Kokohead Hike

kokohead from parking

Kokohead Trail is really just a lot of stairs. I did Likeke Falls in the morning and I still had some energy, so I went and did Kokohead before heading home. It’s sort of rough unless you have long legs (because some of the stairs are quite big,) but it’s only 2.9 kilometers to the top.

You park in a paved lot and walk along a paved trail to the base of the mountain. Then you see the stairs, bracketed by railroad tracks on either side. It looks like a long way to the top, but it’s not as bad as it looks.

the long view

Fair warning: There is absolutely no shade, nor is there any good spot to rest. I recommend a hat, sunscreen, and a lot of water. Some people do it in the dark so they can be at the top for sunrise, and I hear that is pretty neat.

Kokohead trail is really just a set of railroad tracks that used to run munitions up to the top of the mountain during WWII. For the most part, it’s a fairly safe trail, but there is a spot where the tracks go out over a ravine, and that can be frightening if heights bother you.

hahauma bay

People do bring their kids, but I don’t recommend it. First, the college students hike in very little clothes, so you’re going to have some awkward moments when your kids shouts out: “Why is that girl in her bra?” But second, the stairs really are tall and it’s easy for a child to slip on the loose sand and fall down the mountain. People do.

Anyway, the views from the top are amazing and it’s only about a two-hour hike, so it’s worth a look even if you’re only on Oahu for a vacation. Just remember water and snacks. It’s a hot, dry hike to the top.

the other side

Ka’ena Point

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There are two sides to Ka’ena Point on the western tip of Oahu. You can drive along the leeward side and park at the beach. Or, you can drive along the north shore and park in a dirt lot. Either way, your goal is to get to the albatross sanctuary in the center of the park.

The leeward side has the advantage of the trail being more clearly marked, and closer to the ocean (for cooler breezes.) However, the western side has the advantage of more places to explore, and more varied scenery.

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Take a plastic bag on this hike, because on the western tip there are a lot of sudden rain showers. You’ll need somewhere for your electronics to hide and stay dry.

Along the way, keep an eye on the ocean if it’s “winter,” because that’s when the whales are around. They come to Oahu to have their babies, and you can see them swimming and splashing often. All year you can spot dolphins and seals, as well.

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Once you arrive at the sanctuary, you’ll see the albatrosses flying around. They’re amazing birds. If it’s May, you might even catch a glimpse of a baby albatross, which is a really special sight given how endangered they are.

Keep an eye out for Hawaiian Monk Seals as well. They like to come up out of the water and rest on the rocks. Remember: You must stay 150 feet away from the seals at all times since they are critically endangered. And, if you see one, you should call the wildlife conservationists and report the sighting so they can track the seals’ behavior. Call: (808) 220-7802

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This is one of the coolest spots on Oahu because there are so many different kinds of wildlife to see. Definitely bring your binoculars, because it’s neat to get an up-close look at seals, whales, albatrosses, and other wildlife.

Note: Remember there are no dogs allowed anywhere in Ka’ena state park. It doesn’t matter if you’re just going down to the beach, or if you are doing the hike. The albatrosses and seals don’t always stay inside the sanctuary and they are critically endangered, so obey the posted signs and do not bring your cat or dog anywhere near the park.

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Shark’s Cove

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Part of the Pupukea Nature Preserve, Shark’s Cove is an amazing place to go snorkeling from April to September. The North Shore is better known for surfing in the fall and winter months, but in spring and summer, the waters are calm enough to visit with the turtles and fish.

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There is a paved parking lot above Shark’s Cove, and there are restrooms to change. There’s even a bit of a makeshift shower (outside) where you can rinse sand off your flippers and out of your hair.

The path down to the water is dirt, but it’s not too steep so it’s pretty easy to get down it. Everyone leaves their towels and car keys on the rocks, and the instance of theft is very low.

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The entry point is rocky, so you’ll want to have boots. The currents can be strong, so longer fins are advisable as well. There are some tide pools to play in, and those are great for kids. However, in the deeper water, you’ll find a rocky landscape full of caves.

If you dive, this is a great place to do some swim-throughs. Just make sure the passages you choose are wider than you and your gear!

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On the right-hand side (if standing in the parking lot facing the cove) there is a turtle cleaning station at the mouth of the cove. This is where surgeon fish come up and eat algae and parasites off sea turtles’ shells. That makes this an ideal place to see turtles.

Just remember: You’re not meant to get close to them. They are endangered, and you should never feed or touch one. However, Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles are magical to catch a glimpse of.

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Makapu’u Coastal Pools

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If you are already doing the Makapu’u Lighthouse Hike (which is amazing,) you might also want to take the dirt path from the parking lot over to the coast.

It’s a dry walk, and it was dusty in June. I recommend lots of water, and possibly a snack. On the upside, it’s not a hard walk because it’s completely flat.

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Sometimes the locals go there to fish, so beware of stray hooks and lines. Also, remember that the waves break on the rocks! Keep your distance. People are sometimes swept off the ledges, and the sea is very rough in this area so you could get seriously hurt.

