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Kahekili Trail: Epic Ridge Hike On Oahu’s East Coast


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Filia Higgs



Welcome to the Kahekili Trail, a hidden gem nestled along Oahu’s breathtaking east coast. Embarking on this epic ridge hike is like embarking on a thrilling adventure through nature’s awe-inspiring playground.


The Kahekili Trail offers adventurers a perfect blend of challenging terrain, stunning panoramic views, and a deep connection to the island’s natural beauty. This trail is not for the faint of heart, but for those seeking an unforgettable experience immersed in Oahu’s rugged wilderness.


As you traverse this ancient trail, you’ll be transported to a time when warriors and chiefs roamed these lands. The Kahekili Trail follows the footsteps of Kahekili, a legendary Hawaiian chief who once ruled over Maui and part of Oahu. It’s a journey that combines history, culture, and the sheer thrill of conquering nature’s obstacles.


Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a novice explorer, the Kahekili Trail promises an adventure that will push your limits and reward you with breathtaking vistas. From towering cliffs and lush valleys to turquoise blue waters and pristine beaches, this trail showcases the full splendor of Oahu’s eastern coastline.


Are you ready to embark on a journey that will leave you breathless, both from the physical demands and the awe-inspiring beauty of the Kahekili Trail? Strap on your hiking boots, grab your backpack, and let’s dive into the adventure of a lifetime.


Overview of the Kahekili Trail

The Kahekili Trail is a renowned hiking trail located on the east coast of Oahu, Hawaii. This spectacular ridge hike spans approximately 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) and offers a challenging yet rewarding experience for outdoor enthusiasts.


As you make your way along the trail, you’ll be treated to sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean, lush rainforests, and dramatic cliffs. The trail winds its way through the scenic Ka’a’awa Valley and ascends to the Koʻolau mountain range, providing breathtaking panoramas along the way.


What makes the Kahekili Trail truly unique is its historical significance. Named after the fearless Hawaiian Chief Kahekili, who ruled over these lands in the 18th century, the trail retraces the ancient path that was once used by Hawaiian warriors and their chiefs.


While hiking the Kahekili Trail, you’ll encounter remnants of stone walls, terraces, and platforms that were built by early Hawaiians. These structures offer a glimpse into the rich cultural heritage of the area and serve as a testament to the ingenuity of the indigenous people.


The terrain of the Kahekili Trail is a mix of steep ascents, narrow ridges, and rugged trails. The hike requires a moderate to advanced level of fitness and agility, as you’ll be navigating through sections with loose rocks and exposed cliffs. It’s essential to come prepared with sturdy hiking shoes, sun protection, ample water, and snacks to fuel your journey.


One of the highlights of the Kahekili Trail is the famous “Crouching Lion” rock formation, which resembles a lion crouching over the coastline. This iconic landmark serves as a picturesque backdrop for epic photos and moments of admiration.


Whether you choose to hike the Kahekili Trail solo or with a group, it’s important to be mindful of your surroundings and respectful of the natural environment. Leave no trace, stay on designated paths, and adhere to any trail regulations or precautions to ensure the preservation of this incredible hiking destination.


Ready to take on the Kahekili Trail? Lace up your boots, pack your camera, and get ready for an adventure that will test your limits and reward you with unforgettable memories.


Getting to the Trailhead

Reaching the trailhead of the Kahekili Trail is an adventure in itself. The trail is located in the town of Kāneʻohe, on the eastern side of Oahu, Hawaii. Depending on where you are staying on the island, there are a few different ways to get to the trailhead.


If you have a rental car or access to a private vehicle, driving is the most convenient option. From Honolulu, head east on the H-1 highway, and then take the H-3 highway towards Kaneohe. Once in Kaneohe, follow Kamehameha Highway (Route 83) north until you reach the town of Kāneʻohe Bay. Continue on Kamehameha Highway until you spot the Ko’olau Golf Club on your left. The trailhead is located just beyond the golf course.


If you prefer public transportation, there are options available as well. The Oahu Bus operates several routes that pass through Kāneʻohe, including routes 55 and 56. Check the bus schedule for the most up-to-date information on stops and timings. Keep in mind that taking the bus may require some additional walking to reach the trailhead.


