Oʻahu Hike We Like: Wiliwilinui Ridge
For a fun outing with the keiki or a challenging workout, this hike is great for everyone.
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: Savannah L. Murray
TRAIL NAME: Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail
DIFFICULTY: Moderate to Challenging
LENGTH: 2.7 miles one way, about 4 hours total (5.4 miles round trip)
WHERE: ʻĀina Haina
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.
This hike begins slowly along a paved road. Some small hills get your muscles warmed up, and then the hike follows the ridge with mostly small incline and decline hills. You’re surrounded by ironwoods, then various Hawaiian plants and ferns. (In the summer the strawberry guavas are in full bloom for tasty pit-stop snacks along the way.) This trail was smooth-sailing for the first half. I wore a loose long-sleeve and leggings to combat the chill from the cloudy day, but warmed up quickly thanks to our fast pace. We continued along the ridgeline, spotting ʻōhiʻa lehua blossoms and other native plants. Although it begins wide, the trail does narrow significantly. The resulting view down into both sides of the valley is incredible (albeit a bit dizzying).
Making our way under a natural “tunnel” of trees, we reached the base of where the going gets a bit rougher. This is where the trail goes from moderate to challenging: A wide red-dirt clearing right before lets you catch your breath before powering up multiple sets of stairs as you wrap up the last mile or two of the hike with the most challenging ascent so far, with the ever-better view pushing you to keep going. We were breathing hard at this point, but the crisp air and cloudy haze kept us from getting too overheated and there were several natural points to take breaks. Two ropes along the more hair-raising parts also lent a helping hand for us as we finally topped the ridge.
What I love about this hike is you can stop anywhere along it and have a fantastic view. Bring a picnic and the kids and check out one of the openings in the trees along the ridge for an afternoon lunch looking down into the valley, or tromp farther up to the base of the steps and relax in the clearing. But if you make it to the very top you’re rewarded with a panoramic view of Chinaman’s Hat, all of Kāneʻohe, Kailua, Waimānalo, Koko Head, Diamond Head Crater, and all the way to the West Side. Rest on the bench next to the summit sign, and contemplate the trails along the Ko‘olau mountains where you could continue hiking along the ridge, but only if you are the most experienced of hikers. Or do what we did and sit back and enjoy one of the highest peaks on the island with the powerful wind instantly bringing your heart rate back down for the return journey.
MAP & DIRECTIONS
Coming from town on Kalanianaʻole Highway, turn left on Laukahi Street. Follow the winding road all the way up until you reach the guard booth. From there keep following the road until you get to a fork, take the left (there is a small sign which indicates the trail entrance) and keep going past houses and through a cul-de-sac until you see the parking lot on your left-hand side.
Bring your ID for the guard.
The paved parking spaces are limited, but you can park along the trailhead.
This hike was great with the high clouds, but rainy or foggy weather would make this a dangerous (and unrewarding!) summit.
We wore sunscreen but still felt a little burnt, so if you’re going on a sunny day bring lots of sunscreen to reapply as you hike.
Bring lots of water to stay hydrated.