Hiking Kā‘ena Point Trail

Posted in: Environment, Things to Do

Story and Images by Sarah Yamanaka, Executive Editor

This arid coastal hike located in Kā‘ena Point State Park begins a little less than three miles from Kā‘ena Point on both sides of the Wai‘anae mountain range.

You can start the trail in either Wai‘anae (2.4 miles one way) or Mokulē‘ia (2.5 miles one way); where the paved road ends is where the trail begins. 

Kaena Point Trail
An early view on the Kāʻena Point Trail

A group of us started in Mokulē‘ia. No blue skies, just gray clouds above for which we were thankful since the area is known to be hot. We were off to a nice start walking along the dirt road, which later split to offer a coastal path closer to the shoreline. Powerful waves kicked up the surf resulting in a salty haze hovering along the coast. I could taste it, and before long, it covered my camera.

The hike was more like a walk on which we navigated minor hills, dried ditches created by fat tires on once muddy roads. The coastal path was easygoing as well, and very well marked. 

Lucky for us, we had someone knowledgeable about native Hawaiian plants, and she pointed them out quite often. It was cool to see how they lived shoulder to shoulder, growing in and among each other. At one point, she pointed out seven different plants growing in a small area, which was very unusual. A frequent question was, “Is this native Hawaiian?” We see lovely yellow ‘ilima, the rare ‘ōhai with its unusually-shaped blooms, hinahina kahakai with its grayish green leaves, ma‘o (a native cotton in the hibiscus family), naupaka kahakai, ‘ākulikuli (a salty succulent) and others. What a treat!

Kaena Point Yellow Ilima
Yellow ‘ilima with an unknown guest

I’d walked on the Wai‘anae side once before, but it’s my first time on this side. I was surprised to see lots of people—runners, families, couples young and old, bikers, local fishermen with their lines cast in the water and local families with tents pitched for the day. 

My big downfall was not bringing enough water. We had spent almost two hours looking at the plants and enjoying the coastline while it was cloudy. After playing around, we needed to get going and realized we still had 1.5 miles to get to the Kā‘ena Point Natural Area Reserve! By then, it was h-o-t. I was almost down to my last drop of water, and we still had to walk back too. 

By the time we reached the gates of the reserve, I couldn’t even enter. I was beat and afraid I’d get sunstroke, leaving my companions with the responsibility of dragging my body to the car.

On the way back, I focused on putting one foot in front of the other. No conversation or taking pictures. Just one foot, then the next. Where was the last turn??? It was brutal. I’ll say that again, BRUTAL.

Before you go—sunscreen, hat, even a sun umbrella (I’m thankful for my regular umbrella and I didn’t care that it had turned upside down!). Do as I say and not as I did—one liter of water for every two hours. For more useful information, visit


[A version of this story appears in print in the January-March 2020 issues of This Week O‘ahu]


Keywords: hiking hawaii hawaii hikes oahu hikes north shore hikes hiking northshore things to do oahu oahu activities hiking trails superior hiking trail


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