When in Mānoa, expect mud.
This was my mindset going into Puʻu Pia, a brisk, two-mile hike through verdant Mānoa Valley. Sure enough, I awoke just before sunrise to the sound of light rain tapping on my windows and thickening clouds rolling in overhead. It’s tough to time this hike because morning showers are inevitable in Mānoa Valley, and trudging through a damp, muddy trail isn’t my favorite way to tackle a hike. Thankfully a good hour after sunrise the clouds billowed past the valley’s rolling hills, and my friends and I were cleared to begin the hike.
You can find the start of the trail hidden on Alani Drive at the back of the valley, marked by State of Hawaiʻi trail signs and notices. Park along the winding Alani Drive (not on Alani Lane, which is where the trail begins, as this is a private road), then backtrack to the trailhead near the signs. A few minutes in and you’ll hit a fork where you can either take the Kolowalu Trail (a tough segue to Mount Olympus) route or turn left for Puʻu Pia.
Unlike the heavily trafficked Mānoa Falls hike where you’d find the trail teeming with people on a weekday, Puʻu Pia is less crowded and not as popular with hikers, which meant ideal conditions for my friends and I. For the entire two hours we were on the trail, we only came across two other hikers and a lone jogger with her dog. In the quiet solitude of an isolated trail, we were left alone to explore Puʻu Pia’s varied terrain, from uprooted tree branches to bulging (and slippery) rocks.
Though muddier than the approach to the ridgeline, this first half of the trail is a gradual and thoroughly enjoyable ascent uphill. I loved witnessing the swift changes in nature’s patterns, stopping many times to snap some photos and simply soak in the valley views. Mānoa has my heart, and hikes like Puʻu Pia always remind me to be grateful for the towering eucalyptus trees, the strawberry guava plants along the trail and the cooling shade provided by branches hovering overhead.
After a few steeper slopes, you’ll notice the terrain change once again, marked by a family of ironwood trees and a distinct shade clearing. As we made our trek uphill, we saw the trail was significantly drier here, and the clouds overhead had broken apart, giving way to soft blue skies. Even the dirt changes, another indication that you’re almost there!
We passed the ridgeline, peeked at the views that awaited us through gaps in the trees, and slowly made it to the first clearing, a gorgeous patch of grass where sunlight spilled over the well-kept green. Here we were treated to sweeping views of flourishing Mānoa Valley below. The second clearing is another good ten or so minutes uphill, marked by a dilapidated bench and much smaller patch of grass. Though the area itself is nothing to write home about, the views are spectacular. Here we spotted Tantalus, Waikīkī, crystal blue waters and the lush Koʻolau Mountains in one panoramic sweep! We took our time at both clearings, talking story and taking photos before making our slow descent back to the start of the trail.
Puʻu Pia is a leisurely valley hike with a few steep but manageable portions and gorgeous, rewarding views at the summit. It’s hikes like these that keep me going through a rough week, giving me something beautiful to look forward to. I love being shrouded by low-hanging trees, watching the terrain underfoot evolve and feeling cool bursts of wind brush against my skin. Most of all, I love the feeling of gratitude that stops and humbles me long after I’ve left the trail.
If you’re enjoying easy or challenging hikes in the new year, let us know on Facebook or Instagram (@thisweekhawaii). We love hearing about and seeing photos of your own Hawaiʻi adventure!
-Length: 2.4 miles roundtrip, 500 feet elevation gain
-Climate: Cool, damp, often muddy. Wear shoes you don’t mind getting dirty and bring a change of slippers to spare your car from a muddy mess.
-Bring: Water bottle, snacks, camera
-Note: No restrooms. Parking on Alani Lane is not allowed; as always, don’t leave valuables in your car.
Know Before You Go:
Though dog-friendly and great for families, young children and novice hikers, Puʻu Pia is also rife with wild pigs, and pig control takes place with active, off-leash hunting dogs every Wednesday and Sunday. Some families and dog owners I know choose to stay off the trail on these days.