Mount Ka‘ala

Mount Ka‘ala

Acres:  1,100
Established:  11/14/81

Established in 1981, the Mt. Ka‘ala Reserve comprises 1,100 acres of rugged mountain terrain. It protects Hawaiian plants and animals and ecosystems, most found only in Hawai‘i, and some very rare. The only vehicle access is a controlled government road, while arduous ridge trails lead to the summit of Mt. Ka‘ala. There, a boardwalk trail greets the visitor, promising a fascinating walk through a native cloud forest. The boardwalk allows visitors to explore the misty flats of Ka‘ala safely, and with a minimum of impact to the fragile community of Hawaiian plants and animals that have made Mt. Ka‘ala their home for countless generations.

Mt. Ka‘ala is part of the Hawai‘i Natural Reserves System (NARS), which seeks to preserve and protect examples of native Hawaiian ecosystems and their ecological features. Current management projects at the Mt. Ka‘ala Reserve include feral pig and non-native weed control. An ongoing volunteer program has been useful in promoting environment awareness as well as assisting with resource management on the reserve.

Mt. Ka‘ala Reserve is much more than the summit plateau. Most of the reserve’s area consists of steep-sided gulches and ridges that form the eastern flank of Mt. Ka‘ala. In these gulches are lowland forests that once covered the drier portions of O‘ahu, but are now nearly gone. The forests, rich in native species, harbor some of Hawaii’s rarest plants. Only small stands remain, and future management efforts will attempt to expand their range. Reserve managers and volunteers monitor and control the threats to native plants and animals, and help ensure that the rich native resources of Mt. Ka‘ala will endure for future generations.

Natural Communities: 12 total, 2 rare

  • Lonomea Lowland Dry Froest
  • O‘ahu diverse lowland forest
  • ‘A‘ali‘i lowland dry shrubland
  • Hawaiian intermittent stream
  • koa ‘ohi‘a lowland mesic forest
  • mamaki lowland wet shrubland
  • Mixed fern/Mixed shrub montane wet cliff
  • ‘ohi‘a mixed shrub montane wet forest
  • ‘ohi‘a montane wet shrubland
  • ‘ohi‘a olapa montane wet forest
  • ‘ohi‘a uluhe montane wet forest
  • uluhe lowland wet shrubland

Native Plants: 208 total taxa, 69 rare
Native Animals: 11 total taxa, 7 rare

Plants & Anmials



Koliʻi (Trematolobelia macrostachys)

ʻApapane (Himatione sanguinea)

ʻapeʻape (Gunnera petaloidea)

Pinao (Anax strenuus var. kaenana)

Ōhiʻa lehua (Metrosideros polymorpha)


ʻOlapa (Cheirodendron trigynum)


Hapuʻu (Cibotium sp)


Kanawao (Broussaisia arguta)


Awapuhi a kanaloa (Liparis hawaiensis)


Diellia falcata


Mehamehame (Flueggea neowawraea)


Hesperomannia arbuscula


Maʻo hau hele (Hibiscus brackenridgei)


Aupaka (Isodendrion laurifolium)


Nehe (Lipochaeta tenuifolia


Lysimachia lydgatei 


Lysimachia maxima


Alani (Melicope pallida)


Neraudia angulata 


Kulu‘i (Nototrichium humile)


Phyllostegia hirsuta


Phyllostegia kaalaensis


Kuahiwi laukahi (Plantago princeps)


Loulu (Pritchardia kaalae)


Schiedea hookeri


Tetramolopium lepidotum ssp. lepidotum


Plans & Projects

Additional Resources