It’s important to note that parking at the trailhead can be limited, especially on weekends and during peak hiking seasons. Additionally, the trailhead is located in a residential area, so be mindful of local parking regulations and respect the privacy of the residents.


Before embarking on your hike, it’s recommended to check the weather conditions and trail status. The trail may occasionally be closed due to maintenance work or hazardous weather conditions. You can find information about trail closures and updates from local hiking forums, park authorities, or by checking the official state park website for Oahu.


Once you arrive at the trailhead, take a moment to familiarize yourself with the surroundings and prepare for an epic adventure along the Kahekili Trail. Remember to bring all necessary hiking essentials, including water, snacks, sunscreen, a hat, and appropriate footwear to ensure a safe and enjoyable hike.


Now that you know how to get to the trailhead, it’s time to lace up your hiking boots and get ready to embark on a remarkable journey through the untamed beauty of the Kahekili Trail.


Preparing for the Hike

Before setting foot on the Kahekili Trail, it’s crucial to adequately prepare for the hike to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. Here are some essential tips to help you get ready:

  1. Research the Trail: Familiarize yourself with the trail by studying maps, reading guides, and researching recent trail conditions. Understand the length, difficulty level, and any potential hazards or challenges you may encounter along the way.
  2. Check the Weather: The weather can significantly impact your hike. Keep an eye on the forecast and be prepared for changes in weather conditions. If the weather is forecasted to be unfavorable, it might be wise to postpone your hike for another day.
  3. Wear Appropriate Gear: Dress in lightweight, breathable clothing suitable for hiking. Choose sturdy, comfortable hiking boots with good traction to navigate the uneven terrain. Don’t forget to wear a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen to protect yourself from the sun.
  4. Pack Essential Supplies: Load your backpack with essentials such as plenty of water, energy-rich snacks, a first aid kit, a map or GPS device, a flashlight, a whistle, and a fully charged cell phone. It’s also helpful to carry a rain jacket or poncho in case of unexpected showers.
  5. Stay Hydrated and Energized: Hydration and nourishment are critical during hikes. Make sure to drink plenty of water before, during, and after the hike. Carry high-energy snacks like trail mix, granola bars, or fresh fruits to refuel yourself along the way.
  6. Inform Others: Let a trusted friend or family member know about your hiking plans, including your intended route and expected return time. This way, someone will be aware of your whereabouts and can provide assistance if needed.
  7. Hike with a Partner: While it’s possible to hike the Kahekili Trail solo, it’s recommended to hike with a partner or in a group. Having a companion increases safety and allows for assistance in case of emergencies or difficult situations.
  8. Respect the Environment: As you hike, remember to practice Leave No Trace principles. Respect the natural environment, stay on designated trails, and dispose of waste properly. Leave the trail as you found it so that future hikers can enjoy its pristine beauty.
  9. Start Early: Begin your hike early in the day to allow ample time to complete the trail and avoid hiking during the hottest part of the day. Starting early also increases the chances of finding parking at the trailhead, especially during peak seasons.
  10. Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to your body during the hike. Take breaks when needed, and pace yourself accordingly. If you ever feel unwell or exhausted, it’s okay to turn back or seek assistance. Your safety should always be the top priority.

By taking the time to prepare yourself physically, mentally, and with the necessary supplies, you’ll be setting yourself up for a successful and enjoyable hike along the stunning Kahekili Trail. Now, let’s hit the trail and create memories that will last a lifetime!


Hiking the Kahekili Trail

Now that you’re well-prepared for the adventure, it’s time to hit the trail and immerse yourself in the beauty of the Kahekili Trail. Strap on your backpack, tighten your boots, and get ready for an unforgettable hiking experience on Oahu’s east coast.


The Kahekili Trail starts with a gradual incline through the lush greenery of the Ka’a’awa Valley. As you ascend, take a moment to appreciate the breathtaking views of the valley and the surrounding mountains. The trail is well-defined, marked with pink ribbons tied to trees and rocks along the way, guiding you on your journey.


