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Pali Puka Hike On Oahu, Hawaii: The Hiker’s Guide


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Dulci Graber



Welcome to the beautiful island of Oahu, Hawaii, where adventure seekers and nature lovers alike can indulge in the picturesque landscapes and thrilling hiking experiences. One of the most captivating hikes on Oahu is the Pali Puka Trail, a hidden gem nestled along the iconic Pali Highway. This hike offers a unique and exhilarating journey that will reward you with breathtaking views and a sense of awe.


The Pali Puka Hike is a popular choice amongst both locals and tourists due to its stunning natural beauty and moderate difficulty level. The highlight of this hike is reaching the famous Pali Puka, a small hole in the cliffside that provides a stunning vantage point overlooking the lush Windward Coastline. This natural archway has become an Instagram-worthy spot, attracting visitors from around the world.


As you embark on this adventure, be prepared to immerse yourself in the tropical rainforest, traverse rocky terrain, and experience the thrill of conquering elevation gain. This guide will equip you with essential information, insider tips, and a glimpse into the wonder that awaits you on the Pali Puka Hike.


So, lace up your hiking boots, pack your sense of adventure, and let’s dive into the details of this incredible journey through the heart of Oahu’s natural wonders.


Overview of the Pali Puka Hike

The Pali Puka Hike is a thrilling and scenic adventure that takes you through the stunning Ko’olau Mountain Range on the island of Oahu. The trail is approximately 2 miles round trip and offers a moderate level of difficulty. It is a popular choice for hikers looking to explore the natural wonders of Hawaii and witness breathtaking panoramic views.


The hike begins at the Pali Puka Trailhead, located on the Pali Highway, which is easily accessible from Honolulu and other major areas on the island. As you make your way up the mountain, you will be surrounded by lush vegetation, towering trees, and the refreshing sounds of nature. Be prepared for some steep sections and uneven terrain as you ascend to higher elevations.


One of the main highlights of the Pali Puka Hike is reaching the Pali Puka itself. This rock formation is a natural archway that offers unparalleled views of the Windward Coastline. Standing at the Pali Puka lookout point, you will be treated to an awe-inspiring vista of the sparkling blue ocean, rugged cliffs, and sprawling green landscapes.


Throughout the hike, you will also encounter various other viewpoints and photo opportunities, including glimpses of the majestic Nu’uanu Pali Lookout. The Pali Puka Hike provides a unique perspective of Oahu’s natural beauty, allowing you to appreciate the island’s diverse topography and the forces of nature that have shaped it over time.


It is important to note that while the Pali Puka Trail is a popular hiking destination, it is not an officially maintained trail. This means that the path can be rugged and sometimes slippery, requiring caution and proper footwear. Additionally, there are no restroom facilities or water sources along the trail, so be sure to pack enough water and use the restroom before starting your hike.


Overall, the Pali Puka Hike is a rewarding experience that offers a combination of thrilling trekking, stunning views, and a chance to connect with nature. It is a must-visit for adventure enthusiasts and hikers looking to explore the natural wonders of Oahu.


How to Get to the Pali Puka Trailhead

The Pali Puka Trailhead is conveniently located on the Pali Highway, approximately 3.5 miles from the center of Honolulu. Whether you are staying in Waikiki or another part of Oahu, there are a few options for getting to the trailhead.


If you have a rental car, the easiest way to reach the Pali Puka Trailhead is by driving. From Waikiki, you can take the H1 freeway towards downtown Honolulu and then merge onto the Pali Highway (Highway 61). Follow the signs for the Pali Puka Trailhead and look for a small parking area on the left-hand side of the road. Please note that parking spaces are limited and can fill up quickly, especially during peak hours or on weekends.


If you prefer not to drive, you can also take advantage of the public transportation options available on Oahu. The nearest bus stop to the Pali Puka Trailhead is located at the intersection of the Pali Highway and Nu’uanu Pali Drive. From Waikiki, you can take bus numbers 4 or 6, which will drop you off near the trailhead. However, keep in mind that bus schedules may vary, so it is advisable to check the current schedule or use a transportation app for real-time updates.


Another option for getting to the Pali Puka Trailhead is to join a guided tour or hire a local transportation service. Many tour companies offer organized hikes to the Pali Puka, providing transportation from Waikiki and expert guides who can offer insights into the area’s history and ecology. This can be a convenient and stress-free way to experience the hike, especially if you are not familiar with the area or prefer a guided experience.


Once you arrive at the Pali Puka Trailhead, you will find a clearly marked trail leading into the lush wilderness of the Ko’olau Mountain Range. Be sure to check the weather conditions and trail conditions before embarking on your hike, as they can change rapidly in this area. It’s also a good idea to bring a map or use a hiking app to help navigate the trail.


