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Okolehao Trail In Hanalei On Kauai, Hawaii


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Regine Cheng



Welcome to the Okolehao Trail in Hanalei, located on the stunning island of Kauai, Hawaii. This hidden gem of a trail offers visitors a unique and unforgettable hiking experience. With its breathtaking scenery, lush vegetation, and fascinating history, the Okolehao Trail is a must-visit destination for nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers.


Immerse yourself in the captivating beauty of the Hawaiian landscape as you embark on this scenic trail. The Okolehao Trail takes you through dense forests, across sparkling streams, and up to stunning viewpoints that offer panoramic vistas of the surrounding mountains and coastline. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a beginner looking for an enjoyable and moderately challenging trek, the Okolehao Trail has something to offer for everyone.


Discover the rich history behind the trail’s name. Okolehao, a term native to Hawaii, refers to a traditional Hawaiian liquor made from the root of the ti plant. The trail’s name pays homage to the days when moonshiners used the area to produce this potent alcoholic beverage during the Prohibition era. As you traverse the trail, you’ll feel a sense of connection to the past and an appreciation for the natural and cultural heritage of the region.


Whether you’re seeking solitude, adventure, or a memorable outdoor experience with family and friends, the Okolehao Trail in Hanalei offers it all. Lace up your hiking boots, pack your sense of adventure, and get ready to explore the wonders that await you along this remarkable trail. Let’s delve into the fascinating details of the Okolehao Trail and discover why it should be at the top of your list when visiting Kauai.


Overview of Okolehao Trail

The Okolehao Trail is a scenic hiking trail located in Hanalei, on the beautiful island of Kauai, Hawaii. This trail is known for its stunning natural beauty, diverse landscapes, and historical significance. Spanning approximately 2.5 miles, the Okolehao Trail takes hikers on a journey through dense forests, across streams, and up to breathtaking viewpoints.


As you explore the Okolehao Trail, you’ll encounter a variety of terrain, including moss-covered rocks, lush vegetation, and towering trees. The trail’s moderate difficulty level makes it accessible to hikers of various fitness levels, from beginners to experienced trekkers.


One of the highlights of the Okolehao Trail is its panoramic vistas. From the viewpoints along the trail, hikers can marvel at sweeping views of the majestic mountains of Kauai’s interior and the sparkling coastline stretching out towards the horizon.


Another fascinating aspect of the Okolehao Trail is its historical significance. The trail was once used by moonshiners during the Prohibition era to produce Okolehao, a traditional Hawaiian liquor made from the ti plant. This rich history adds an extra layer of intrigue to the trail, allowing hikers to connect with the cultural heritage of the region.


Throughout the trail, you may come across remnants of the past, such as old moonshine stills or artifacts left by early settlers. These remnants serve as reminders of the vibrant history of the area and provide a glimpse into the past.


Whether you choose to embark on the Okolehao Trail for the stunning views, the historical significance, or simply for the joy of being immersed in nature, you can be sure that you’ll be treated to an unforgettable experience. The trail offers a peaceful and serene escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life, allowing hikers to reconnect with nature and find tranquility along the way.


So, grab your hiking gear, pack some snacks, and prepare to embark on an adventure along the Okolehao Trail. The wonders of Kauai’s beautiful landscape await you as you take each step, creating memories that will last a lifetime.


History of Okolehao Trail

The history of the Okolehao Trail holds a fascinating connection to the past of Hanalei, Kauai. The trail gets its name from a traditional Hawaiian liquor called Okolehao, which was produced during the Prohibition era. Okolehao was made from the root of the ti plant, a native Hawaiian plant known for its versatility and cultural significance.


During the Prohibition era in the United States, which lasted from 1920 to 1933, the production, sale, and distribution of alcoholic beverages were prohibited. This period led to the rise of clandestine operations across the country, and Hawaii was no exception. In Hanalei, moonshiners took advantage of the lush environment and used the area now known as the Okolehao Trail as a location to produce the highly sought-after Okolehao liquor.


The process of making Okolehao involved fermenting the ti plant’s root, resulting in a strong and potent alcoholic beverage. The moonshiners would carefully tend to their secret stills hidden in the dense forests surrounding the trail, producing Okolehao that would be sold and consumed throughout Kauai.


