I'm back in ice cold Germany, slowly adjusting and realizing that there are only three weeks left till Christmas. It's kinda hard to remember that it is Winter and pre-Christmas season while walking around in shorts and a top, with pleasant temperatures of 29°C/84°F. It's not that Hawaiians wouldn't decorate their homes or that Christmas wouldn't be celebrated on the island, located 4.000 km/2.500 mi off the United States coastline, in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, but it's simply not as present as it is around Germany, especially if you're staying outside the Waikiki/Honolulu area as I did.
The Hawaiian islands are part of the Polynesian culture, counted as South Sea Islands and the locals take pride in it. This fact and probably the surfing lifestyle, the always fresh fruits and the incredible sunsets will also make you forget that it's actually November and not July.
Altogether, Hawaii was one of the greatest experiences I've ever made while traveling, so let's delve into my little adventure.
Today's blog entry will revolve around hiking on O'ahu, the third biggest of the eight Hawaiian main islands. I've done quite a few hikes in the last two weeks and most of them were really worth it.
We'll be starting on the western tip of O'ahu – Ka'ena Point - located roughly 30 km/18,8 mi from where I stayed at the North Shore. You can approach Ka'ena Point from two sides. Either you take the 93 or the 930 (as I did), drive till the very dead end of the road and hike through the Kaena Point State Park. The area is both deserted and gorgeous. On the left side, there are the impressive mountains and on the right side, the raw power of the ocean, with it's waves crashing against coast. The whole setting reminded me of the Lord of the Rings. The only noises, you'll experience during this hike will be the wind, the waves and the grunts of the local Hawaiian Monk Seals, which are crawling onshore in order to reheat, sleep, breed and pupping. The Hawaiian Monk Seals are an endangered species and Ka'ena Point is one of the places, where they can live in peace. There are several signs along the trail that tell you to keep your distance and let them be but you will still be able to watch them. They're probably one of the cutest things I've ever seen.
There was one tiny and sandy cove, where I took a break from all the hiking and sat down, just to listen to the ocean and suddenly I heard a weird noise to my righthand side. I got up and peeked around one of the shrubs when I saw the seal, happily asleep on it's side, only a few meters away. I got my friend, both of us watching it from a distance. At first, weren't sure if everything was alright with the seal but then it just looked up, acknowledged our presence, grunted again and turned around to fall back to sleep.
One day later, we saw another Hawaiian Monk Seal, on a beach right next to the road and two members of the Ocean defenders, who made sure that nobody would touch the seal, where watching it. One of them explained to us that they're loners and sleep a lot on the beach, especially when they're pregnant and so we knew, that the other one, we had seen at Ka'ena Point had been fine as well.
All in all, Ka'ena Point is definitely worth a try. The untamed waves crashing against the coast, the mountains and the solitude, free from the crowds, are both sweeping and liberating.
Next stop is the Waihe'e Falls Trail. It's actually not a real trail. The starting point is located at the east side of O'ahu, in the Kāneʻohe area and leads into the mountains of the Ko'olau range. But don't worry, my friend and I did the hike wearing Vans and it was kinda slippery at some point but never too difficult but you shouldn't be too unathletic likewise. Unlike Ka'ena Point, you're not just hiking straight ahead, you're walking up to 550 m/1.802 ft.
One big clue of knowing that you're almost there is the point once you're nearly out of air. The last bit of the trail is very steep. There is a tiny clearing on the right side of the trail, on your way up, just before the waterfall. This is where you'll have a great view of the mountain range with the ocean on the horizon. The waterfall itself is really cool. It hasn't been too crowded there, just another local family with their dogs had been there and left us to ourselves after five minutes. Most of the people hiking there are locals anyway.
