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Hawaii: Big Island off-road tour aims to help with koa forest regrowth

By Jay Jones

10:30 AM EDT, October 1, 2013

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You can help the environment and get stunning views at the same time, thanks to a new eco-tour on Hawaii’s Big Island.

Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods has begun offering daily off-road tours to the 1,000-acre site on the northern slope of Mauna Kea volcano where the company plans to regrow what was once a forest of koa, the largest native tree in the state.

The forest once belonged to King Kamehameha the Great, Hawaii’s first king. It was clear-cut about a century ago to create land for farming and ranching. Less than 10% of Hawaii’s koa trees now remain.

“The koa tree is one of the signature trees of the Hawaiian forest, yet most people only see koa in its finished form in stores throughout the islands,” Chief Executive Jeffrey Dunster said in a news release. “Koa trees have long been sought after for their magnificent wood, once reserved for use by Hawaiian royalty and used to build canoes, spears, bowls, housing and even fishhooks.”

During their visits, guests will see the majestic trees that survived the clear-cutting. They’ll also be encouraged to plant seedlings as part of the hardwood company’s plans to create a sustainable koa forest.

Using technology, visitors will be able to remotely track their tree’s growth in the coming years. 

Two tour options are available. The 90-minute “Planters Tour” begins at 9 and 11 a.m. and 1 and 3 p.m. and costs $110 for adults and $55 for children 5-18. The expanded Grand Tour is at 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. The three-hour trip climbs more than a mile above sea level for commanding views of the Pacific. It costs $180 for adults and $90 for kids.

Reservations are required and can be made online or by calling (877) 707-8733.

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