Although the production of Okolehao was illegal during the Prohibition era, the moonshiners took great risks to continue their operations. They utilized the secluded and rugged terrain of the trail to evade law enforcement and maintain secrecy. Today, the remnants of their activities can still be seen along the Okolehao Trail, serving as a reminder of this intriguing chapter in Kauai’s history.


Walking along the Okolehao Trail, hikers can imagine what life was like during those Prohibition years. The trail offers a glimpse into the resourcefulness and determination of the moonshiners who braved the elements and the law to produce their illicit liquor. It also provides an opportunity to appreciate the cultural significance of the ti plant in Hawaiian traditions and its role in the production of Okolehao.


The Okolehao Trail’s historical background adds depth and intrigue to the hiking experience, making it more than just a scenic adventure. It allows visitors to connect with the past and gain a deeper understanding of the cultural heritage of the region. As you hike through the lush forests and explore the hidden nooks of the trail, take a moment to reflect on the resilience and ingenuity of the individuals who once walked these same paths, producing the legendary Okolehao liquor.


Location and Directions

The Okolehao Trail is nestled in the town of Hanalei, on the scenic island of Kauai, Hawaii. Hanalei is located on the north shore of the island, known for its lush landscapes, stunning beaches, and vibrant community. To reach the trailhead, there are a few different options depending on your starting point.


If you are coming from Kauai’s main town of Lihue, the drive to Hanalei takes approximately one hour. Simply head north on Highway 56, also known as Kuhio Highway, and follow it all the way to Hanalei. The trailhead is located just off Ohiki Road, which runs parallel to the Hanalei River.


Once you arrive in Hanalei, look for signs directing you to the Okolehao Trail. There is a small parking area near the trailhead, but as it can fill up quickly, it is advisable to arrive early in the day or on weekdays to secure a spot.


If you are staying in Hanalei or nearby, you may not need to drive to the trailhead. Many accommodations in the area are within walking distance, allowing for a convenient and scenic start to your hiking adventure.


It’s always a good idea to check local weather and trail conditions before heading out. Kauai’s weather can be unpredictable, and rain can make trails muddy and slippery. It is also worth noting that the Okolehao Trail may close temporarily during heavy rainfall or other hazardous conditions.


When embarking on the trail, it is recommended to bring a map or use a GPS device to ensure you stay on the correct path. The trailhead is clearly marked, but it’s helpful to have a reference point to navigate the trail’s twists and turns.


As you journey along the Okolehao Trail, take the time to soak in the stunning surroundings and immerse yourself in Kauai’s natural beauty. The trail’s location in Hanalei offers a unique blend of scenic coastal views, lush forests, and a vibrant community to explore before or after your hike.


Remember to always be respectful of the land and follow any posted rules or regulations. The Okolehao Trail is a treasure to be cherished, and by being mindful of its delicate ecosystem, we can ensure its preservation for generations to come.


Trail Difficulty and Length

The Okolehao Trail offers a moderate hiking experience with a total length of approximately 2.5 miles. While it is not overly challenging, it does require a moderate level of physical fitness and hiking experience.


The trail begins with a gradual ascent through the lush forests of Hanalei, taking you through a variety of terrains. You’ll encounter moss-covered rocks, tree roots, and occasional uneven terrain, so it’s important to wear sturdy hiking shoes or boots for proper traction. The trail can be muddy and slippery after rainfall, so caution is advised in these conditions.


As you continue along the Okolehao Trail, you’ll navigate several stream crossings. These crossings add an element of adventure to the hike and require careful footing. It’s recommended to bring water shoes or sandals that you don’t mind getting wet to make the stream crossings more comfortable.


The trail gradually ascends and offers some steeper sections, providing a moderate level of incline to challenge hikers and get their hearts pumping. The elevation gain is approximately 650 feet, but the natural beauty and rewarding vistas make the effort worthwhile.


It generally takes about 2-3 hours to complete the entire Okolehao Trail, depending on your pace and the time spent exploring viewpoints along the way. It’s important to allocate enough time to fully enjoy the trail and its scenic offerings.


While the Okolehao Trail is suitable for most hikers, it’s essential to assess your physical fitness and hiking ability before embarking on the journey. Beginners and those with limited hiking experience may find some sections challenging, but with proper preparation and pacing, it is still attainable.


It’s recommended to bring plenty of water to stay hydrated, especially in the warm Hawaiian climate. Additionally, pack some snacks or a light meal to enjoy along the trail. Remember to leave no trace and take all trash with you to maintain the pristine natural environment.


