Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Hawaii Hiking Guide: Ka'ena Point

While I was in Hawaii last month, I wanted to get out and see some parts of the island of O'ahu that were a little bit off the beaten path. So I through on my Keens hiking sandals and got exploring.

Total length - Pink (leward side) - 4km one way, Green (north shore) -3.8km one way. 
Difficulty - Easy to moderate (Pink side)

Ka'ena point is a wildlife reserve in Ka'ena Point State Park, and is the North West most point on the island of O'ahu. The only way to reach the point is by hiking (or cycling) in along the trail, either from the North Short or the Leward side of  the island. I came in along the leward side (the pink line in the image above).

What to bring:
-Sunscreen (there is almost no shade on the point)
-No dogs - unless you don't mind not making it to the end
-hike can be done in running shoes
-Swim wear if you want to take a dip in the ocean

How to get there:
-The Pink trail head can be reached by driving north along highway 93 until you reach the end (there is a bathroom  facility here, but bring your own TP as it wasn't stocked or particularly clean)
-The green trail head can be reached by driving west along highway 930 until you reach the end

There is almost no shade on the point, so avoid my mistakes and plan to hike either early in the morning or later in the afternoon.  The hike wasn't busy at all, and most of the people I met were locals, so no need to avoid piles of tourists. The hike itself (if you are only going to the point and back, along either route) takes about 1.5 hours, but the point is so beautiful you make want to plan to take time to picnic and hang out for a bit there.

As soon as I got out of my car and onto the trail, I was amazed at how beautiful the landscape was. Although the leeward side of O'ahu can seem a little barren, with mostly scrub bushes, the ruggedness of this coast is breath taking. In addition the ocean was the perfect mix of blues and greens with tonnes of white crashing surf. You can't actually access the ocean along the trail as the coast line is made up of cliffs and boulder beaches and the crashing waves would tumble you in a heart beat.

The trail itself mainly follows the old rail road bed and is mostly flat. Some sections however divert from the bed where it has been eroded away. Before entering the reserve on the point you cross a fence though a double gate. No dogs are permitted past this point, as the area protected for shore birds nesting grounds.

Make sure you wear a hat and lots of sunscreen (reapply, reapply reapply), especially if you're hiking at noon like me! I did this hike alone, and felt totally safe the whole time. The trail was just busy enough that you were occasionally passed by or passing other hikers, but certainly empty enough that you felt by yourself.

If you visit the point between late October and early spring, you may get to see nesting Laysan Albatross. Be sure to stay on the trail here, obey the rules about dogs, since these birds nest on he ground, but otherwise the birds seemed happy to be photographed, and didn't overly mind the passing hikers.

Be sure to spend some time taking in the view at the point itself. Obey the signage about the endangered mung seals which come on shore and occasionally breed here. Apparently they're usually around in winter, I of course saw none. But what I did see was whales! Swimming by the island in the distance. I wish I had some binoculars with me, but if you watched the ocean you would see the occasional spout, followed by the whale breaching, and sometimes you'd even see the tale come up! It was completely serene, and the first time I have ever seen whales in the wild.

1 comment:

  1. What an awesome hike! I've been to O'ahu twice and haven't heard of this before. Will keep it in mind for future trips.