Located on Hawaii’s Big Island, the Kona Cloud Forest Sanctuary consists of 70 acres of the most accessible cloud forest in Hawaii. From rare and ancient plants to endangered wildlife, a visit to the Kona Cloud Forest Sanctuary will give you a unique insight into what a cloud forest actually is, as well as a new sense of respect and appreciation for tropical ecosystems as a whole.
Tropical Rainforest vs Tropical Cloud Forest
A large portion of Hawaii is covered with tropical rainforests, but tropical cloud forests are slightly different. While tropical rainforests receive the majority of their precipitation from the rain, cloud forests receive around 40% of their moisture from the condensation on leaves and trees, which comes from the mist and clouds in the area. The environmental conditions in a tropical cloud forest are vastly different from that of a tropical rainforest, with the constant supply of above-ground water making for an excellent habitat for epiphytes, which are plants that grow onto other plants.
Rare and Ancient Plants
The Koa tree is legendary in ancient Hawaiian traditions, and the Kona Cloud Forest Sanctuary is teeming with them, as well as with Ohia, a flowering evergreen tree that is native to Hawaii. Visitors will also be able to view over 100 different varieties of bamboo, which are continuously studied by local experts in order to identify how viable they are for different uses. The sanctuary is also home to a number of stunning demonstration gardens, featuring non-indigenous plants that have been thoughtfully chosen, brought in and carefully added to the ecosystem, providing their own unique blend of fragrance and color.
Several exotic and endangered birds call the Kona Cloud Forest Sanctuary their home, including the Honey Creepers and the Hawaiian Hawk. Darting through the rolling carpet of forest fog, there are a few species of birds here that cannot be found elsewhere in Hawaii, making it a must-visit destination for any bird watchers.
Cloud Forest Tours
The Kona Cloud Forest Sanctuary has teamed up with KapohoKine Tours to offer their visitors guided tours of the forest. This is a great way to learn some fascinating facts about the forest’s native flora and fauna from a knowledgeable local, who will be able to tell you about the history behind the 30-foot ferns that you will be walking under, or about the wild flock of cockatoos that flirt around your head. These guided tours will usually combine a visit to the Kona Cloud Forest Sanctuary with one to the nearby Mountain Thunder, the highest coffee farm in all of Hawaii, producing authentic Kona coffee.
Cloud forests are even more endangered than other forests out there, making it even more important to conserve the cloud forests that are still remaining on the planet. When visiting the cloud forest, keep in mind that the weather conditions here often differ from other parts of Hawaii, being significantly cooler and wetter, meaning that you will need to dress appropriately in order to fully explore the forest comfortably.