Time: 1 HOUR
Distance: <1 MILE
Elevation Gain: 300 FEET
Foot Traffic: MODERATE
Challenges: Some steep climbs, Narrow ridges, Finding the Puka, Muddy if it's been raining
Sights: The Puka!!!, Three Peaks, K-Bay, Kailua, Kaneohe
What to Bring: Water (optional)
This awesome hike near the popular Pali Lookout offers the thrill and beauty of Hawaii ridge hiking in a short little hike. You will get to traverse a narrow ridge and scramble up steep slopes, all while being accompanied by the scenic Windward coastline on your right side. The hike ends at a gorgeous natural puka (or hole) in the ridge that perfectly frames the coastline. You get a lot of bang for your buck with this iconic Oahu hike.
Happy New Year! Welcome to 2020! Normally the new year is about making resolutions, trying new things, etc. But I decided not to follow those norms. Instead for the first hike of the new year I decided to revisit an Oahu favorite, Pali Puka. Because of the prolonged Pali Lookout closure, it had been a few years since I'd been on this hike. But coming back reminded me that this really is one of the most epic spots on the island.
The hike is pretty simple--it's a straight shot up the ridge from the Pali Lookout until you reach an impassable rock wall. The puka will be behind and below you. That being said, Pali Puka has its challenges, despite being such a short hike.
To get to the hike, park in the Pali Lookout lot and walk left from the main Pali Lookout sign along the parking lot towards this stone wall. Look for this hole in the wall and trees. There will be an Area Closed sign just behind it. That is where you need to go.
Immediately after you enter the trees, you will come to a fork. Head right and uphill to get to the ridge. You will get going quick as you have to scramble up this pine needle/root covered incline. This can definitely be a pain if it has been raining.
Very shortly after starting, you will pop out on the ridge, directly underneath this power line. Now you can begin to take in these beautiful Windward views that will accompany you throughout the hike.
The hike is pretty straight forward from here. Just keep going up the ridge. It definitely gets steep at parts, but there are several different ropes to help you out on these sections (very useful if wet).
This ridge can get pretty narrow. I can't recommend this hike if you get any sort of vertigo near edges. This section that Indre is walking on is by far the most narrow, merely a few feet in width. The good news is that for the extremely narrow sections like this, there are side trails in the trees. So keep your eyes peeled!
Despite the risks, the rewards of this hike are amazing. This picture not only captures the neighboring Pali Notches, but also the popular Lanikai Pillbox Hike (tiny ridge in the clouds on left) and the more challenging, but still popular Three Peaks (points peaking over the center of the photo). This shot just builds the case for the Windward side being the superior side of the island ;)
But some of the views looking leeward are quite impressive as well. Here's a look at Nuuanu Valley in the late afternoon light. There's even a waterfall in this picture somewhere, but it's too small to see. Guess that's why you have to do this hike in person :)
Because pictures just don't quite do it justice.
And we haven't even hit the main attraction yet! The ridge comes to an end at this tall rock face. You can actually circumvent this rock and get up on this ridge. It's a pretty gnarly ridge hike to the Ko'olau Peak of Lanihuli (check out this epic YouTube video of it) . It's on my to do list, but not today. When facing this rock, the puka is located below you, where you can see those people sitting.
You will have to do a minor scramble down to get level with the puka. There's really two places you can scramble down. Where the girls are doing it (slightly to the right of the puka when facing windward) is one option. The other option is by the tall rock face. There's not a lot of space in front of the puka--the ridge is pretty narrow and there aren't really any good places to sit. So if there are people down there, you may have to wait your turn up on the ridgeline.
But the waiting game is worth it! There it is, the puka! Absolutely incredible the way this random hole in the ridge perfectly frames the coastline. I really struggle with whether I like this or the Makapu'u Puka more. I guess I really don't have to pick a favorite.
Because they are both awesome! And both equally great for insta photos!
One last photo of this natural wonder. A great way to start the new decade!
Check out my video of this iconic Oahu hike!
What's your favorite Puka in Hawaii? Leave a comment below!
Also Check Out:
- The Wikipedia Post about the significance of Nu'uanu Pali