Koke‘e State Park, the South Shore’s magical upcountry retreat, is renowned for lush vegetation, incredibly scenic vistas, and a rare concentration of native forest birds. The temperatures on this high, verdant plateau are cooler, the air has a bracingly woodsy scent—mixed, in season, with the delicate fragrance of ‘awapuhi ginger, growing wild—and even though the summit is barely an hour’s drive from Poipu, Koke‘e feels like a different world.
There are several ways to enjoy this picturesque wonderland, which is crisscrossed with enticing hiking trails that range from 0.1 mile to 12+ miles in length. You can take a leisurely, low-key approach: visiting the lodge and museum, shopping for gifts, ambling along one of the easier trails, and stopping at lookouts along the way to marvel at the stunning views. Or, you can grab your hiking gear and tackle one of the more serious routes. There’s a trail to fit every timetable or fitness level, and they’re all a delight to explore. Some feature epic birdwatching, while others offer spectacularly photogenic tableaus at every turn: waterfalls that feed swimmable pools; tropical-rainforest jungles; magnificent canyons; masses of tropical flowers in vivid, aromatic bloom.
Hiking mountain trails (or even just wandering around and breathing the invigorating air) is a great way to work up an appetite, and we always look forward to having breakfast or lunch at the atmospheric Koke‘e Lodge, known for its cornbread, Portuguese bean soup, and exotic variations on coffee and hot- chocolate drinks. There’s live music by the fire every Sunday, too. Then, on the way home, conclude your adventure with a delicious dinner at Japanese Grandma’s café—a favorite among savvy locals.
Whatever approach you choose, exploring the amazing realm of Koke‘e State Park is guaranteed to be an unforgettable experience—one you’ll surely want to repeat on every subsequent visit.
What: Koke‘e State Park
Where: 34.7 miles from Poipu
Directions: Exit the Poipu traffic circle onto Ala Kalanikaumaka Road. Turn left onto HI-530/Koloa Road. Turn left onto HI-50 West. Turn right onto State Highway 550/ Waimea Canyon Drive.
What to Take: Walking shoes or hiking boots; sunscreen and a hat; rain gear and/or an umbrella, just in case; a sweater or jacket.
Special Events: Live Hawaiian music, fireside at the Koke‘e Lodge, every Sunday from 12 to 3; Emmalani Festival, honoring Queen Emma, in October; Banana Poka Roundup (Memorial Day weekend); wreath-making workshops in December.