Time: 5-6 HOURS
Distance: 5.5 MILES
Elevation Gain: 1900 FEET
Foot Traffic: LOW
Challenges: Narrow Ridges, Overgrown, Potentially Muddy, Rock Scrambling and Free Climbing
What to Bring: Water, Snack/Lunch, Long Pants
Sights: Windward Side, Makaua Falls, Kahana Valley
A fun and challenging hike on the windward side of Oahu, Kahekili Ridge has a little bit of everything. Challenging climbs and scrambles, narrow ridges, spectacular views, and even the chance of a waterfall! While it will require some skill (and maybe the luck of good weather), those who conquer this ridge will get to experience one of Oahu's gems.
Kahekili Ridge will always have a special place in my heart. Before the days of this blog, I tackled this hike with a few of my original hiking friends, Peter and Margaret. During the hike, we got lost, got rained on, saw absolutely zero views, and were trudging through shin high mud. What a memory! Needless to say, I've been wanting to go back to see Kahekili... with a little less rain. With a new year and some renewed motivation, I was ready to give it another go.
A shot of the hike. The route we would be taking is often called Kahekili-Manamana. You go up Kahekili Ridge and follow it until it connects with the Manamana Turnover Trail. You will then take it down a popular ridge known as Crouching Lion. If you happen to have two cars, I recommend parking one of them at the base of Crouching Lion, it will save you the mile walk back along the Kamehameha Highway.
The trailhead is located at the end of Huamalani Road. There may be some spots along the road to park, but I recommend parking at Swanzy Beach Park, right across from the 7 Eleven. It adds a few minutes to the hike, but it also adds the bonus of respecting the residents. To get to the trail, go through that opening in the trees.
That's Indre, she will be serving as the model and tour guide for this adventure. She is currently telling you to go left at this fork in the road, which you will see a few minutes into the hike. Right would take you on the path to Makaua Falls, a hike we completed last weekend.
And now begins the climb to the ridge. Up we go.
And we made it... to the ridge. Now is when the real elevation gain begins. But first, let's take a left to this rock to soak in these views.
Not too shabby.
A picture of our real destination. We will be ascending that ridge to the left (Kahekili) before crossing over the middle ridge and connecting it to the right side (Manamana). Let's do this!
This ascent is no joke. It's steep.
And narrow, with sharp dropoffs along the grassy ridge.
But man is it awesome! Compared to my last time where I couldn't see a thing, this was heaven. Sexy ridges with amazing views. Hawaii ridge hiking doesn't get much better.
I could have stayed up on Kahekili the entire day. But we did have a planned route so we had to continue. There's a point where you see this large rock, which looks like you have to scale it. Don't worry, this isn't the Pali Notches, there's a path around it to the right.
This is about the time where the hike changes a bit. Instead of being up on the crest of the ridge, you are on a graded section in the trees. The footing is a challenge, narrow and uneven, with a good chance of mud. You will likely have to use some ropes to work your way around obstacles.
But that work will get you here! Ok this picture doesn't look like much, but you are actually standing on top of Makaua Falls... if it were flowing.
And the view from the top of those falls is pretty great, flow or no flow. Indre and I took some time here to eat a snack and take in the view before continuing on to the next part of the hike.
And the next part of the hike is the trickiest... because it is easy to get lost. Both times I did this hike I made a wrong turn. Shortly after leaving the waterfall, you will follow a fairly obvious path. There is a point where you will want to head right and downhill. The key is to go left and head uphill. There are some markers strewn about, but they can be misleading. My best advice is to stay alert and if you feel like the path ends... double back and look for an alternate route.
That being said, the path up to the ridge is still quite overgrown as it's covered with waist high ferns. If you have pants, now is a great time to put them on. The good news is at least now the views start to open up again.
How about that view! That ridgeline in the distance is located on the well known Kualoa Ranch, featured in numerous movies, like Jurassic Park. To my knowledge, that ridge is not accessible, although I have seen a few instagrams videos of people on it 🤔.
After some huffing and puffing, the ridge eventually hits this fork. This is Manamana Ridge. Left would take you to the Manamana Turnover Trail summit (AKA Pu'u Manamana). Right goes down Manamana to Crouching Lion. Both would get you down to sea level, but the views are much better towards Crouching Lion (and it's shorter).
After a little more bushwacking on Manamana, you will get a peak at the views to come. There's Kahana Valley and Bay. Let's get closer shall we?
But first, a little rock scrambling... I should mention this is the part where the difficulty level goes up.
Because soon you will have to traverse that-- a narrow ridge with steep dropoffs and even some rock scrambling in between. In my opinion, it looks scarier than it actually is, but that doesn't take away from the fact that this hike is dangerous.
But that danger is worth it for those epic views! Beauty all around you. Here is a shot of Kahekili, where the day began.
And an even better one of Kahana Bay. Those colors are just unreal.
And even a Dronie! Hate em or love em, drones do an awesome job at showing the perspective of how small we are compared to our natural landscape.
And guess what? That's the view we get the whole way down!
I try not to pick favorites when it comes to hiking, but if I did, this hike would have to be one of them. The awe I feel every time I set foot on these ridges is what keeps me coming back for more.
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Also Check Out:
- Unreal Hawaii's writeup of this hike
- The Wanderlust's post about Kahekili-Manamana