Puu Huluhulu.

Before heading heading to Puu Huluhulu, we took a short side trip to the 1969 eruption fissure. Photo by Michelle Sagucio.

Before heading heading to Puu Huluhulu, we took a short side trip to the 1969 eruption fissure. Photo by Michelle Sagucio.

Caution. Photo by Michelle Sagucio.

Caution. Photo by Michelle Sagucio.

Wandering. Photo by Michelle Sagucio.

Wandering. Photo by Michelle Sagucio.

Jagged rock and neat colors. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Jagged rock and neat colors. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

1969 fissure. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

1969 fissure. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

On to Puu Huluhulu. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

On to Puu Huluhulu. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

A very pronounced stack of rocks. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

A very pronounced stack of rocks. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Ohia, here and there. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Ohia, here and there. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Access to the Puu Huluhulu trailhead is located at the very end of the Mauna Ulu parking lot. As with the other trails in the park, keep an eye out for the various trail signs. This trailhead also serves as junctions for other trails, like the Napau Trail. Once on the trail, keep an eye out for the ahu (stacked rocks) and numbered ground markers. These landmarks will serve as your trail markers. I should note that there is another trail identically named Puu Huluhulu. The other Huluhulu trail maintained by Na Ala Hele [1] and is not the one described here. The park also offers a trail guidebook for Puu Hululu (titled Mauna Ulu). It’s $2 and I’d suggest picking one up .We enjoyed stopping at each of the numbered markers and then referring back to the guidebook for details.

The rain began to fall only a few minutes into our hike. It’s a good thing that we came prepared with rain jackets. The couple that creeped up behind us weren’t as prepared. While were putting on our jackets, they quickly shuffled passed us. The wife quipped to her husband, “see honey, they came prepared.” I’m glad that we came prepared because the rain would be on and off throughout this short hike.

Keep an eye our for these information signs. This one speak of native vegetation. Photo by Michelle Sagucio.

Keep an eye our for these information signs. This one speak of native vegetation. Photo by Michelle Sagucio.

Uneven. Photo by Michelle Sagucio.

Uneven. Photo by Michelle Sagucio.

It's easy to get lost, so follow the stacked rocks or ahu whenever you see them! Photo by Coty Gonzales.

It’s easy to get lost, so follow the stacked rocks or ahu whenever you see them! Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Coty, Stuck. Photo by Michelle Sagucio.

Coty, Stuck. Photo by Michelle Sagucio.

Definitely our favorite lava tree. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Definitely our favorite lava tree. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Tree mold. Photo by Michelle Sagucio.

Tree mold. Photo by Michelle Sagucio.

Where to go next? Photo by Michelle Sagucio.

Where to go next? Photo by Michelle Sagucio.

Mini lava rock arch. Photo by Michelle Sagucio.

Mini lava rock arch. Photo by Michelle Sagucio.

Once you see this sign, you know you'll be very close to the lookout at the end. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Once you see this sign, you know you’ll be very close to the lookout at the end. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

We see a lot of this on Oahu. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

We see a lot of this on Oahu. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

From barren volcanic rock to forest. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

From barren volcanic rock to forest. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Rails will help you to get to the top of the puu. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Rails will help you to get to the top of the puu. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Between markers 2 and 3 is the location of a part of the fissure eruption that began on the morning of May 24, 1969. Along the trail, you can see Mauna Ulu in the distance. Imagine what it was like 1969, when the fountains of spewing lava reached peaks of up to 1,770 feet high. That’s taller than the Empire State building. As you walk past markers 4-12, observe the A’a lava field. You’ll also notice interesting tall structures, lava trees, and remnants of airborne lava fragments. These fragments include cinders, Pele’s tears, reticulite, and Pele’s hair. Resist taking any of these items home as souvenirs, unless Pele’s Curse is something you’d like to go home with. Snopes even indicates the curse as being true. If you need more convincing, then read this Los Angeles Times article about Timothy Murray, or this Honolulu Advertiser article about Lori Stearman. So how do you prevent yourself from being cursed by Pele for all of eternity? Don’t take anything volcanic related home with you as souvenirs [2].

As we reached the terminus of Puu Huluhulu, we were rejoined by the couple that had passed us earlier trying to beat the falling rain. The rain did indeed stop for a bit, allowing for a great view of Puu O’o, Kāne nui o Hamo lava shield, Makaopuhi crater, and Alae lava shield. Our time at the Puu Huluhulu lookout was cut short, because the rain started to fall furiously once again. We put our bright blue rain jackets back on and made our way out of the forest and back on to the crater floor path. I usually despise rain during hikes, however, I didn’t mind it so much this time around. In many ways, it enhanced the experienced for me and, well, it gave Michelle a reason to try out her new rain jacket.

Michelle at the top of Puu Huluhulu. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Michelle at the top of Puu Huluhulu. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

View from the Puu Huluhulu lookout. From here, one would be able to see Puu Oo, Kanenuiohamo lava shield, Makaopuhi Crater, and Alae lava shield. Wet lens. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

View from the Puu Huluhulu lookout. From here, one would be able to see Puu Oo, Kanenuiohamo lava shield, Makaopuhi Crater, and Alae lava shield. Wet lens. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

View of the Mauna Ulu lava shield. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

View of the Mauna Ulu lava shield. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Interesting marker at the top of Puu Huluhulu. Photo by Michelle Sagucio.

Interesting marker at the top of Puu Huluhulu. Photo by Michelle Sagucio.

Make sure that you pack a rain jacket! Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Make sure that you pack a rain jacket! Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Group pic. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Group pic. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Puu Huluhulu Trail Tips:

  • Do not collect or disturb natural, cultural, or historical features of the trail.
  • Take only photographs and inspiration, leave only footprints and goodwill.

Directions to the Puu Huluhulu Trailhead: After entering the main entrance to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, turn left and continue on to Chain of Craters Road. Keep an eye out for the Mauna Ulu parking lot as indicated by a sign on Chain of Craters Road. The trailhead for Puu Huluhulu is located at the very end of the parking lot.


1. This is not the Na Ala Hele maintained Puu Huluhulu trail. That trail is located at junction of Saddle Road (Hwy 200) and Mauna Loa Observatory access road.

2. Sand counts too.

About Coty

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