Time: 3-4 HOURS
Distance: 4 MILES
Elevation Gain: 1100 FEET
Foot Traffic: LOW
Challenges: Exposed Ridge, Some Rock Scrambling, Slightly Narrow Ridges, Overgrown w/Cacti, Closed
Sights: Makapu'u, Koko Crater, Waimanalo, Kailua, Hawaii Kai, Makapu'u Puka, Kamehame Stairs
What to Bring: Sunscreen, Water, Snack
An incredibly scenic hike along the Ko'olau Mountain Range above the town of Waimanalo. This hike gives you spectacular views of the ocean and the islands off Makapu'u as it takes place on a ridge right along the coast. There's a natural puka that creates an amazing photo opportunity, framing the beautiful coastline. If you know where to go, you can find the secret Kamehame Stairs, a stairway to nowhere in particular, but with an amazing view of the leeward side of the island including Hawaii Kai and Koko Head Crater. There's no lack of aloha vibes on this hike.
Summer was treating me well as I found myself with another early Friday at work. Trying to make the most of my afternoon, I began driving south from Kailua, with no plan in particular. As I drove through Waimanalo passing the massive Ko'olaus, inspiration hit , I should revisit the Makapu'u Tom Tom Trail, an amazing coastal ridge hike I had done almost a year ago. This time, however, I would unlock another of this hike's secrets, the hidden Kamehame stairs. Let the journey begin!
A Google Earth image of the hike. Based on this image, you can tell why this hike contains many magnificent views.
The hike begins directly across the street from the Makapu'u Lookout. You can park in the lookout lot or along the street near the Lighthouse Trail entry. You will be hiking directly up this ridge, hugging the fence (shown below) to your right. FYI there are many signs saying this area is off limits, so proceed at your own risk.
Here is the fence that runs from the street all the way to the top of the ridge. You will need to cross over to the other side so the fence is on your left as you continue uphill. There are several openings along the fence where you can do this.
After a little bit of effort and maybe some sweat, you will reach the ridge. Take a moment to take in the beautiful scenery. That beach down there is Makapu'u Beach, one of my favorite spots for bodyboarding.
See I told you this hike had Aloha vibes.
If you look on the other side of the ridge, you will get an amazing view of Koko Head Crater. I didn't know it then, but two days later I would find myself hiking the Koko Crater Rim Loop Trail, another awesome hike in this area.
Once you reach the ridge head RIGHT (north). You will simply follow this ridge along the coast until the point where we turn inland to find the stairs. There's no marked trail, but it's plenty beaten down so you can follow the path of those who have hiked before you.
In order to earn these spectacular views, there are a few obstacles to contend with, such as these overgrown portions with some prickly cacti.
And near the edge of the cliff, the dropoffs are pretty gnarly. The dropoffs are only on one side so there's no need to get near the edge... unless you want to.
There was this one portion just before the puka, where I had to shimmy around this rock right near the edge, although I'm fairly certain there was a much safer path on the other side. Oh well.
Speaking of that puka, we're here! Now it's time for photos!
This natural wonder is spectacular, perfectly framing the Waimanalo coast.
It also provides a great platform to take some photos of some of the other amazing views, such as the Makapu'u Lighthouse.
And the islands off the coast. The left one is Rabbit Island and the right one is Kāohikaipu Island State Seabird Sanctuary.
Not too long after the puka, you will run into a few platforms that I believe were used as a launch point for Hanggliders. The famous spot for photos, Dead Man's Catwalk, used to be farther along this ridge but it has been removed. However, these other platforms are still great for pics... or for tanning... or both...
This photo was taken on my return trip, but this spot is really popular for Paragliders. I think it has something to do with the wind patterns in the area. These guys are really fun to watch because they will just float around in the air and then all of a sudden take a speedy nose dive before looping back up. I think once my body goes and I can no longer hike/climb, I will take up this hobby.
On we go! That area with the posts up there is where the Kamehame Stairs are located.
Eventually the ridge pretty much ends, and you are forced to head into the trees. This is good, because this is where we need to cut in to reach the stairs.
You will need to head uphill slightly to get out of the trees to intersect with Kamehame Dr. When I was there, this nicely placed orange ribbon guided the way.
Here's Kamehame Dr. I've heard if you try to drive up this road, there is a security guard blocking your path. Nobody up here today, though. Take a RIGHT to head up the road.
Eventually you will reach this gated area. There's a small path to the left that allows you to go around the fence.
Follow the beaten down path along the fence.
And within minutes, that natural path will lead you here, the stairs!
Look at that view! These stairs don't actually lead anywhere physically, just to a very overgrown area. But metaphorically however...
There's actually a small set of wooden stairs off to the right. It's possible they led somewhere, but I didn't venture very far down them. They were very sketchy and I thought they might crack under my weight.
One last photo before I head home. I was supposed to get my car safety inspected today but somehow I ended up here. Think I made the right choice?
Check out my video of this beautiful hike!
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Also Check Out
- Journey Era's post about this hike
- Hik3beasthawaii's write up