O‘ahu Hike We Like: Kapa‘ele‘ele Trail
This hidden gem boasts a walk through jungle greenery, a peaceful incline through pine trees and a stunning ocean view.
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.
Photos: Marisa Hartzell
TRAIL NAME: Kapaʻeleʻele Trail
DIFFICULTY: Easy to Moderate
LENGTH: 1.2 miles roundtrip, about an hour total
WHERE: Ahupuaʻa O Kahana State Park
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.
If any opportunity presents itself to go up to the northeast side of the island, I seize it without hesitation. The northeast shore of Oʻahu has seemingly escaped the wrath of industrialization that bore itself into other parts of the island, and it’s evident with its peaceful, almost lulling feeling that seems to entrance the people passing through.
This trail is exemplary of this feeling with its lush, slightly undermaintained path that takes you to a historic fishing lookout that Native Hawaiians used long ago with a panoramic view of Kahana Bay. Along the way, you’ll pass a sacred fish shrine called Kapaʻeleʻele Koʻa where Native Hawaiians placed offerings for bountiful harvests of fish.
Start the journey by finding the park’s headquarters on the right side as you’re walking into Kahana Bay Beach Park. You’ll see a clear sign right before the visitor center that points down an old railroad bed for sugar cane lined with a canopy of trees.
Walk down that path until you reach a huge fallen tree (that seemingly blocks the path) and turn left into the forest. Make a quick right past the tree to start the trail.
The deserted trail is a narrow, sometimes muddy path that winds through tree roots and brush. As you ascend the shallow incline of the trail, there are a few markers that serve as good resting (or Instagrammable) points: The first is a bench, the second the Kapaʻeleʻele Koʻa fishing shrine and last is at the very top, where the fishing lookout is. The bay comes into view more and more with each passing marker.
While most of the hike takes place in a humid, jungle climate, the most beautiful part takes you through tall pine trees that are reminiscent of the woodsy areas at Bellows or Waimānalo. After passing the Kapaʻeleʻele Koʻa, don’t miss the left turnoff into the pine trees that leads to the best views of the hike.
Take your time and bask in the beauty of Oʻahu’s pyramid-shaped Puʻu Ohulehule peak from above. Sit and take in the views or bring a hammock and recline, watching local daredevils paraglide above the bay. The sprawling ocean views and the tranquil character of the trail make this a hidden gem on Oʻahu’s North Shore.
Maps & Directions
Heading north on Kamehameha Highway past Kualoa Ranch, find Ahupuaʻa O Kahana State Park on the left side. Park near the restrooms and walk inside the park, where you’ll find the visitor center and a clear sign pointing to the start of the trail.
There is ample parking at Kahana State Park, but beware of the closing times: 7:45 p.m. before Labor Day and 6:45 p.m. from Labor Day until March 31.
The trail is a loop that spits you out on the side of Kamehameha Highway (there’s a grass pathway) but don’t miss the ascent to the fishing lookout that takes you off the loop.
- When in doubt, find the pink or blue trail markers on the trees. (Some parts of this trail are harder to follow because they are overgrown, but you can follow the trail markers throughout the loop.)
- Bring bug spray.
- If you see trash, pick it up! Keep the trail beautiful by doing your part.
- Bring a bathing suit. After seeing the blue waters from up above, you’ll surely find yourself wanting to take a dip in the bay after you walk back.