Remember to respect the environment and be mindful of local regulations and guidelines. Stay on designated trails, pack out any trash, and leave only footprints on your adventure to ensure the sustainability and preservation of this beautiful natural area.


Trail Difficulty and Safety Tips

The Pali Puka Hike offers a moderate level of difficulty, making it accessible to hikers of various skill levels. However, it is important to be prepared and take necessary precautions to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience on the trail. Here are some trail difficulty and safety tips to keep in mind:


1. Proper footwear: Choose sturdy hiking shoes or boots that provide ankle support and have good traction. The trail can be uneven and slippery at times, so having the right footwear will help prevent accidents or injuries.


2. Stay hydrated: It is crucial to bring an adequate amount of water to stay hydrated throughout the hike. The tropical climate in Hawaii can be hot and humid, and sweating can lead to dehydration if you’re not careful. Pack enough water for the duration of the hike, and consider bringing electrolyte-rich snacks or drinks to replenish your energy levels.


3. Sun protection: Protect yourself from the sun’s rays by wearing sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses. The trail offers limited shade, so it’s essential to shield your skin and eyes from harmful UV rays.


4. Be mindful of the weather: Check the weather forecast before heading out on the hike. Avoid hiking during heavy rainfall or thunderstorms, as trail conditions can become dangerous. Keep in mind that the trail can be muddy and slippery after rain, so exercise caution in such conditions.


5. Pace yourself: Take your time and hike at a comfortable pace. The Pali Puka Trail involves some steep sections and elevation gain, so it’s important to listen to your body and take breaks when needed. Remember to breathe deeply and enjoy the journey.


6. Watch your step: Pay attention to your footing, especially on rocky and uneven terrain. Take care when crossing streams or stepping on wet surfaces. Use trekking poles if necessary to provide extra stability on challenging sections of the trail.


7. Leave no trace: Respect the natural environment by practicing Leave No Trace principles. This means packing out your trash, staying on designated trails, and avoiding damaging or disturbing the flora and fauna. Let’s all do our part in preserving the beauty of the Pali Puka Trail for future generations.


8. Hike with a buddy: It’s always safer to hike with a partner or in a group. Not only can you enjoy the journey together, but having someone to assist in case of emergencies can provide an added level of safety and peace of mind.


By following these trail difficulty and safety tips, you can make the most of your Pali Puka Hike while prioritizing your well-being. Embrace the adventure, take in the stunning views, and create lasting memories on this unforgettable journey through Oahu’s natural wonders.


What to Bring for the Hike

Proper preparation is key to a successful and enjoyable hike on the Pali Puka Trail. Here are some essential items you should bring with you:


1. Water: Staying hydrated is crucial during any hike, especially in the tropical climate of Hawaii. Carry an adequate amount of water to keep yourself hydrated throughout the journey. A reusable water bottle or hydration bladder is recommended.


2. Snacks: Fuel your body with lightweight, energy-rich snacks to keep your energy levels up. Choose snacks that are easy to pack, such as trail mix, energy bars, or dried fruits.


3. Sun Protection: Protect your skin from the sun’s rays by applying sunscreen before starting your hike. Choose a water-resistant sunscreen with a high SPF. Don’t forget to wear a hat and sunglasses to shield your face and eyes from the sun.


4. Proper footwear: Wear sturdy hiking shoes or boots with good traction to navigate the sometimes rocky and uneven terrain. Comfortable footwear that provides ankle support is essential to prevent injuries.


5. Clothing: Dress in lightweight, breathable layers suitable for the weather conditions. Consider wearing moisture-wicking materials to keep you cool and dry. It’s also a good idea to pack a lightweight rain jacket or poncho in case of unexpected showers.


6. Backpack: Use a backpack to carry all your essentials comfortably. Look for a backpack with adjustable straps and multiple pockets for easy organization.


7. Trail Map or App: Familiarize yourself with the trail beforehand by bringing a physical map or downloading a hiking app that provides detailed trail information. This will help you navigate the trail and stay on the right path.


8. First Aid Kit: Pack a small first aid kit with basic supplies such as band-aids, antiseptic ointment, adhesive tape, and pain relievers. It’s always better to be prepared for minor injuries or accidents.


9. Insect Repellent: Apply insect repellent to keep pesky bugs at bay. Mosquitoes and other insects can be present in the lush vegetation, especially during humid weather.


10. Camera or Smartphone: Capture the stunning views along the Pali Puka Trail by bringing a camera or smartphone with a good camera. Take photos of the breathtaking scenery to cherish the memories of your hike.


