O‘ahu Hike of the Month: Pu‘u Ma‘eli‘eli Digging Trail
An easy hike with a panoramic view of the Windward coast.
Update: This hike is now closed to the public. Visit hawaiitrails.hawaii.gov to find a legal hike for you to explore!
HIKE: Puʻu Maʻeliʻeli Digging Trail
LENGTH: 1.5 miles roundtrip
WHERE: Kāneʻohe, on the right side of Kahekili Highway (heading away from town), close to the Temple Valley Shopping Center
Hiking can be dangerous, and not every trail is a good idea for every person. Keep your personal fitness and skill levels in mind, and always take proper precautions when venturing off road. Heed “no trespassing” and other warning signs.
The trailhead is on your left; it’s marked by a bright yellow indicator.
Photos: Jaclyn Saito
If you’re looking for a short and sweet hike with exceptional views throughout, this is the trail for you. Translated from Hawaiian, Puʻu Maʻeliʻeli means “digging hill.” Constantly surrounded by a sea of green, we found the hike to be very calming, despite the few steep hills and slippery slopes. It’s also a great hike to bring your out-of-town guests or kids on. You won’t find many other hikers on this hike, which is quite nice.
The trailhead isn’t too difficult to find, and if you park by the Temple Valley Shopping Center, to get to the hike you’ll need to walk along the guard rails on the makai side, against the direction of traffic.
Along the hike, there aren’t many markers indicating which way is the “right” way, but if you follow the main trail (the widest and most treaded-on trail), you’re on the right track.
The trail is mostly shaded, so sun isn’t a major factor, but, since the area tends to get a lot of rain, it gets humid. The trail can get muddy in some parts, so walk with caution. There are a good number of roots and rocks in the ground throughout the hike, which come in handy, especially in the muddy areas.
And if you turn around, you get a beautiful view of the Koʻolau Range.
After conquering one of the steeper, root-ridden hills on the hike, we knew we were nearing the end. The hardest part of the hike seemed to be over … that is, until we found ourselves face to face with a swarm of bees. Quickly, we backtracked. We tried another route, but to no avail, since it seemed to just lead us away from where we needed to go.
This was probably just bad timing. As we neared the top, we passed a couple of groups of hikers on their way down, so the recent high amount of activity may have disrupted the bees, causing them to swarm the area.
Beyond the area where we had to turn back, there’s a section with a rope to assist you up the hill. After this, you’ll see two World War II bunkers, which you can climb on top of (optional and at your own risk), to rest before an amazing view. The bunkers were a part of Camp Heʻeia, a military training area, supporting about 4,500 military personnel during World War II.
Unfortunately because of our run-in with the bees, we didn’t complete the hike. The view from the top is said to have a beautiful, panoramic view of the Windward coast. But even if you don’t make it to the top, along the trail are multiple viewpoints, with beautiful views of the ocean and lush greenery.
The hike back down the hill was much easier, because it was getting sunnier and, as a result, the majority of the mud had dried, allowing for better traction.
Look at that view! And this wasn’t even the top.
- Find parallel parking on Hui Iwa Street, right next to the Temple Valley Shopping Center (home to Koʻolau Theaters.) From here, it is just a short walk to the entrance of the hike.
- Bring tons of bug repellant and apply liberally.
- Wear shoes with enough traction to avoid slipping, and be ready to get them muddy.
- To keep your car from getting dirty, bring a plastic bag to put your shoes in after the hike.