- Visit 3 Hawaiian islands - Oahu, Kaua'i and The Big Island of Hawai’i
- Many marvelous endemic songbirds in unique forested environments
- Picturesque and spectacular scenery, from smoking volcanic craters to huge waterfalls and scenic coastlines
- Spectacular views of seabirds from coastal viewpoints
- Visit National Wildlife Refuges, Waimea Canyon, the Alaka’i Swamp, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and the incredible Kilauea Crater
The Hawaiian Islands are quite simply enchanting! Spectacular scenery, mild climate and unique cultures are the backdrop for our Hawaii birding tour of the three islands Hawai’i, Kaua’i and O’ahu.
Known as the endangered species capital of the world, we search for the special endemics of each island, especially the bizarre honeycreepers with intriguing names like ‘I’iwi, ‘Amakihi, ‘Apapane and the amazing ‘Akiapola’au.
Laysan Albatross, Red-footed Booby and both White-tailed and Red-tailed Tropicbirds are marvellously close. Humpback Whales and Spinner Dolphins are just offshore in the incredible blue waters, Green Sea Turtles are along beaches, and the Kilauea Crater is just simply a must-see!
A superb tour to a special place!
Day 1 - Arrival Oahu
Our Hawaii birding tour begins on Oahu, where we settle into Hawaiian life. Night in Waikiki.
Day 2 - Oahu
O’ahu is the hub of Hawaii, where most Hawaiians live and most tourists come to stay. Nevertheless, there are some excellent birding localities, and we visit some for specialties such as O’ahu ‘Amakihi and the endangered Oahu ‘Elepaio. We visit Kapi’olani Park where White Terns nest and introduced exotics such as Rose-ringed Parakeet, Common Waxbill, Yellow-fronted Canary and Red-whiskered and Red-vented Bulbuls forage. We drive along scenic coastlines, stopping to look for seabirds such as Brown Noddy and Masked Booby, to the James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge, where there should be a large and diverse gathering of waterfowl and shorebirds, including the range-restricted Bristle-thighed Curlew. Night in Waikiki.
Days 3 to 6 - Kaua'i
We take the mid-day flight to our next island, Kaua’i, where we spend the next four nights. Kaua’i is called the “garden island” because of its lush green vegetation, a product of its high annual rainfall. On average 460 inches of rain per year falls in the Alaka’i Swamp region of Kaua’i, making it one of the wettest places on earth. Because Kaua’i is fairly small, we visit much of the island, taking in Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge (the best place in Hawaii for seabirds), Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge for waterbirds, the Hanapepe area, and especially Waimea Canyon, Koke'e State Park and the famous Alaka’i Swamp for a chance at some of Kaua’i’s endemic songbirds.
Kaua’i is a wonderful island, and our days will be full of excellent birding and marvelous scenery. We should do well for seabirds. Our list should include Laysan Albatross, Wedge-tailed Shearwater, White-tailed and Red-tailed Tropicbirds, Great Frigatebird, and both Brown and Red-footed Boobies, often close enough for excellent photographs. Wetlands on the island hold populations of Ae’o or Hawaiian Stilt, Hawaiian Coot, Hawaiian Gallinule, and the endangered Koloa. Around the edge of ponds Japanese Bush-Warbler occur along with the gifted songster the White-rumped Shama. Nene are quite widespread here, and we should find quite a few during our stay.
In the Alaka’i Swamp we look for native forest birds. Some, such as ‘I'iwi and ‘Apapane, will be familiar to us, but others will be new. These include the Kaua’i ‘Amakihi, Kaua’i ‘Elepaio and the Anianiau - a small, yellow, warbler-like honeycreeper. We will also make an effort to track down the increasingly scarce ‘Akeke‘e, whose population has declined dramatically over the past decade. While exploring the forested trails of the Alaka’i Swamp there is always a chance, albeit remote, of finding a great rarity such as the ‘Akikiki or Puaiohi.
Days 7 to 11 - The Big Island of Hawai’i
We reluctantly leave Kaua’i and fly to our last island, The Big Island of Hawai’i, where we spend the first two nights near Volcanoes National Park. In the park we visit the spectacular Kilauea Crater, which has still active steam vents. In the early morning, the songs of the Omao, an endemic Hawaiian thrush, and the ‘Apapane, a crimson honeycreeper with white undertail coverts, should greet us. We spend time looking around the park, for Black (Hawaiian) Noddy along the black lava seacoast, Nene in the lava fields, Kalij Pheasant along easy and pleasant trails, Hwamei rustling about in the undergrowth, and possibly ‘Io just about anywhere cruising over the park. A must-see attraction is the Thurston Lava Tube, a remarkable geologic phenomenon. Here, Omao are more common than elsewhere, along with ‘Apapane and Hawai’i ‘Amakihi.