Remember to pack light and only bring essential items to avoid unnecessary weight and discomfort. Enjoy your hike on the Pali Puka Trail, and be prepared to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of Oahu.


Pali Puka Trail Route and Highlights

The Pali Puka Trail offers a scenic and adventurous route through the Ko’olau Mountain Range, leading to the iconic Pali Puka lookout. Here’s a breakdown of the trail route and some of the highlights you can expect along the way:


The trail begins at the Pali Puka Trailhead, just off the Pali Highway. From the parking area, follow the clearly marked trail as it winds its way through dense vegetation and gradually ascends into the mountains.


As you ascend the trail, you’ll encounter rocky sections, tree roots, and some steep terrain. The path can be rugged and uneven, so take your time and watch your step. Be prepared to engage your senses with the sweet scent of tropical plants and the symphony of bird songs.


As you continue along the trail, you’ll be treated to stunning views of the lush Windward Coastline, framed by the rugged cliffs of the Ko’olau Mountain Range. Take a moment to pause at the various viewpoints and soak in the beauty of the surrounding landscape. These are perfect opportunities to snap some incredible photos.


After approximately 1 mile of hiking, you’ll reach the highlight of the trail: the Pali Puka. This natural archway carved into the cliffside offers a breathtaking vista of the Windward Coastline, stretching as far as the eye can see. The mesmerizing turquoise waters, verdant valleys, and rugged cliffs create a picture-postcard backdrop. Be sure to take in this awe-inspiring view and let the beauty of nature sink in.


As you stand on the ledge of the Pali Puka, exercise caution and stay behind the safety barriers. The drop-offs can be steep and dangerous, so it’s important to stay on the designated path and ensure your own safety.


After soaking in the views and capturing memories, retrace your steps back to the trailhead. The return journey offers a different perspective of the surroundings, allowing you to appreciate the incredible scenery from a new angle.


Throughout the hike, keep an eye out for the diverse plant and animal life that call this area home. You may spot native birds, such as the ‘i’iwi or ‘apapane, as well as endemic plants like the ‘ōhi‘a lehua with its vibrant red flowers.


The Pali Puka Trail route is approximately 2 miles round trip, but allow for extra time to fully enjoy the mesmerizing views, take photos, and simply indulge in the tranquility of the natural surroundings.


The Pali Puka Trail is truly a gem on Oahu, offering a rewarding adventure and a breathtaking lookout point. Embrace the journey and let the beauty of the Windward Coastline captivate your senses throughout this unforgettable hiking experience.


Enjoying the Pali Puka Lookout

Standing at the Pali Puka lookout is a truly mesmerizing experience that rewards hikers with sweeping views of the Windward Coastline and the dramatic cliffs of the Ko’olau Mountain Range. Here are some tips for fully enjoying the Pali Puka lookout:


1. Soak in the view: Take a moment to absorb the majestic beauty of the landscape. From the Pali Puka, you’ll have an unobstructed panorama of the sparkling blue ocean, lush green valleys, and towering cliffs. Allow yourself to be captivated by the sheer grandeur of nature unfolding before your eyes.


2. Capture the memories: Be sure to bring your camera or smartphone to capture the stunning views. The Pali Puka lookout provides a picture-perfect backdrop for striking landscape shots and breathtaking selfies. Let the natural beauty of the Windward Coastline serve as a backdrop for memories that will last a lifetime.


3. Enjoy a picnic: Pack a light snack or lunch and savor a picnic with a view at the Pali Puka lookout. Find a comfortable spot to sit and unwind as you indulge in delicious food amidst the breathtaking scenery.


4. Meditate or practice yoga: The tranquil atmosphere and awe-inspiring views make the Pali Puka lookout an ideal setting for meditation or yoga practice. Find a peaceful spot, close your eyes, and let the sounds of nature soothe your mind. Engage in mindful breathing or strike a yoga pose and connect with the serenity of your surroundings.


5. Reflect on the history and significance: The Pali Puka lookout holds cultural and historical significance. Take a moment to reflect on the rich past of the area and the natural forces that shaped this incredible landscape. Imagine the ancient Hawaiians who once traversed these mountains and the stories that unfolded along these cliffs.


6. Stay for sunset: If you’re up for it, consider timing your hike to reach the Pali Puka lookout at sunset. The ethereal glow of the setting sun illuminating the coastline can create a truly magical experience. Witness the sky ablaze with colors and see the transition from day to night as darkness blankets the land.


