The high and hidden Kamakou Preserve encompasses nearly 3,000 acres on Molokai’s highest mountain, Kamakou. Perched near the summit, the Kamakou Preserve is a habitat for some of Hawaii’s most endangered species. Kamakou Preserve can be visited on monthly hikes led by the Nature Conservancy. Check out their event schedule or give their Molokai office a call at 808-553-5236.
The Kamakou rain forest area is an important water source for the island of Molokai as well as crucial native habitat for many rare native species including the beautiful green amakihi bird as well as the apapane birds that feed on red ohia lehua blossoms. Another native plant in the rainforest is the hapuu, a Hawaiian tree fern. The last known sightings of the Molokai creeper bird (kakawahie) and Molokai thrush (olomao) were in the rainforest of Kamakou where you may also see a Hawaiian owl, or pueo, soaring high overhead searching for a meal.
The acidic soils of the Pepeopae Bog support a rare population of stunted plants that grow all shades of green as they thrive in the cool and humid climate. At the end of the trail is the Pelekunu Valley Overlook that provides a stunning view of the cliffs above the Pelekunu River and the blue ocean beyond.
The drive to Waikolu should only be attempted in dry weather, and only by those who are experienced at navigating difficult four-wheel-drive roads. A guided tour may drive you from Waikolu Lookout to the trailhead, but if you are on your own you will need to walk from here. It is about 2-1/4 miles to the Pepeopae Trailhead that enters the Preserve. The boardwalk trail is quite narrow and covered with chicken wire to ensure good traction. Meandering for more than a mile through the Preserve, the trail allows you a close-up view of one Hawaii’s wettest areas, often receiving more than 170 inches of rain per year.
The Kamakou rainforest is like no other forest on the planet, and also serves as an important source of water for Molokai.
From Kaunakakai take Highway 460 west to the Homelani Cemetery sign just before Mile Marker 4. Turn right and then follow the dirt road that begins after the cemetery. After about ten miles (4-wheel-drive required) you will reach the spectacular Waikolu Lookout at the 3,700 foot elevation with expansive views of the surrounding valleys including the lush valley of Kamakou.