Outdoor Adventures

Desk jockeys, put down that dry cleaning and get inspired by your friends and neighbors. They make the most of Hawaii's giant backyard—and they want to show us how.


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Scale a Lava Wall



Climb Aloha owner Mike Richardson tackles "Slab in Paradise" on the North Shore of Oahu.

Photo by Olivier Koning

Rock climbing doesn’t exist in Hawaii. Wanna bet? “There’s a common misconception that all of the rock here crumbles,” says Mike Richardson, owner of Climb Aloha, Hawaii’s only complete climbing shop, which also offers beginner to advanced outdoor courses. “We climb tall aa lava flows. They’re stable, solid, and what we call clean rock.” Four climbing sites exist on Oahu, the easiest being a 40-foot-tall rock formation at Makapuu Point. This is where newbies can take a one-day class. “We teach them how to set everything up, how to use the equipment, how to keep safe, and we spend a lot of time climbing as well,” says Richardson, who emphasizes that the climbing community as a whole maintains the hardware and safety of every site.

An Incredible Hulk physique isn’t required, either. “It’s about technique, more than muscle power,” he says. The class is for people 12 and older and costs $65 for kamaaina. 387-7825, www.climbaloha.com. For directions and detailed descriptions of Oahu climbing sites, visit www.rockclimbinghawaii.com.

Pilot a Plane


Photo by Olivier Koning

When we heard that for just $59, it was possible to strap into the pilot’s seat of a Cessna plane and fly around Oahu for half an hour—well, this was something we had to experience for ourselves.

It’s difficult to describe the feeling of barreling down the runway, pulling back on the yoke and lifting off over Honolulu International Airport, then looking over and realizing that the flight instructor’s arms are crossed and you’re actually in control of the entire airplane. Terror? Exhilaration? Both?

By the time the flight was over, though, we didn’t want it to end, which is really the whole point of the Project Pilot test flight program, an outreach effort by the nonprofit Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.

“General aviation is much more accessible than a lot of people think, and there’s no better way to learn that than by taking the controls of a plane by yourself,” says Robert “Mac” Smith, the chief instructor at Flight School Hawaii, who oversaw our flight and made sure we didn’t plummet from the sky.

Many who try this introductory flight go on to earn their private pilot’s license, but Smith says even one-time thrill seekers are welcome. Set up a flight with any of the eight participating local flight schools listed at www.projectpilot.org.


Hike and Camp the Napali


“Travel light” is the mantra for backpacking excursions along Kauai’s Kalalau Trail, a rough, 11-mile track that transports you from civilization into the wilderness of Napali Coast State Park. Why schlep a tent when you can sleep in a cave, or extra clothes when many of your fellow campers shed theirs? You needn’t pack in a bunch of food, either, because you’re almost guaranteed at least one communal meal—often goat stew—and in summertime, your fill of mangoes.

You’ll appreciate the minimalist approach as you navigate the rocky, often wet, trail to Hanakapiai Valley, toil up the switchback, sweat through hanging valleys en route to Hanakoa and traverse crumbling sea cliffs before dropping into the tropical amphitheater of Kalalau Valley, where a waterfall shower will wash all the dust—and your cares—away. Permit required. 808-274-3444.

Hikes for Beginners

Steve Brown, of the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club,
suggests three Oahu hikes even tutu could conquer.

Pu‘u Pia Trail

How to get there:
Take East Manoa Road into Manoa Valley. When the road forks, veer right and park by the Chinese cemetery. Walk up the street and take a left at Alani Drive. When Alani Drive makes a sharp right turn into Woodlawn Drive, look for the trailhead sign.
Why it’s worth it:
“Pu‘u Pia is a little-known trail in the back of Manoa Valley that follows an uphill route to a low peak overlooking the valley.”
How long:
Two hours at the most, with time spent at the viewpoint.
Once on the trail, be sure not to take the right fork, which ascends to the top of a ridge.

Maunawili Trail  

How to get there:
Take the Pali Highway towards Kailua. Once you go through the tunnels and around a large turn, watch for an overlook area. The trail starts from this parking lot.
Why it’s worth it:
“It’s a tropical rain forest environment, with occasional views of Olomana and the surrounding windward plane.”
How long:
The trail is roughly 10 miles long and ends in Waimanalo, so hike as far as you like then turn around.
Bring mosquito repellent, and don’t leave valuables in the car.

 Kaena Point  

How to get there:
Take Farrington Highway past Waialua until you reach Kaena Point State Park.
Why it’s worth it:
“In addition to the dramatic shoreline scenery, a hiker may encounter a number of species of nesting shorebirds.”
How long:
Three hours.
No pets are allowed in this wildlife preserve.

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Honolulu Magazine June 2018
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