Time: 3-4 HOURS
Distance: 2.8 MILES
Elevation Gain: 1000 FEET
Foot Traffic: LOW
Challenges: Rock Scrambling, Narrow Ridges, Shadeless, Closed, Cacti
Sights: Koko Head, Makapu'u, Maui/Lanai/Molokai, Diamond Head, Honolulu, Hanauma Bay, Sandy's Beach
What to Bring: Decent Hiking Shoes, Sunscreen, Water, Long Pants
An alternate way to experience the popular Koko Head Crater, this hike takes you around the entire rim of this volcanic tuff cone. This hike has its challenges with some rock scrambling, narrow ridges, and even some prickly catci. These challenges, however, come with the reward of being able to fully experience the expanse of this crater. In my opinion, this is the way to truly hike Koko Head.
Despite having to work on July 3, negating a would be 4 day weekend, I planned to make the most of my Sunday. After a scan of the sky, the southern point of Oahu looked like it wanted some love. Not wanting a full day hike, but wanting enough narrow ridges and rock scrambles to get some thrills, I decided on Koko Head. Instead of climbing the popular stairs, I would be hiking around the entire rim, which for me, is what makes you truly appreciate this unique geological formation.
Here's a shot of what I did. The hike begins in the Koko Crater Botanical Gardens parking lot. You have two choices when hiking this, East to West or West to East rim. I chose West to East, which in my opinion is the better route. This way you get to do more rock scrambling/narrow ridge hiking on the way up while enjoying a (relatively) leisurely descent on the East Rim along the ocean on the way down.
Finding the entrance to the West Rim isn't particularly difficult, but it isn't obvious either. As soon as you enter the gardens there will be a fork in the path, head RIGHT. Only a couple hundred feet after the fork, if you look to your right, you will see another path that goes beyond this sign. This is where you need to go. FYI there is a security guard at the garden entrance. This path isn't in his direct line of sight as there's a bush between the path and his post. I just wouldn't make it obvious you are going this way and you should be fine. I think...
A couple hundred yards along the "closed" path, you should see an opening in the grass to your left. Enter here.
From here, you follow the beaten down path to reach the ridge. The first time I did this, my friend and I accidentally veered too far right and found ourselves in some thick brush below the ridge line. We were forced to bushwack our way back up to the ridge. I recommend always hugging the left if you are ever in doubt.
Pretty shortly you will reach the ridge. The West Ridge actually extends out a good ways past the crater's center, so it will take a bit of time before you reach the actual rim, where the real fun begins.
This hike does have some dropoffs with some narrowish ridges. I don't know if a fall from here would be fatal, but it's probably best not to test it.
Let the real fun begin! There's several skills that will be practiced along this hike. This is a good thing though, because girls only want boyfriends who have great skills!
Upper body skills will be tested to get up some of the rocks.
Balance skills are involved along a few narrow ridges with some steep dropoffs.
There's some problem solving skills so you can figure out the least dangerous path.
And even some awareness skills so you don't accidentally walk into one of the many cacti along the trail.
But really, it's nothing too crazy. If you have some ridge hike/rock scrambling experience, this shouldn't prove to much trouble.
But that doesn't mean you won't be sweating. Which is fine, because that means view breaks and the views are quite amazing. Here's a shot looking at Makapu'u and the Hawaii Kai Golf Course. Anyone up for a post hike 9?
You can also see the southernmost part of the Ko'olaus. It's not visible in the picture, but just in front of those towers on the ridge are the hidden Kamehame Stairs that can be reached from the Tom Tom trail, a hike I did just two days ago.
And of course, there are views of beautiful Hawaii Kai and Diamond Head Crater.
Alright let's get back after it! We need to get up there to the tip of the crater, where you can just barely make out those lazy bums who took the stairs. I'm only teasing, those stairs are actually pretty brutal.
Maybe just one more little rock scramble.
And we made it to the top! If you've ever been to Koko Head, you will recognize this scenic view of the leeward side.
And of course some good shots of Hanauma Bay. The Hanauma Bay Rim Trail is located over there which takes you around Hanauma Bay (obviously...)
But this is a hike around Koko Crater which means more photos of the crater itself. The wide angle of my GoPro just couldn't quite capture the entire rim.
But it is time to continue on to the East Rim. Like I mentioned earlier, this is the tamer of the two rims. There's a lot less rock scrambling over here. It's more just a ridge walk along the coast.
That doesn't mean you won't have to contend with a few obstacles.
And some more cacti.
But you can't beat these views. That beach down there is Sandy's, known for its killer shore break waves. Literally. It's often referred to as "Broke Neck Beach" because of how hard the waves can slam you onto the beach.
If you know where to look, you can even get a glimpse of the Koko Crater Arch. There is a route to get down there from up here, but it's pretty steep. I prefer the much shorter way to reach the arch that starts from the Halona Blowhole.
We did it! Rim circumvented.
This warrants a selfie.
Now arguably the trickiest part of the hike, getting off the rim. There are some markers that help signify a starting path down.
But then they disappear and you're left to fend for yourself. It is pretty steep coming down the west rim and the terrain is a lot of slippery grass. I think this is the most difficult part of the hike.
But eventually you will make it down. If you follow the "right" path down, it will spit you out here, deep in the Botanical Gardens.
That sign is located just beyond this portion of the Botanical Gardens. This is a good point of reference in case you are trying to go East to West Rim.
Now it's a flat and pleasant walk through the gardens to get back to where you started.
Koko Head Crater Rim Loop complete, what's our next adventure?
Check out this video of my journey around the rim!
Enjoy this post? Leave a comment below!
Also Check Out:
- Aloha from 808's post about this hike