Overall, the Okolehao Trail strikes a balance between accessibility and adventure. It offers a moderate challenge, rewarding hikers with spectacular views and a sense of accomplishment. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker seeking a refreshing trek or a beginner looking to push your limits, the Okolehao Trail is sure to deliver a memorable experience amidst the beauty of Hanalei, Kauai.


Trail Features and Highlights

The Okolehao Trail is blessed with an array of natural wonders and captivating features that make it a truly special hiking experience. As you make your way along the trail, you’ll be treated to a variety of highlights that showcase the beauty and diversity of the Hanalei region.


One of the prominent features of the Okolehao Trail is its lush and vibrant flora. The trail winds through dense forests, where you’ll encounter towering trees, tropical plants, and colorful flowers. The canopy of foliage above provides a cool and serene atmosphere, creating an immersive and peaceful hiking experience.


Along the trail, be sure to keep an eye out for the wildlife that calls this area home. Hanalei is known for its rich biodiversity, and you might spot native birds, such as the ‘I’iwi or the ‘Apapane, flitting among the branches. The occasional glimpse of a Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle or a colorful gecko may also add to the sense of wonder.


As you ascend the trail, you’ll be rewarded with captivating viewpoints that offer panoramic vistas of the surrounding landscapes. These viewpoints provide the perfect opportunity to pause, catch your breath, and take in the breathtaking scenery. From the lush mountains of Kauai’s interior to the glistening coastline stretching as far as the eye can see, these vistas are truly awe-inspiring.


Another highlight of the Okolehao Trail is the opportunity to encounter historical remnants from the Prohibition era. Along the trail, you might come across old moonshine stills or artifacts left behind by the moonshiners who once clandestinely produced Okolehao in this area. These remnants serve as a glimpse into the past, adding an intriguing layer of history to your hike.


The trail also features stream crossings, which add an adventurous touch to the journey. These crossings require careful footing and may involve getting your feet wet, but they provide a fun and unique aspect to the hike. Take your time to navigate these crossings, enjoying the refreshing water and the sound of the flowing streams.


Overall, the Okolehao Trail showcases the best of Hanalei’s natural beauty. From the vibrant flora to the mesmerizing viewpoints and the historical remnants, each step along the trail reveals something captivating. Whether you’re a nature lover, a history enthusiast, or an adventurer at heart, the features and highlights of the Okolehao Trail are sure to leave a lasting impression.


Flora and Fauna

The Okolehao Trail is a treasure trove of diverse flora and fauna, showcasing the remarkable biodiversity of the Hanalei region. As you traverse the trail, you’ll encounter an array of plant species, many of which are native to Hawaii, as well as the opportunity to spot various forms of wildlife.


The forested sections of the trail are carpeted with a lush and verdant understory of vegetation. Towering trees, including ‘Ohi’a Lehua and Koa, create a majestic canopy overhead. These trees provide much-needed shade, adding to the cool and tranquil ambiance of the hike. Additionally, you’ll come across smaller plants such as ferns, mosses, and vibrant flowers, adding bursts of color to the scenery.


The Okolehao Trail is also home to a variety of bird species, making it a paradise for birdwatchers. Keep your eyes and ears open for the melodious calls of native Hawaiian birds, such as the ‘I’iwi with its vibrant red plumage, the ‘Apapane with its distinctive song, or the Hawaiian Honeycreeper, also known as the ‘Amakihi. These avian treasures can often be seen flitting among the branches or foraging for food.


Don’t be surprised if you encounter some of Kauai’s other indigenous wildlife along the trail. Geckos and Green Anoles are commonly sighted, showcasing their impressive agility and colorful markings. If you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of the endangered Hawaiian Monk Seal lounging on a secluded beach along the coastline.


The Okolehao Trail also offers glimpses of marine life, with the opportunity to spot Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles swimming near the shore. It’s essential to maintain a respectful distance and observe these beautiful creatures from afar, ensuring their well-being remains undisturbed.


While exploring the Okolehao Trail, take a moment to appreciate the delicate balance of nature that exists within the diverse flora and fauna. The interconnectedness of these ecosystems is a reminder of the beauty and fragility of the natural world, underscoring the importance of conservation efforts and responsible hiking practices.


As you immerse yourself in the sights and sounds of the trail, remember to tread lightly and leave no trace behind. This helps preserve the delicate ecosystem and ensures that future generations can also enjoy the wonders of the Okolehao Trail and the incredible flora and fauna that call it home.


