Sitting geographically almost in the middle between the Ka’au Crater Trail and the Koko Head Crater Trail, another option from the many cool Oahu Hikes close to Honolulu is the Kuli’ou’ou Ridge Trail.
At just over 4Km long and 610m elevation gain, the Kuli’ou’ou Ridge Trail is perfect if you’re looking for a little bit more than just a walk-in-the-park kind of hike, this one is challenging enough for any beginner hiker as well as a fun day out if you’re more experienced.
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Of all the Oahu Hikes I did during my days backpacking in Hawaii, I consider this one as the hike that I’d recommend to someone looking for an easy but really scenic hike as it goes through a beautiful dense pine forest and then opens up to wonderful views of the island.
How to get there?
You can reach the trailhead by car or bus. If you’re travelling with 2 or more friends it may be cheaper to get a good deal on a rental car, have a look on Skyscanner as I’ve seen some cheap cars there.
If travelling by bus, you have to go to the “Kalanianaole Hwy + Kuliouou Rd” bus stop. It can be easily reached from Waikiki or Ala Moana areas. Check on google maps for the best/easiest route.
The bus will leave you on the highway and you will have to walk about 15 minutes to the start of the hike on a quiet residential road.
If you’re looking for a place to stay in Honolulu, take a look at Couchsurfing or try your luck in case there are any cheap hostels on your dates there. I was not so lucky.
What to take to the Kuli’ou’ou Ridge Trail?
Although I consider this an easy hike, it’s always better to go well prepared when heading into the mountains. This hike is not super technical but it can have some muddy and slippery patches so if you have a good pair of hiking boots that will always be better than sneakers.
MY HIKING ESSENTIALS
This Oahu Hike will take anything between 2-4 hours to complete depending on your pace so make sure to bring plenty of water and a piece of fruit or snack.
Hiking the Kuli’ou’ou Ridge Trail
Whether you arrive by car or bus, once you reach the end of the residential road, you have to follow a small road for a couple hundred meters until you reach a beautiful forest trail.
From this point almost all the way up to the Kuli’ou’ou Summit will be through this stunning forest area. The trail is always on a steady incline but it doesn’t feel steep at all for over half of the total hike.
Almost a the beginning of the forest trail there’s a sign pointing in one direction towards the Ridge Trail and to the Valley Trail in the other direction. Make sure to turn right and go to the Kuli’ou’ou Ridge Trail!
The trail will quickly become a zig-zag going up the mountain, in many cases there are some shortcuts to climb faster. However, what these shortcuts are really doing is causing more erosion to the mountain, so please try to stick to the clearly visible path as there’s no point on arriving two minutes faster to the summit.
I’m not sure if all year long the scenery is the same, but when I went, in early October, there were lots and lots of pine needles carpeting the ground. Although you could not see the path, this was still somehow visible. It gave the entire trail a mysterious look that was really cool!
You will find this “carpeted” area in other sections of the mountain as the scenery will change at times with some other muddy and rocky areas. I love when the terrain is constantly changing!
This other non-carpeted (sorry for abusing of the term here! lol) also has a kind of eerie look, this section was particularly cool!
Almost at the end of the forest, there is a steepish area, but is full of roots from the trees and it’s almost like climbing up a ladder.
Leaving the forest behind you will finally get a glimpse not only of the summits surrounding the area but also from the city behind you.
The change of the scenery is so quick that it almost feels like two different places!
By this point is when you’re already on the ridge of the mountain, and you only have a little bit more to climb!
As on this section the clad-like ground can be slippery when wet. There are some man-made steps on the steepest areas.
After just an hour of climbing from the bus stop I was at the summit of the Kuli’ou’ou Ridge Trail!
I had originally planned to try to continue towards the neighbouring Pu’u O Kona mountain, thinking that perhaps there was a path linking them. But, when you reach the summit of Kuli’ou’ou, there’s a sign mentioning that this is the end of the trail.
I did walk a couple more meters to see if I could continue, and there is actually a path continuing to Pu’u O Kona, however, it’s narrow and doesn’t look stable at all. On the day that I was there it was really windy and the ground was slippery. No need to be a hero and do stupid things so just enjoy the views and relax!
Although I was told before attempting this trail that this is one of the busiest Oahu Hikes, I didn’t see much people at all. Perhaps 15-20 people in total which is wonderful when you compare it to the crowds at the Diamond Head Hike!
Going down the mountain is equally cool, even that this is an out and back trail which I normally regard as boring because you just re-trace your steps, this one still felt cool as it’s simply a really beautiful place.
This Oahu Hike is also perfect if you’re into trail running. I did my way down almost entirely on a run, it’s a stunning setting and I cannot think of a better terrain as it’s really soft because of the pine needle carpeting!
This was for sure the nicest of the easy Oahu Hikes I did on my days backpacking in Honolulu.
If you want something more challenging make sure to read my post about Hiking the Ka’au Crater Trail as that one was my favourite Oahu Hike and one of my top one-day hikes ever!
Feel free to reach out if you have any questions or comments!