As you continue hiking, you’ll come across sections that require agility and balance. The terrain can be challenging, with narrow ridges and steep ascents that demand your full attention. Take your time and proceed with caution, using your hands if necessary for extra stability. Safety should always be the priority.


Throughout the hike, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular vistas of the Pacific Ocean, the Koʻolau mountain range, and the iconic “Crouching Lion” rock formation. These picturesque moments serve as reminders of the natural wonders that await you along the trail.


One of the highlights of the Kahekili Trail is reaching the Makapu’u Lookout. This viewpoint offers panoramic views of the eastern coastline, with stunning vistas of turquoise waters, rugged cliffs, and the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean. It’s a perfect spot to rest, take photos, and appreciate the raw beauty of Oahu’s eastern shore.


While hiking the Kahekili Trail, immerse yourself in the history of the area. Observe the remnants of ancient Hawaiian structures, such as stone walls and terraces, left behind by the early inhabitants of these lands. These cultural artifacts provide a glimpse into the rich heritage of the island and add an extra layer of depth to your hiking experience.


As you near the end of the trail, take a moment to reflect on the challenges you’ve overcome and the beauty you’ve witnessed. The sense of accomplishment and the memories forged along the Kahekili Trail are truly priceless.


Remember, hiking the Kahekili Trail is not a race. Take your time, enjoy the journey, and soak in the natural wonders that surround you. Pause to appreciate the sights, sounds, and scents of this remarkable place, and let the spirit of adventure guide you along the way.


As you complete the trail and descend back to the trailhead, take a final look at the majestic landscape that stretches before you. Cherish the memories you’ve made on this epic ridge hike and know that you’ve experienced something truly extraordinary.


The Kahekili Trail offers an unparalleled hiking adventure that combines history, natural beauty, and the thrill of conquering challenging terrain. Lace up your boots, take a deep breath, and embark on this unforgettable journey through Oahu’s eastern wilderness.


Points of Interest along the Trail

The Kahekili Trail is not just a challenging hike; it’s also a journey filled with captivating points of interest. As you hike along the rugged terrain, keep an eye out for these remarkable landmarks and natural wonders that add a special touch to your experience:

  1. Ka’a’awa Valley: The trail begins in the picturesque Ka’a’awa Valley, surrounded by lush greenery and majestic mountains. Take a moment to soak in the tranquility of the valley before you venture further into the trail.
  2. Historic Hawaiian Structures: As you hike, you’ll come across remnants of ancient Hawaiian structures, including stone walls, terraces, and platforms. These artifacts serve as a testament to the rich cultural heritage of the area and provide insights into the lives of the early inhabitants.
  3. The “Crouching Lion” Rock Formation: One of the most iconic landmarks along the Kahekili Trail is the “Crouching Lion” rock formation. This natural rock formation resembling a crouching lion offers a perfect backdrop for stunning photos and a moment of awe.
  4. Makapu’u Lookout: When you reach the Makapu’u Lookout, prepare to be mesmerized by the panoramic views of the eastern coastline. From this vantage point, you can marvel at the turquoise waters, towering cliffs, and the vastness of the Pacific Ocean stretching beyond the horizon.
  5. Native Flora and Fauna: Throughout the hike, keep an eye out for the diverse array of native flora and fauna that call this area home. From vibrant flowers and ferns to elusive bird species, nature’s delights are scattered along the trail, waiting to be discovered.
  6. Sweeping Ocean Views: The Kahekili Trail offers breathtaking, uninterrupted views of the Pacific Ocean. As you ascend the ridge, take in the mesmerizing sight of crystal-clear waters, crashing waves, and the endless expanse of the ocean. It’s a reminder of the raw power and beauty of the natural world.
  7. Koʻolau Mountains: As you navigate the trail, you’ll be treated to panoramic vistas of the Koʻolau mountain range. These majestic peaks create a dramatic backdrop, showcasing the ruggedness and grandeur of Oahu’s eastern landscape.
  8. Hidden Waterfalls: Depending on the season and recent rainfall, you may encounter hidden waterfalls cascading down the cliffs along the trail. These refreshing sights offer a soothing break from the challenging hike and a chance to reconnect with nature’s serenity.
  9. Serenity and Solitude: Despite the popularity of the Kahekili Trail, there are moments of tranquility and solitude to be savored along the way. Take advantage of these peaceful interludes to connect with nature, reflect on your journey, and find inner peace.
  10. Epic Sunrises or Sunsets: If you time your hike right, you may be rewarded with the experience of witnessing an epic sunrise or sunset from the vantage points along the trail. The oranges, pinks, and purples painting the sky create a magical atmosphere that will stay etched in your memory.