Safety Tips and Considerations

While hiking the Okolehao Trail can be a rewarding and enjoyable experience, it’s essential to prioritize safety. Here are some important safety tips and considerations to keep in mind before embarking on your adventure:

  1. Check weather conditions: Before heading out, ensure you are aware of the current and forecasted weather conditions for the area. Kauai’s weather can be unpredictable, and rain can make the trail slippery and more challenging to navigate.
  2. Plan ahead: Familiarize yourself with the trail map and ensure you know the route and any potential hazards or difficult sections. It’s also a good practice to inform someone of your hiking plans, including your expected return time.
  3. Wear proper footwear: Choose sturdy and comfortable hiking shoes or boots with good traction to navigate the varying terrain, including stream crossings and potentially slippery sections.
  4. Stay hydrated: Carry an ample supply of water to stay hydrated throughout your hike. It’s recommended to drink water regularly, especially in the warm Hawaiian climate. Consider bringing a water filter or purification tablets in case you need to refill your water from natural sources.
  5. Protect yourself from the sun: Apply sunscreen generously, wear a hat, and bring sunglasses to protect your skin and eyes from the strong Hawaiian sun. Consider lightweight, breathable clothing that provides coverage to prevent sunburn.
  6. Use insect repellent: Mosquitoes and other insects can be present in certain areas along the trail. Apply insect repellent to protect yourself from bites and consider wearing long sleeves and pants as an additional preventive measure.
  7. Watch your step: Be cautious of uneven terrain, rocks, and tree roots, particularly in shaded areas or after rainfall when surfaces may be slippery. Take your time and maintain a steady pace to avoid accidents or falls.
  8. Respect wildlife and plants: Do not disturb or feed wildlife, and keep a safe distance. Avoid touching or eating any unfamiliar plants as some may be poisonous or have thorny or irritating properties.
  9. Leave no trace: Minimize your impact on the environment by packing out all trash, including food wrappers and containers. Follow the principles of “Leave No Trace” to preserve the natural beauty of the Okolehao Trail for future hikers.
  10. Hike within your abilities: Gauge your fitness level and experience before attempting the trail. If you are a beginner or have health concerns, consider choosing an easier trail or hiking with a more experienced companion.

By adhering to these safety tips and considerations, you can enjoy a safe and memorable hiking experience along the Okolehao Trail. Remember to be prepared, take precautions, and make responsible decisions throughout your journey.


What to Bring and Wear

When preparing for a hike on the Okolehao Trail, it’s important to bring and wear the right gear to ensure your comfort, safety, and enjoyment. Here’s a checklist of items to consider:

  1. Hiking shoes or boots: Choose sturdy and comfortable footwear with good traction to navigate the varying terrain of the trail. Ensure your shoes are properly broken-in to prevent blisters or discomfort during the hike.
  2. Appropriate clothing: Dress in lightweight, breathable, and moisture-wicking layers to manage the Hawaiian climate. Consider wearing long sleeves and pants to protect yourself from sunburn and insect bites. Carry a lightweight, waterproof jacket in case of rain.
  3. Sun protection: Apply sunscreen generously before starting the hike, and bring extra to reapply as needed. Wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses to protect yourself from the intense sunlight.
  4. Bug repellent: Apply insect repellent to prevent bites from mosquitoes and other insects. Look for one that is effective against mosquitoes and ticks, as they may be present along the trail.
  5. Water and snacks: Carry enough water to stay hydrated throughout your hike. Consider a reusable water bottle or hydration bladder. Pack lightweight and energy-rich snacks like nuts, dried fruits, and energy bars for a quick boost of energy on the trail.
  6. Hiking backpack: Choose a comfortable backpack that can hold all your essentials, including water, snacks, sunscreen, bug repellent, and extra layers. Look for one with adjustable straps and ample storage space.
  7. Trail map and compass: Carry a detailed trail map or use a GPS device to navigate the Okolehao Trail. A compass can also be useful for orienting yourself if needed.
  8. First aid kit: Pack a lightweight first aid kit with essentials like band-aids, antiseptic wipes, pain relievers, and any necessary personal medications.
  9. Camera or smartphone: Capture the stunning views and memories along the trail by bringing a camera or using your smartphone. Just remember to store it securely and protect it from any potential water damage.
  10. Cash or card: Have some cash or a card with you in case you need to purchase any supplies, entry fees, or parking fees in the area.