We transfer to our accommodations in Kona for the next three nights. We visit several localities around the Big Island searching for the many Hawaiian endemics that occur here. On one day we visit the superb Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge, which preserves some of the finest Koa and Ohi’a Lehua forests remaining on the Big Island. Here there are still good populations of ‘I‘iwi, ‘Akepa, Hawai’i ‘Elepaio, Hawai’i ‘Amakihi and Hawai’i Creeper. We will also attempt to find the increasingly rare ‘Akiapola’au, a yellow-green honeycreeper that has one of the most amazing bills in the bird world. The bird feeds on insects hiding in trunks and branches; the lower mandible is used like a woodpecker’s bill - for chipping and chiselling into the wood until the insect larvae is exposed, and then the extraordinary upper mandible, which is long, thin and sickle-shaped, is used to extract the larvae. On another day, we visit Mauna Kea to look for the Palila, the last of the Big Island’s grosbeak honeycreepers that inhabits the Mamane-Naio forests on the upper slopes, as well as a pale subspecies of the highly variable Hawai’i ‘Elepaio.
Introduced species such as Eurasian Sky Lark, Saffron Finch and Red-billed Leiothrix occur here as well. In fact, we will encounter many introduced species during our stay on the islands; on the Big Island, we should encounter species as diverse as Yellow-billed Cardinal, African Silverbill, California Quail, Wild Turkey, Erckel’s and Black Francolin and Java Sparrow.
Day 12 - Departure, Kona
Our Hawaii birding tour concludes today in Kona. You can depart anytime today.
Departures & Prices
Tour Price Includes
- All accommodation
- Breakfasts and lunches
- Ground transportation
- 2 short, inter-island flights included
- 4 - 8 participants will be guided by one guide. 9 - 12 participants will be guided by two guides in two vehicles.
- All park, conservation and entrance fees
Tour Price Does Not Include
- Flights to and from start/end location
- Travel Insurance
- Evening meals
- Items of a personal nature
What to Expect
What to Expect
Our Hawaii birding tour of three Hawaiian Islands is a wonderful experience, full of exquisite surprises – the marvelous endemic honeycreepers, superb seabirds, an amazingly diverse flora, breathtaking vistas, colourful marine life, and much more, amidst comfortable accommodations and usually pleasant weather. We stay for the most part in just one location on each of the three islands, using each as a home base from which to explore. Our tour visits three main islands, O’ahu, Kaua’i and Hawai’i. Each island has its own special flora and fauna, and each its own special geology. It is no wonder the Hawaiian Islands rival the Galapagos as a natural laboratory of evolution.
Our tour is relaxed and leisurely most days. We start some days early, especially on the Big Island, in order to reach our birding destination before the morning activity wanes. We spend most days visiting specific areas on each island, and then walking along fairly easy trails and roads. Some terrain may be moderately difficult, but we take them slowly and at a comfortable pace. Participants should be able to hike 5 kilometers and be comfortable going up and down moderate grade slopes. Sturdy footwear with ankle support is recommended for some trails (particularly in the Alaka’i Swamp); otherwise comfortable running shoes are fine for most other activities. The weather is mostly pleasant, at comfortable temperatures, but there will be rain on some days, and visits to higher elevations may encounter coolish and misty conditions. Clothing should be layered, and a light sweater and especially a waterproof jacket are highly recommended. And don’t forget a hat – Hawaii is tropical!
Even though we cannot guarantee a sighting of the animals below, we feel quite confident that an encounter with the ones listed below is quite likely.
- Laysan Albatross
- White-tailed and Red-tailed Tropicbirds
- Red-footed Booby
- Great Frigatebird
- ‘Io (Hawaiian Hawk)
- Pacific Golden-Plover
- Ae’o (Hawaiian Stilt)
- Wandering Tattler
- Bristle-thighed Curlew
- Hawaiian Noddy
- White Tern
- Pueo (Short-eared Owl)
- O’ahu ‘Elepaio
- Several Hawaiian honeycreepers (Sub-family Drepanidinae) including: Palila, ‘Anianiau, Hawai’i ‘Akepa, ‘I‘iwi and the increasingly rare ‘Akiapola’au
- Humpback Whale
- Spinner Dolphin
- Green Sea Turtle
Past Tour Checklists
Past Tour Checklists
View the list of birds and other wildlife we encountered on our past tours.