Hawaii Big Isle eco-tour helps restore native Hawaiian forest By Shane Nelson / September 30, 2013 Share 1 -- Travelers looking to give back during a visit to the Big Island of Hawaii can now help replant a native koa forest on land once belonging to King Kamehameha, the first monarch to unite the Hawaiian Islands. Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods, a sustainable forestry company, launched the new eco-tour earlier this month, offering visitors an off-road adventure through historical and rare old-growth koa forests on the slopes of Mauna Kea. “The koa tree is one of the signature trees of the Hawaiian forest,” Jeffrey Dunster, the company’s CEO, said in a statement. “Yet most people only see koa in its finished form in stores throughout the Islands.” Once plentiful across Hawaii, native koa trees have become increasingly rare due to ranching and poor timber practices while also continually losing ground to invasive plants and trees. Highly prized today, koa wood is commonly used for everything from expensive furniture to sculpture and the creation of musical instruments. “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,” Dunster said. Along with the off-road excursions through native forest, the new tours include a chance for guests to plant their own koa seedling, which comes with a special certificate featuring the tree’s serial number, GPS coordinates and “access to a uniquely developed [radio-frequency identification] tracking system that provides the ability to remotely map the tree’s growth online for years to come as well as visually locate it via Google Earth.” 90-minute Planter Tours are $110 for adults and $55 for children, and the three-hour Grand Tour, $180 for adults and $90 for children, offers an extended off-road trek to check out a “world-class” view one mile above sea level and access to the historical Umikoa trail. Visit www.hawaiianlegacytours.com.