It’s important to pack light and only bring the essentials to avoid unnecessary weight and discomfort during your hike. Be mindful of leaving no trace and take any trash with you to maintain the cleanliness and beauty of the trail.


By wearing appropriate clothing and bringing the necessary items, you can have a comfortable and enjoyable experience while exploring the Okolehao Trail.


Hiking Etiquette

When hiking the Okolehao Trail, it’s important to practice proper hiking etiquette to ensure a positive experience for yourself, fellow hikers, and the preservation of the natural environment. Here are some essential guidelines to follow:

  1. Stay on the trail: Stick to the designated path and avoid creating new trails or cutting switchbacks. This helps protect the fragile ecosystem and prevents erosion.
  2. Yield to others: Uphill hikers have the right of way on the trail. If you encounter other hikers or groups coming uphill, step aside and allow them to pass safely.
  3. Keep noise to a minimum: Respect the tranquility of nature and keep noise levels down. Avoid using loud devices or playing music out loud, as it can disrupt others’ enjoyment of the surroundings.
  4. Leave no trace: Carry out all trash, including food wrappers, and dispose of it properly. Avoid picking or disturbing plants and leave them as you found them. Minimize your impact on the environment by practicing the principles of “Leave No Trace.”
  5. Be mindful of wildlife: Observe wildlife from a safe distance and avoid feeding or approaching them. Keep in mind that some animals may be sensitive to human presence, so maintain a respectful distance to avoid causing stress or harm.
  6. Respect private property: Stay on public land and respect any private property signs along the trail. Avoid trespassing or disturbing the surrounding residences or natural areas.
  7. Pack it in, pack it out: Bring all your belongings with you when you leave, including any trash, water bottles, or food containers. Dispose of waste properly in designated bins or carry it out until you find a suitable disposal location.
  8. Be considerate of others: Practice good trail etiquette by being polite and considerate to other hikers you encounter. Offer a friendly greeting and be mindful of your impact on their experience.
  9. Follow local rules and regulations: Familiarize yourself with any specific rules or regulations for the Okolehao Trail and adhere to them. This includes any restrictions on camping, swimming, or bringing pets along.
  10. Educate yourself about the trail: Learn about the history, flora, and fauna of the trail before your hike. This knowledge will enhance your experience and deepen your appreciation for the area.

By practicing hiking etiquette, you contribute to the preservation of the Okolehao Trail and ensure that it remains a wonderful destination for future hikers to enjoy. Let’s all do our part to respect the environment and create a positive hiking community.



The Okolehao Trail in Hanalei, Kauai, Hawaii, offers an enchanting and immersive experience for hikers of all levels. From its rich history rooted in the Prohibition era to its breathtaking views and diverse flora and fauna, this trail captures the essence of the natural beauty and cultural heritage of the region.


As you venture along the Okolehao Trail, you’ll be transported to a world of lush forests, sparkling streams, and awe-inspiring vistas. The moderate difficulty level of the trail ensures a rewarding challenge, while still remaining accessible to a wide range of hikers.


The trail’s historical significance, with its connections to moonshining and the production of Okolehao, adds an extra layer of intrigue and brings the past to life as you wander through the forested paths. You’ll have the opportunity to witness remnants of this era, reminding you of the determination and ingenuity of those who once walked these same trails.


The Okolehao Trail also provides ample opportunities to appreciate and connect with the natural world. From the vibrant flora and fauna to the mesmerizing viewpoints, each step along the trail reveals a new wonder to behold. Whether it’s the sighting of a colorful bird, the refreshing stream crossings, or the panoramic perspectives from the ridges, the trail offers a feast for the senses.


To make the most of your Okolehao Trail adventure, remember to come prepared with appropriate gear and adhere to safety practices. Respect the environment and fellow hikers by practicing leave no trace principles and hiking etiquette. By treading lightly and being mindful of the delicate ecosystem, we can help preserve the trail for generations to come.


So, lace up your hiking boots, grab your gear, and embark on a memorable journey along the Okolehao Trail. Discover the beauty, history, and natural wonders that await you in the breathtaking landscapes of Hanalei, Kauai. As you immerse yourself in this outdoor paradise, let the Okolehao Trail leave an indelible mark on your heart and create memories that will last a lifetime.