It’s really more about sitting at a safe distance and watching the waves splash over the rocks. I went at low tide, so I managed to see a few fish and some crabs.

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That was fun, but I was very wary of not stepping on any wet rocks. If the rocks are wet, waves are probably breaking on them. So, steer clear of wet rocks.

Overall, it’s worth the walk if you’ve already done the lighthouse hike and you have some time leftover. However, I wouldn’t brave the crowded parking lot just for the coastal area, because there are prettier places on Oahu that are less crowded.

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Makapu’u Lighthouse

start of trail

When I heard about Makapu’u lighthouse, I thought it was just a trail with some ocean views and a lighthouse. I had no idea how spectacular it really is. The ocean views are amazing and varied, and it’s a big pay off for a very easy hike.

Let’s start at the beginning: The gate to the parking lot opens at 7:00am. That’s the best time to go, because otherwise you will have to wait for a spot or try parallel parking on a busy highway, and neither of those things are much fun. I recommend getting there right when the parking lot opens.

south coast view

This hike it always busy. As far as I know, it’s the only paved trail in Oahu so I can see why it’s crowded. It’s an easy hike, you don’t have to worry about mud or bugs, and it’s really a very short climb.

Once you park, walk to the trail head. You’ll see a dirt path going off to the right. It takes you to some rather unimpressive rocky beaches, but you may as well check it out if you have time. Bring lots of water, though. It’s hot and dry on that path.

the trail looks like

The paved road goes straight up, and that is the Makapu’u lighthouse trail. There are no bathrooms, so stop somewhere before you hike. There are trash cans though, so you have no excuse to litter. As you walk up, stop at each of the vantage points and read the signs that tell you about what you are looking at.

When you get to the top, you can look down on the lighthouse. Unfortunately, the trail to the actual lighthouse is closed to the public because it’s very dangerous. However, you can see it from the side as you climb the trail, and then from above when you reach the top of the trail. Hopefully that’s enough to satiate your desire for lighthouse views.

lighthouse from above

Personally, I think the vistas of the South coast and the East coast of Oahu are far more exciting that the lighthouse. They’re well worth the short climb.

Note: There is also a sketchy path along a dirt cliff that goes to tide pools (from the whale-watching lookout,) but I wouldn’t recommend that unless you are an advanced climber. Even then, in my opinion, the payoff of a few small tide pools isn’t worth the risk. You can see better tide pools at Ka’ena Point without putting yourself in any danger.

Anyway, definitely do the Makapu’u Lighthouse hike. It’s awesome.

better east coast view

Favorite Pictures So Far

Since I got here I’ve been to a few pretty places, so I thought I’d share pictures!

ala moana with cruise ship
Ala Moana Beach

 

view from kailua
From Kailua looking at the mountains

 

after sunset
Sunset over Pearl Harbor

giner and temple in backround
Byodo-In Temple
north shore at angle
Looking down the North Shore
from Pali lookout
The Pali Lookout

 

that beach tho
Irequois Point
the trail looks like
Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail
better east coast view
East Coast looking towards Waimanalo
Lanukai Beach
the crater
From the plane
manauwili falls
Manauwili Falls
Hanuama Bay
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Passion Flower

 

 

those waves tho
Ka’ena Point

Hanuama Bay

Hanuama Bay is by far the most well-known snorkel spot on Oahu. Everyone is told that it is the place to go if you want to see fish here.

Now, I will say, I saw a lot of parrot fish there and I had a good time. So, there’s that. However, I will also say that it was one of the most crowded places I have ever been.

As I tried to snorkel, people were constantly wadding by and kicking up sand. Everywhere I looked there were so many people. The fish are not spooked by this, and that’s great. However, it does make for pictures that aren’t very clear because of all the sediment in the water.

I think this is a great place for people who do not snorkel regularly. This is because you pay $7 to get in and that money goes towards conservation. You also have to watch a video about how you should not touch the animals or the coral, and I think tourists should have to do that.¬†However, if you’re a regular snorkeler, it all feels a bit boring.

The park is free with military ID, but even if you are military I still recommend you bring money. I wish someone would have told me that. See, there’s a shuttle that will take you down to the water and back up the giant hill after you snorkel. However, I didn’t know that, so I had to walk.

I saw signs for food up at the top, but they ask that you not bring food down to the beach so that liter can’t get into the water. However, I still saw plenty of litter in the water.

There are lockers, but I left everything in my car and just left my flip flops on the beach. No one stole them. I think we should all have a crappy pair of flip flops for this purpose.

The nice thing about a place with crowds is that there are amenities. The showers and bathrooms are good to have, and the little trolley looked great as it passed me while I walked up.

It’s too crowded for turtles of sting rays, but that’s okay. Sometimes it’s just nice to see pretty fish. This is a good place for that, as long as you don’t want pictures of them.

Oh, and don’t forget that there’s also a parking fee. I’d say just bring a $20 bill per person in a plastic bag, and you should be good to go.