Hiking Hawaii A summary

My partner Jack and I recently returned from a fabulous holiday in Hawaii. We had friends from New Zealand getting married in Waikiki which was the catalyst for a two week holiday in Oahu and Hawai’i (Big Island). After months of dog earring many pages of a Lonely Planet guide to Hawaii there was no way this was going to be a ‘sit on the beach’ kind of vacation. There is so much to see and do and trust me you will want to do everything. I decided to put a summary together of hikes which were mostly short but strenuous hikes – Lots of views!


Manoa Falls

Grab a bus number 5 here from the Ala Moana shopping centre if you don’t have your own transport. You won’t get lost as its a pretty popular hike. You’ll need to head up the street  through the entry driveway to the start point of the track. This is a beautiful lush hike in the valley and was well needed after a couple days in crazy busy Waikiki. Walking is easy going but the hike is very popular and can be crowded. Its slippery in sections so wear good  grippy shoes (no not your new flip flops – which are oddly called slippers here). Despite a million signs at the base of the falls warning of Leptospirosis there are people that still swim. When you head toward the falls look up – you will see people at the top tiers swimming and jumping off rocks into Waihi Stream.  Jack and I did do a bit of a side trip  to try and find the top tiers unsuccessfully. We ended up on Aihualama trail which is just to the left as you approach Manoa Falls. Less than 1 minute away from the Manoa Falls track we almost had the entire trail to ourselves encountering only 6 other people. Its rough going on this trail, lots of tree roots and mud but once your up the switchbacks you get a great view of the valley sides. We also saw a wild pig, just a little guy that we spoked off the track. There is also a couple breaks in the bamboo which give awesome fish eye views to Waikiki.

Koko Crater

This one is a real beast and kind of scary! Mostly because you can see its steepness from a far which looks ridiculous. Up close its a real cardio workout, your lungs will burn, your heart will try and jump out of your throat but the view is definitely work the climb. Although from a distance it may look there are stairs but its actually an old railway that was used by the U.S military to service the arsenal that was once upon a time located on the crater head. Entry to the trail is just above the top car park in the Koko Head Regional Recreation Park. Its one way up and down and the last 10 minutes are the hardest. Take lots of water and shift to the side of the trail for breaks. Once at the top of the railway line keep heading up to the other side to view the blown out crater below and enjoy that sea breeze. Theres a collapsed roof here which will give you a great 360 view of Haumanu Bay, Kailua, Wakiki and Diamond Head. I was surprised to see so many small children up here and they were of course freaking out on the way back down but so were some of the adults who were crawling along the bridge section which had large gaps between the railway ties. Hesitation leads to devastation here so try and follow some one brisk and confident on the way down.

Lanakai Pillbox

A pretty quick and easy but steep hike will lead you up to the Lanakai Pillboxes. The views up here are again worth a hot sweaty climb and its a great way to see all the smaller costal islands and extent of the reef. If you have rented a car its easier to park at the beach parks an walk to the start point. The pillboxes are pretty interesting to explore and there is a nice sea breeze from the top. Past the pillboxes it gets quieter but there are heaps of swarms of little black bugs which will get stuck to your sweaty face. Gross.

Hawai’i (Big Island)

Waipi’o Valley (Kings trail?/Muliwai trail -sort of)

Okay I’m not going to lie. We got totally lost here. This taught us a swift lesson in taking maps and knowing where we are going.  It was our first hike on the island and we were super excited and weren’t paying attention. This is not hiking in Oahu so you can’t just follow other people. Getting to either Kings trail or Muliwai trail involves heading to Wiopi’o Valley Beach and doing a river crossing.Its recommended to head out to the surf and cross the river but this is quite scary as the ocean is so rough here. We also took our shoes off expecting sand and that was a dumb move as its all slippery and sharp rocks. On the way back we tried crossing further up stream and left our shoes on which seemed to work out better for us.