Finding the entrance of the trail is a bit tricky. It's after the dead end of Waihee road, in an inhabited area. A short dirt road follows, with a chain-link fence at the end. This is were your trail starts but be aware, you're trespassing. The area is actually closed to public. You just have to walk around the fence on the lefthand side and then you're ready to start. Follow the muddy path through the jungle and into the mountains. It's one of the few places in Hawaii where you'll actually need bug repellant since it's very humid between the beautiful trees and the stunning nature. You won't get lost, I can guarantee it. Don't go, if there's too much rain since there is a chance of flash flooding in the mountains but a little rain doesn't matter. We got caught in the rain during our climb-down and it only lasted for five minutes or so. I would absolutely recommend Waihe'e Falls Trail. It is a beautiful waterfall, where you can cool down once you hit the top and the area is a mix of lush jungle and fifty shades of green.
30 km/19 mi down south the Makapu'u Lighthouse trail is located. We wanted to do this trail since we read that there is a beautiful view across the coast, that there is a high chance of being able to watch whales and that you could even see Moloka'i, the island following after O'ahu, on a clear day.
Well, emphasis on a clear day.
As we arrived at the Lighthouse trail, the sun was still shining and we were happy that we could hike on such a beautiful day but as we parked between loads of other cars, we learned that the hike isn't really a hike. It's a paved road leading up the mountain, with an elevation gain of 152 m/ 500ft. Since it had been Thanksgiving, the Lighthouse trail was really crowded with tourists and locals but once we were here already, we told ourselves “so what?” and started the walk.
The road turns around the mountain after half of the way up and this is, where all the trouble started for us. The wind was picking up heavily and well, the view was good but then we saw the rain coming from the ocean. A wall of water closing in and we got hit with full force. But there was no giving up since we wanted to go all the way up. So we walked and walked, through heavy wind and frequently emerging rain, accompanied by people with music blaring out of their backpacks and their portable jukeboxes until we made it to the top. The lighthouse had currently been under construction and was surrounded by framework, clouds on the horizon worsened the visibility and we had to squeeze through people in order to get a good view.
All in all, it was okay but the Makapu'u Lighthouse trail isn't actually a thing that I have to do again.
You'll get better views at other places such has Diamond Head crater, located in Waikiki.
Diamond Head is a dead volcano and although it is kind of a tourist-draw, it is still a great hike. You will start in the middle of the volcano and walk all the way up with an elevation gain of 176m / 560ft. Nature inside of the volcano reminded me of the African veld. Just before the end of the trail, you will pass right through the volcano in a narrow alley and take the stairs up to the top of a former military lookout. Some people really worked up a sweat and seemed to be out of breath but I didn't see the trail as too difficult and exhausting and you'll get rewarded with an absolute stunning view across Waikiki, the coastline and the mountains in the back. You can either park outside Diamond head crater and pay 1 USD / 0,94 EUR, or you just drive inside the crater and pay 5 USD / 4,70 EUR.
Last hike on my list is kind of an insider tip. Just eight minutes by car from where I stayed at the North Shore is a grocery store called Foodland, right across Shark's cove. A road is leading past Foodland and up the hill. Follow the road until the very end. There is a boyscout camp and this is, where you can start trailing. There are several trails leading through the woods. Watch out, so you won't get lost. Nearly anybody is up there and the nature is quite different than just a few meters down the road and back to the water. It looks almost European up there and is very calm.
On you're way up to the boyscout camp, the first junction on the righthand side leads you to an old and ancient Hawaiian sacred site. This is where you will get a stunning view across Waimea bay. Walk into the shrubs and you will find a tiny pillbox. You can climb on top of the pillbox. It's the perfect place for a little picnic with view of the famous North Shore.
And that's about it. Sadly, we didn't manage to do the Manoa Falls trail, which is said to be pretty great as well but – maybe - if you're on O'ahu one day, you can skip the Lighthouse trail and take the Manoa Falls one instead. I will definitely do that, when I'm back again. Next time, everything's about the best places to dine and eat on O'ahu and Maui.
Until then, happy traveling.