These points of interest along the Kahekili Trail add depth and excitement to your hiking experience. Take your time to appreciate each one, capturing mental snapshots and creating lasting memories of this extraordinary adventure.


Challenges and Tips for the Hike

The Kahekili Trail is a challenging hike that requires physical endurance and mental fortitude. As you embark on this adventure, it’s important to be aware of the potential challenges you may encounter and equip yourself with valuable tips to make your hike a successful and enjoyable one.



  1. Steep Terrain: The Kahekili Trail features steep ascents and descents, as well as narrow ridges. Be prepared for challenging sections that demand agility and balance.
  2. Unpredictable Weather: Weather conditions can change rapidly along the trail. High winds, rain, and fog are common, so come prepared with proper rain gear and be cautious in slippery conditions.
  3. Exposed Cliffs: Parts of the trail have exposed cliffs with sheer drop-offs. Exercise caution and stay on designated paths to ensure your safety at all times.
  4. Navigational Difficulties: The trail can be challenging to navigate, especially in sections where markers are sparse. Familiarize yourself with the trail map, use the pink ribbons as guides, and consider using a GPS device or have a detailed hiking guide handy.
  5. Parking and Trail Congestion: Parking at the trailhead can be limited, especially during peak seasons. Arrive early to secure a parking spot and anticipate encountering other hikers along the trail.


  1. Be Prepared: Bring essential hiking gear such as plenty of water, snacks, sunscreen, extra layers of clothing, and a fully charged cell phone. Consider using trekking poles for added stability.
  2. Dress Appropriately: Wear lightweight, moisture-wicking clothing and sturdy hiking boots with good traction. Dress in layers to accommodate changing weather conditions.
  3. Stay Hydrated and Energized: Drink plenty of water before, during, and after the hike. Carry high-energy snacks to keep your energy levels up along the trail.
  4. Hike with a Partner: Consider hiking with a partner or in a group for added safety and enjoyment. Look out for one another and help each other overcome challenges.
  5. Take Breaks: Pace yourself and take breaks when needed. Use these moments to rest, refuel, and enjoy the surroundings.
  6. Respect the Environment: Practice Leave No Trace principles by staying on designated trails, properly disposing of waste, and respecting the flora and fauna.
  7. Check Trail Conditions: Before heading out, check for any trail closures or updates. Avoid hiking during hazardous weather conditions or when the trail is undergoing maintenance work.
  8. Listen to Your Body: Be mindful of your physical limits and listen to your body. If you feel fatigued or unwell, take a break or consider turning back. It’s better to prioritize your safety than to push yourself beyond your limits.

By acknowledging and preparing for the challenges of the Kahekili Trail while implementing these helpful tips, you’ll be better equipped to conquer the trail and have a rewarding hiking experience. Remember, the journey is as important as the destination, so embrace the challenges and relish in the sense of accomplishment as you conquer this picturesque trail.


Safety Precautions

When embarking on the Kahekili Trail, it is crucial to prioritize your safety and well-being. While the trail offers magnificent views and a thrilling adventure, it’s important to be aware of potential risks and take necessary precautions. Here are some safety tips to consider:


1. Know Your Limits: Assess your fitness level and hiking experience honestly. The Kahekili Trail is a challenging hike that requires physical stamina and agility. Don’t push yourself beyond your capabilities. Start with shorter hikes and gradually build up to more demanding trails.


2. Stay on the Marked Trail: Stick to the designated trail and avoid wandering off the marked path. Going off-trail can lead to hazardous situations, such as encountering unstable terrain or getting lost. Follow the pink ribbons and other markers to stay on track.