Our intention was to do Kings Trail which is around an hour from the valley floor and leads to a waterfall. We missed the fork and there is no signage for Kings Trail so we kept heading up the switch backs following the other people. There are phenomenal views of the valley from up here so we don’t regret getting lost. Once at the top there’s a beautiful pine forest and lots of lush green forestry. Although beautiful its unfortunate that we did see a lot of toilet paper in this part.  We came across a 2 mile sign and map and discovered where we actually were which was the completely wrong trail. We also discovered that although we had exerted ourselves we weren’t even half way to the next valley. We hiked on and came across a few small waterfalls and a view of the ocean before deciding to head back. Once back on the valley floor its definitely worth heading in the other direction to see the Hi’ilawe Falls but enjoy them from afar. There is no public access to these falls and the locals, from the looks we got and some the signage that is up, are in no mood to deal with tourists crossing their land. The toughest part of this trip by far was heading back up the steep road leading into the valley. By the time we returned it had been raining and the its the steepest street I’ve walked up and this includes Baldwin Street in Dunedin! Beware of the tourists driving Jeeps down and having no control of the 4WD function.

Kileaua Iki Crater trail

As the Lonely Planet says “If you can only do one hike while your in Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park let Kileaua Iki be it”. They say that for a reason. I was really awestruck by this hike. Kileaua blowing out lava from a fissure (crater crack)  in 1959 for five weeks created a pretty special landscape for this hike. You can start in either direction from the Kileaua Iki lookout car park and its a loop trail so you’ll end up back at the car park. We drove here but you can rent bicycles from Volcano House to get around. Its a pretty cruisy hike with step descents and ascents in and out of the crater. The trail is pretty straight forward you just need to keep following the Ahu’s (Rock piles or Cairns as we call them in N.Z).  It  is really hot once your on the crater floor so remember water and sunscreen.  You can divert from the hike to check out Thurston Lava tube which is highly recommended. You don’t see lava tubes everyday and this natural creation is pretty special. The tube is formed by the lava at the top and sides hardening while hot lava still runs through the middle. We also saw a few Apapane birds in the foliage on either side of the lava tube. These a very bright and beautiful red Hawaiian native bird. Back on the trail you’ll descend to the crater floor and leave the lush fern and bamboo orchid laden forest for a desolate once upon a time lava lake. The lava formations and cracks in the ground, as well as the still forming and steaming vents are really awesome, almost surreal, like your on another planet. You can still see the initial fissure where lava was released and once you approach it there’s quite a bit activity going on in the form of steam vents on the crater floor. Heading back to the rim there is a steep ascent, mostly maintained stairs, before re-entering the fern forest. There’s some perfectly coiled purple fern fronds called Uluhe fern on the side of the trail that look like something out of Alice in Wonderland so keep an eye out for those.

Nature trail at Kapalana State Recreation Park

Very cruisy and quiet nature walk. It would have probably been a bit more interesting if the  plant life didn’t resemble the same as we had at home but very lovely loop stroll around Ohia forest. Its our first walk in Hawaii that we did not see another soul so it was nice in that respect. The route starts just behind the main cabins.  The white blazes that mark the trees are the standard route guide in the U.S (A bit like our Orange triangles in N.Z).

Captain Cook Trail

The cruisy part is is the downhill. This trail is pretty well maintained with lots of long grass on either side of the trail. The trail opens out further down and you get a lovely view of Kealakekua Bay to the left and right along the coast.  The long grass falls away as the lava rock and gravel becomes abundant. I loved doing this trail for the historical reasons which are pretty incredible. Captain Cook died after a altercation with the Hawaiians here in 1779. Once you hit the ocean at the end of the track turn left and you’ll find a bright white monument dedicated to him. Its surprisingly busy down here as there are  quite a few snorkelling boats that come in from Kailua – Kona. The snorkelling is average but you will want to cool off before heading back up the trail which is all uphill. Don’t miss the fork when leaving the bay and stick to the right. If you don’t pass the lava altar after about 10 minutes your probably on the 4WD track that goes along the coast (we were very grateful for bringing down the guide book with us just for that!). It is a hot sweaty hike back up so make sure you have lots of water.

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