Visitors to Hawaii can now get rooted in Hawaii’s culture by planting a koa tree seedling on the slopes of Mauna Kea, land that long ago belonged to King Kamehameha the Great. Back when Hawaii’s first king ruled, the koa forests turned the volcano’s flanks green. But a century of clear cutting for sugar cane and pineapple farming, plus cattle ranching in this Big Island region, destroyed most of the trees. Only a few remain.
You can change that by signing-on for the new Hawaiian Legacy Tour, operated by Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods’ (HLH) non-profit arm. On these unique trips, you go off-road through the 1,000 acres that HLH set aside for reforestation, passing young trees and the few remaining old giants whose spreading branches serve as habitat for the akepa and akiapola’au, two of Hawaii’s rare birds.
These majestic old growth trees provided the seeds for the new ones. Once reserved only for royalty, koa trees grow nowhere else on earth. So far, HLH has planted more than 200,000 trees. Most are koa, but other plantings include native Hawaiian trees and shrubs such as mamane, naio, sandalwood and ferns.
You select and plant your seedling and, afterwards, receive a certificate with your tree’s unique RFID number and GPS coordinates. You can then plug those into Google Earth to check on your tree’s growth.
HLH is also a for-profit company that sustainably grows tropical hardwoods for harvest.
Details: 1 .5 hour tour, $110 per adult, $55 per child, free under age five. 3 hour tour includes the tree planting plus more sightseeing along the Umikoa Trail, $180 per adult, $90 per child, free under age five.
Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods, HawaiianLegacyTrees.com