O‘ahu Hike We Like: Pu‘u Pia

An easy hike in the back of Mānoa Valley.


Editor’s Note: We love hiking! Fortunately, O‘ahu is full of great hikes. In this web series, we bring you our favorite O‘ahu trails.


Puu Pia hike

Photos: Taylor Ellis




LENGTH: 1.2 miles one way, about 40 minutes (2.4 miles round trip)

FEE: None

WHERE: Mānoa



Hiking can be dangerous, and not every trail is a good idea for every person. Keep your personal fitness and skill level in mind, and always take proper precautions when venturing off road. Heed “no trespassing” and other warning signs. Ensure you abide by parking ordinances. Wear shoes with good traction and bring bug repellent. 



Puu Pia trail

You politely shaka a thanks as a fellow motorist pulls over to allow you to pass on one of Mānoa’s winding back streets. You park among the modest mansions of Alani Drive and continue on foot as the road narrows past more and more elaborate properties. You step off the asphalt and within moments you’re on the only path through an otherwise impenetrable jungle. Heavy vines hang from a thick jungle canopy. Your senses key up, alert for the sounds of an Amazonian jaguar or Javan tiger. The rainforest floor sticks to your shoes as you begin your ascent up Pu‘u Pia. The intimidating walls of green on either side give hikers an appreciation for the struggles of their ancestors and for the well maintained path.



Puu Pia trail

After a little over half an hour of choosing between wet mud and slippery roots, you climb out of the jungle via a narrow trail, knotted with roots. The path threads through uluhe ferns and the obligatory grove of strawberry guava before the trail suddenly opens up into a clearing big enough for a small helicopter. A bit beyond the clearing, the trail ends at a single bench where, through a trick of angles and foliage, the neighborhood of Mānoa simply doesn’t exist and the bustle of Honolulu’s urban core looks miniscule and static. The ability to go from city streets to dense rainforest and back again within an hour and a half is an amazing #luckywelivehonolulu perk.  



From University Avenue onto O‘ahu Avenue, turn right onto East Mānoa Road until it becomes a T-intersection with Alani Drive. Turn left and drive until the road makes a sharp right. Park along the road, being sure that you’re not blocking a driveway and continue down Alani lane. State of Hawai‘i trail markers in municipal brown point the way.



  • Don’t feel compelled to go beyond the bench. Your only reward for getting your legs scratched by uluhe is another clearing for a high tension powerline.

  • Be careful: It might seem like it’s easier to walk on roots rather than get muddy, but wet roots are often far slipperier. 

  • The mosquitoes aren’t terrible, but it is a rainforest, after all, so wear covered clothing or bug repellent.

  • Keep some hike clothes in your car and make this hike part of an extemporaneous after-work event.


Click here for more hikes we like.


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Honolulu Magazine March 2018
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