3. Check the Weather Forecast: Before heading out, check the weather forecast for the area. Inclement weather can make the trail more treacherous. Avoid hiking if heavy rainfall, thunderstorms, or strong winds are predicted. Be prepared for sudden changes in weather conditions.


4. Hike with a Buddy: Whenever possible, hike with a companion or a group. Having someone with you enhances safety by providing support, assistance, and an extra set of eyes for potential hazards. If hiking alone, inform a friend or family member about your plans and expected return time.


5. Carry Essential Safety Gear: Pack necessary safety items, including a first aid kit, cell phone, whistle, flashlight, and extra food and water. Additionally, carry a map or a GPS device to navigate the trail accurately. Being prepared with these essential items can help in emergencies and unexpected situations.


6. Dress Appropriately: Wear proper hiking attire to protect yourself from the elements. Opt for moisture-wicking and quick-drying clothing, sturdy hiking boots with good traction, and a hat to shield yourself from the sun. Apply sunscreen to exposed skin to prevent sunburn.


7. Stay Hydrated and Nourished: Keep yourself hydrated throughout the hike by drinking plenty of water. Pack high-energy snacks and meals to provide fuel and sustain your energy levels. Avoid hiking on an empty stomach to prevent fatigue or lightheadedness.


8. Be Mindful of Wildlife: Hawaii is home to unique and diverse wildlife. While on the trail, admire animals from a safe distance and avoid feeding or approaching them. Respect their habitats and refrain from disturbing or causing harm to the local flora and fauna.


9. Respect Local Regulations: Familiarize yourself with any specific rules, regulations, or permits required for hiking the Kahekili Trail. Follow posted signs and respect any trail closures or restrictions. This ensures the preservation of the trail and the safety of hikers.


10. Trust Your Instincts: If you encounter a situation that feels unsafe or uncomfortable, trust your instincts. Be cautious and make informed decisions. If necessary, backtrack or turn back if conditions worsen or you feel uncertain about continuing.


Remember, safety should always be a top priority when hiking the Kahekili Trail. By being prepared, aware, and following these precautions, you can have a memorable and safe adventure along the stunning ridges of Oahu’s east coast.



The Kahekili Trail on Oahu’s east coast is a true gem for adventure seekers and nature enthusiasts. This epic ridge hike offers a unique blend of challenging terrain, stunning panoramic views, and a deep connection to the island’s history and culture. From the lush Ka’a’awa Valley to the majestic Koʻolau mountains, every step along this trail is filled with awe-inspiring beauty.


As you conquer the steep ascents, navigate the narrow ridges, and take in the breathtaking vistas, you’ll realize that the Kahekili Trail isn’t just a hike – it’s a transformative journey. It’s an opportunity to test your limits, to push beyond your boundaries, and to create memories that will last a lifetime.


Throughout the trail, you’ll encounter remnants of ancient Hawaiian structures, witness hidden waterfalls, and be captivated by the raw power of the Pacific Ocean crashing against the cliffs. These points of interest only add to the enchantment of the experience.


But remember, the Kahekili Trail demands respect and preparation. Prioritize your safety by knowing your limits, staying on the marked trail, and being mindful of the weather conditions. Hiking with a partner or a group and carrying essential safety gear are additional precautions that ensure a safe and enjoyable trek.


As you venture along the Kahekili Trail, take the time to appreciate the beauty that surrounds you. Pause to breathe in the fresh mountain air, listen to the sounds of nature, and soak in the mesmerizing views. Let the history, culture, and natural wonders of the trail weave their magic and leave an indelible mark on your soul.


Embark on this journey with respect for the land, mindful of Leave No Trace principles, and an appreciation for the environment. This way, future hikers can experience the beauty of the Kahekili Trail just as you have.


So, lace up your boots, pack your backpack, and prepare to embark on an adventure of a lifetime. The Kahekili Trail awaits, ready to challenge you, inspire you, and reward you with memories that will forever hold a special place in your heart. Step by step, immerse yourself in the beauty of Oahu’s eastern wilderness and embrace the spirit of adventure.