7. Practice responsible tourism: As you enjoy the Pali Puka lookout, remember to practice responsible tourism. Respect the environment by staying on designated paths, not disturbing or removing any natural elements, and adhering to any posted guidelines or warnings. Let’s all do our part in preserving the splendor of this remarkable place.


Whether you choose to simply sit in awe, capture the moment in a photograph, or immerse yourself in peaceful reflection, the Pali Puka lookout offers a breathtaking experience that will leave an indelible mark on your memories. Take the time to fully embrace the magic of this extraordinary place and appreciate the natural wonders that abound on the Windward Coastline of Oahu.


Important Reminders for Hikers

As you embark on the Pali Puka Hike, it’s essential to keep a few reminders in mind to ensure your safety and preserve the natural beauty of the trail. Here are some important reminders for hikers:


1. Stay on the trail: Stick to the designated path and avoid venturing off-trail. This helps protect the fragile ecosystems and prevents unnecessary damage to the surrounding vegetation.


2. Pack out what you pack in: Leave no trace. Take all your trash with you and properly dispose of it when you reach a suitable waste receptacle. Be respectful of the environment and keep the trail clean for future hikers.


3. Respect wildlife: Keep a safe distance from wildlife and observe them from afar. Do not feed or approach animals, as this can disrupt their natural behaviors and potentially pose risks to both you and the animals.


4. Be mindful of noise: Enjoy the peaceful serenity of the trail by keeping noise to a minimum. Respect other hikers and the natural environment by refraining from loud conversations or playing loud music that may disturb the tranquility of the surroundings.


5. Be prepared for changing weather conditions: Hawaii’s weather can be unpredictable, so it’s important to be prepared for sudden changes. Bring appropriate rain gear, a hat, sunscreen, and extra layers to accommodate varying temperatures and weather conditions.


6. Be cautious of slippery surfaces: Some portions of the trail can be slippery, especially after rainfall. Take extra caution when walking on wet or muddy surfaces and use trekking poles if necessary for added stability.


7. Hike within your capabilities: The Pali Puka Trail offers a moderate level of difficulty, but it’s important to know your limitations. If you’re new to hiking or have any underlying health concerns, take breaks as needed and hike at a pace that feels comfortable for you.


8. Let someone know your plans: Before heading out on the hike, inform someone trustworthy about your hiking plans, including your expected time of return. This is a precautionary measure that ensures someone is aware of your whereabouts and can alert authorities if needed.


9. Check for trail updates: Prior to your hike, check for any trail updates or closures. Weather conditions or maintenance work may occasionally cause temporary closures, so it’s always wise to stay informed before embarking on your adventure.


10. Have a fully charged phone: Keep your phone fully charged before the hike and consider bringing a portable charger. Having a working phone can be essential for emergencies or for accessing maps or weather updates along the trail.


By keeping these important reminders in mind, you can have a safe and enjoyable hiking experience on the Pali Puka Trail. Respect the environment, prioritize your safety, and leave the trail just as beautiful as when you found it.



The Pali Puka Hike on Oahu, Hawaii, offers a captivating adventure through the picturesque Ko’olau Mountain Range, culminating in breathtaking views from the iconic Pali Puka lookout. This moderate-level hike provides an opportunity to immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the Windward Coastline and witness the wonders of Hawaii’s diverse landscape.


As you traverse the Pali Puka Trail, you’ll find yourself surrounded by lush vegetation, steep ascents, and panoramic vistas that showcase the splendor of Oahu’s natural wonders. The rugged cliffs, sparkling ocean, and vibrant green valleys create a backdrop that is unmatched in its serenity and beauty.


It is essential to come prepared for the hike, with proper footwear, ample water, and sun protection. Respect the environment by following Leave No Trace principles and staying on the designated trail. By being mindful of safety and environmental considerations, we can all contribute to the preservation of this remarkable natural treasure.


The Pali Puka lookout itself provides a mesmerizing experience, offering a chance to pause, reflect, and marvel at the beauty that surrounds you. Whether you choose to meditate, capture photographs, or simply sit in silent awe, the Pali Puka lookout is a place where time seems to stand still.


As your hike on the Pali Puka trail comes to an end, take a moment to appreciate the memories you’ve made, the breathtaking views you’ve witnessed, and the connection you’ve forged with the natural world. The Pali Puka Hike is a testament to the incredible beauty of Hawaii, and each step on this trail is an opportunity to connect with the island’s rich history and vibrant landscapes.


So, lace up your hiking boots, embark on the adventure, and let the wonders of the Pali Puka Hike unfold before you. Experience the thrill of conquering the trail, embrace the tranquility of the lookout, and create cherished memories that will stay with you long after you’ve left the trail behind.