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by Camilla Andersson, editor -- Outdoor Living

Makapu‘u Lighthouse

The Makapu‘u point lighthouse is almost 100 year old.

Photo by Camilla Andersson

Makapu‘u Lighthouse is a popular hike appropriate for all ages and conditions. The path from the parking area on Kalani‘anaole Highway up to the scenic point is paved and often busy with parents and children in strollers, retirees, visitors, teenagers, enormous extended island families, joggers, even people walking the dogs. The variety is as colorful as bag of M&Ms.

During the whale season (November-April in Hawai‘i ) the path and the point are popular because so many humpback whales can be seen frolicing in the waters below. Just a few minutes into the hike, at about the halfway point, the state has provided binoculars for hikers to use to search for whales. On a clear day, hikers can see Molokai to the south and realize that the islands are not that far apart.

Makapu‘u point is 647 feet above sea level, but the lighthouse itself is at 395 feet. The point is composed by several lava flows that came together and created the place. The gate to the lighthouse is locked, but there are several good opportunties along the way for photos of it. The lighthouse was built in 1909 to help ships, and later airplanes, to navigate around the Oahu coastline.

On April 5, 1942, the navigator of a U.S. Navy plane patrolling the waters around Oahu mistook Makapu‘u lighthouse for Barber’s Point (Kala‘eloa) on the west side of Oahu. The plane crashed into the hillside; the nine crew members all lost their lives. A plaque at the summit of the point commemorates the accident.

From the lookout at Makapu’u point, the view over the east side O‘ahu is amazing, from Rabbit Island, just below the lookout, up the windward coast and the beautiful beaches of Waimanalo and Kailua. On the horizon there is nothing but water, and the planet curves across the horizon.

Even though the hike is fairly easy, it’s well worth making, and their are short trails to many little overlooks along the way. It’s a nice little activity for everybody on a lazy Sunday afternoon, or just a nice little wakeup walk whenever.

Quick Facts:

Distance: 1 mile
Time: 30 minutes if you take it slow
Level: Easy


Diamond Head

Madeleine Larsson, from Sweden, enjoyed doing her first O‘ahu hike, around Diamond Head.

Photo by Caroline Eriksson

The perfect backdrop for many of the Hawaiian postcards is available for everyone to enjoy. Diamond Head is a easy hike that almost everybody can do. Starting from the inside of Diamond Head crater, an easy trail, much of it paved, takes hikers to the top where they can enjoy the beautiful view of Waikiki and most of the south shore, all the way to Koko Crater.

Half way up, a little rest area provides get a great view of the Diamond Head Lighthouse.
Diamond Head is a state park, so the trail is only open for hikers during the park’s open hours, 6 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The original ancient Hawaiian name for the crater is Le‘ahi, which means “brow of the tuna.” Standing on Waikiki beach, or looking at a postcard, one can see the similarities.

Today’s name for one of the most famous craters in the world, Diamond Head, comes from 18th century Brittish sailors who as their ship approached O‘ahu’s south shore, saw a shimmering glimmer and thought the crater had diamonds in the soil. The shine turned out to be tiny calcite crystals, but the name Diamond Head stuck.

The state of Hawai‘i estimates that more than one million people visit Diamond Head every year, and many of them hike up through the World War II bunkers and steep stairs to the beautiful summit.


Quick Facts:

Distance: 1.4 miles
Time: 1,5 hrs total
Level: Easy to moderate
Other: $1 entrance fee per person


Manuawili Falls

Camilla Andersson pauses on the stairs to the beautiful Maunawilie Falls.

Photo by Peter Andersson

On the Windward side of O‘ahu, the beautiful Manuawili Falls lies hiddenunder towering Ko’olau cliffs. The trail to it is broad and curls through equally beautiful tropical rainforest, accompanied by the quiet, ubiquitous chuckling of Maunawili Stream. Expect to get wet feet, since you will have to cross the stream several times to get to the falls.

The first part of the hike is fairly easy and goes through a forest of enormous shade trees that shadow Maunawili stream. The stones in the stream can be slippery, especially if the water level is high, so be careful when crossing.

A small climb takes you up to the top of a small ridge, but don’t worry, there are steps to make the climb easy. The Ko‘olau Mountainare all around, and the view is truly breathtaking.

The hike turns downward through thick vegetation, and when you reach the water at the bottom of the valley, the waterfalls are close. With the stream on your left, you follow the path that is now quite narrow, and then you reach the waterfall.

The 12-foot high waterfall splashes down to a freezing but, by then, quite refreshing deep-water pool. You can access a smaller waterfall above the main one, but to get there you have to swim through the fresh-water pool and climb up the side of the waterfall.

The hike is popular so expect company if you choose to do it on a weekend or holiday.


Quick Facts:

Distance: 1.5 mile one way
Time: 1 hour one way
Level: Medium


Hawaii Loa Ridge Trail

Greg Crescenzo enjoys the views from Hawai‘i Loa Ridge trail .

Photo by Camilla Andersson

“ We’re going up there!” said my friend Greg Crescenzo.

“ Yeah, right!” I said, thinking he was making a joke. By the time we had finished the up, up, up hike, I wished that he had been kidding.

On a Saturday afternoon Crescenzo and I decided that it was time to take a little hike. His roommates suggested the Hawaii Loa Ridge Trail, which would give us great views of Oahu. They sure were right about the views!

To access the Trail, one must drive through a gated community that can only be accessed if you hold a Hawaiian proof of identification. Just driving through the gated community with the million dollar homes gives you a nice view over the surroundings, but that’s nothing compared to what you’re going to get.

The hike is actually easy, especially at the beginning, as the trail twists through pretty much level, open scenery along a ridge line. Then it turns upward, and the “fun” begins. As you get closer to the summit, the trail gets steeper. There are ropes to hold onto, at the steepest part, and sometimes using your hands is necessary, since heavy erosion can make it hard to get up on the man-made stairs. Making stops is necessary too, to catch your breath and get some water, and to take in some of the breathtaking views.

The best view of all though is at the top, with the ridgeline going in both directions and both sides of the island spread out before you. All memory of sore legs and shortness of breath disappears, and you know it was worth it.

Quick Facts:

Distance: 3.5 mile one way
Time: 2-2.5 hrs total
Level: Intermediate


“Maunawili is my favorite hike on Oahu!
It’s quite a challange and you get to take a swim in the waterfall!”

-Alexandra Yllo

Photo: Camilla Andersson

“I can jump and do crazy backflips by Maunawili Falls, that’s why I like that one best!”

-Preston Sims

Photo: Camilla Andersson

“I love the great views of Waikiki from the top of Diamond Head!”

-Jenalyn Lacar

Photo: Camilla Andersson

“Hawaii Loa Ridge trail is by far the hardest hike I’ve done. But standing in the clouds, enjoying the amazing views is well wort it!”

-Christina Falima

File Photo






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