Time: 1 HOUR
Distance: 0.8 MILES
Elevation Gain: 400 FEET
Foot Traffic: Moderate
Challenges: Slightly Overgrown, Somewhat Steep with Loose Rock, Bugs
Sights: The Cave, West Side Coastline
What to Bring: Camera with wide angle lens, Water
Also known as the Kaneana Caves, this is a short hike you can knock out if you find yourself over in Makaha. Simply hike partially up the ridge, make a right, follow the contour around the ridge and you will arrive at a beautiful cave overlooking the leeward coast. It may be far away from the "main drag" of Oahu, but it will be worth it for the view.
After giving my liver a hefty workout during St. Patrick's Day, I needed a cleansing Sunday hike to ready myself for the work week. My friend Peter would be joining me for this adventure. Our original plan was to conquer a lengthy 8 hour hike in the Waianae Range, going from Pu'u Kawiwi to No Name Ridge to Tiki Ridge (check out Unreal Hawaii's writeup about this triple ridge hike). We had already conquered one of those ridges, Kawiwi, over a year ago, during our death defying adventure that took us from Kawiwi to Kamaile'unu to Knife's Edge ridge.
You would think, having been to Kawiwi previously, we would have had no problem finding the path to the ridge. Well, you would have thought wrong. After getting completely lost and spending two hours bushwacking through 10 foot tall brush, we finally found the path to the ridge. Unfortunately, the delay coupled with our late start meant that we could not complete the loop before sunset. Whoops! Not wanting to waste our trip out here, Peter suggested the Upper Makua Cave hike as an alternative. As long as I didn't have to whack through any more brush, I said I was in.
The hike is pretty straightforward, although it can be a bit tricky to find the upper cave. You walk up the road a few hundred yards, before heading uphill towards the ridgeline. Just below the top of the ridge, you cut back right to a trail that contours around the ridge. Within minutes you will arrive at the iconic cave.
The Makua/Kaneana Cave is easy to find, but it is pretty far from the more populous parts of Oahu. This is why I recommend coupling this cave with a trip to Kaena Point, or to one of the beautiful and secluded West Side beaches. There is a dirt parking lot located on the ocean side of the road. The lower Makua Cave is located just across the street. It is quite large and definitely worth a little exploring.
But we are here to hike upper makua. Facing mauka (towards the mountains), head left and continue west along the highway.
On the mountain side of the road, you will see this sign. We are going to just casually ignore what that says... but hey we aren't the only ones. I was actually surprised how many people were doing this hike. I guess the secret is out.
The route to the cave is pretty obvious. There are several beaten down paths that weave through that grass that will spit you out just below the ridgeline. Simply follow the path of least resistance.
And I thought we were done bushwacking today! It really isn't too bad. We did have to fight our way through a few gnats, however.
Can you see Peter? He intentionally wore green so you can't spot him in my photos.
Once you escape from the tall grass, the trail gets steeper and there is a lot of loose rock. It's really more noticeable on the descent, but you do need to watch your footing. On our way down, Peter fell nice and hard as we passed a group of beautiful women ascending. I don't think he has bad balance, I think he was distracted...
The only fork in the road. Just below the ridgeline, you should see an opening in the grass to your right. That opening will lead to a path that contours around the ridge. This is the way to the cave. If you think you have to free climb up the side of the ridge, you've gone too far.
The contour trail. This trail only goes for a few minutes or so, but it is an enjoyable few minutes.
Because this is the view you get. Every time I am over on the West Side I always think about how it is such an underrated part of the island. It takes time to get here, but man is it beautiful.
But this is why we're here, to hang out in some caves. The caves on the upper trail aren't nearly as big as the lower cave, they are basically just holes in the ridge, but they do offer great photo opportunities. This is the first cave you will come across. The tree offers a really unique composition.
But this is the money cave. If you are taking photos you will need something with a wide angle to capture the entire cave. Fortunately, I had my GoPro for the occasion. Unfortunately, I still suck at taking photos with it, so this is what you get...
Some of the other hikers hanging in the cave asked if we wanted a picture. Peter and I realized that during most of our hikes, we never encounter another hiker, so we have almost zero pictures together. We also realized that this very likely could be one of our last hikes together. Peter is moving back to the mainland to mold young minds at Yale (clearly not a very smart guy). It's the end of an era for Hawaii hiking.
But can you think of a better place to end that era? I certainly can't.
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Also Check Out:
- Wanderlustyle's post about this hike