Crouching Lion Hike is a short but steep incline hike that offers breathtaking views of Kahana Bay, the quaint town of Kaaawa, and the menacing cliffs of Pu’u Manamana. The view from the top is seriously one of my favorite landscapes on the entire island of Oahu in Hawaii. There are two routes for this hike. One is quite a short, basic ascent up to the peak or a more challening four-hour route of Crouching Lion Trail, which is slightly more challenging.
In this blog post, I will tell you how you can do both and what you should expect on the Crouching Lion trail on Oahu, Hawaii.
WHERE IS THE CROUCHING LION HIKE ON OAHU
Crouching Lion Hike Short route: The trailhead is located before Kahana Bay inbetween a ‘Do Not Pass’ sign and a telephone pole. I’ve provided a map with clear information below. It isn’t marked and looks like it’s heading straight into the bushes, but once you get a few steps into the bushes you can begin to see the markings of a trail. When we did this hike there were quite a few other small groups along the way which reassured us that we were headed in the right direction.
The regular trail is a four-mile loop with an elevation gain of 2000ft (609m). This route is the most common and leads you along a safe path through the undergrowth to the viewpoint. It is much shorter than the second route and the popular pick among most hikers. Below I will put a map with a pin roughly near the entrance to the Crouching Lion Hike short route entrance to help you find it. Generally, we park a few hundred meters down the road on the right-hand side of the road coming from Honolulu. The trailhead is on the left-hand side of the road coming from Honolulu.
Crouching Lion Hike Long Route: Park at the Swanzy Beach Park and then walk up Huamalani Road till you find the trailhead. The Crouching Lion trail can be difficult to follow in parts but ribbons usually mark the way. The trail rigidly follows the Pu’u Manamana Ridge and the entire loop is called Kahakili-Manamana loop taking 4-5 hours to complete. This route is very dangerous and has claimed lives as the drop-offs are incredibly steep and the terrain can be dangerous. I would only suggest doing this hike with a local who has navigated the route before.
CROUCHING LION MAP
MY EXPERIENCE ON THE CROUCHING LION TRAIL
Ducking into the bushes from the road next to Kahana Bay, the hike is immediately into the wild with a steep incline. You will definitely work up a sweat as you climb over gnarled tree roots, and duck under stooping branches. As you continue to climb, the trail becomes more and more pronounced. There are parts that are very slippery due to the dry crumbling dirt but for the most part, the thick vegetation helps to stabilize the trail. Hiking shoes or shoes with good grip are ideal for this steep slippery trail. I don’t advise this trail in the rain whatsoever and it will be very dangerous.
Coming across the first pillbox of the hike, we decided to climb atop and check out the view of Kahana Bay. On this pillbox, someone has painted a giant red, orange, and green ‘Aloha’. The views are already pretty sweet from here and it only takes ten minutes to reach this point.
After about 10-15 minutes, the trail began to level out but the sharp shrubbery on either side of the trail prevented us from moving too quickly. You will find some of the smaller trails leading to the rock formations and the cliff edge. We made it a mission to investigate a lot of these and also found a few cool little caves hidden on the cliff side of the formations. This is where the trail really becomes quite scenic atop a wide ridge offering gorgeous views of both Kaaawa to the left and Kahana Bay to the right.
Here, there is an abundance of little caves and overhangs that you can venture to. The rocks in this area are a bit crumbly though so if you do decide to climb out, use EXTREME caution.
In the midst of all the rock formations, we came to a small clearing overlooking Kahana Bay. Crouching Lion Hike is named for a rock formation along the hike that from the right angle, looks like a lion laying down. This rock formation comes up on your left as you continue hiking towards the bigger clearing.
Once we reached the clearing we stopped and took in the entire view. Despite the overcast sky, it was beyond beautiful.
MY FOUR FAVORITE ACTIVITIES ON OAHU
Looking for some idea for activities on your rest day from hiking? These are my favorite activities on the island… especially the doors-off helicopter flight.
- Oahu scenic helicopter flight: My number one recommendation is to do a heli-flight (doors off). You will be absolutely blown away when you see Oahu from the sky! Click to book your tour: Doors-Off Helicopter Flight Tour
- North Shore Shark Cage Adventure: The biggest adrenaline rush you can have in Hawaii is beneath the surface with sharks! Click to book your tour: North Shore Shark Cage Experience
- Eco-Friendly Dolphin and Snorkel Half-Day Cruise: One of the best experiences I had on Oahu was swimming with the beautiful spinner dolphins. A once in a lifetime experience. Click to book your tour: Eco-Friendly Dolphin and Snorkel Tour
- Turtle Canyon Snorkel Cruise by Catamaran: One of my favorite memories of Hawaii is floating in the water with a Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle. On this tour that is exactly what you will do! Click to book your tour: Turtle Canyon Snorkel Cruise by Catamaran
HAWAII HIKING PACKING LIST
Many people come unprepared for hiking on Oahu and that’s why there are so many rescues. Make sure you atleast have the basics and you will be prepared for bad weather or any mishaps on the trail. A headlamp, rainjacket and good hiking boots or shoes are the three main pieces of gear you need.
Hiking shoes – It’s best to use hiking boots with good grip and that can handle mud, rain, and tough terrain. Hiking shoes I use: Salomon Mid GTX
Rain Jacket – Never hike in Hawaii without a rain jacket, no matter how sunny it is in Honolulu. Rain Jacket I use: Arcteryx Lightweight Rain Jacket
Spare T-shirt – To change into at the top of a summit to be dry and warm as you will sweat through your original shirt while hiking: Dry fit hiking shirt I use: IceBreaker Merino Lite
Headlamp – So you can keep your hands free instead of holding a torch. Head Torch I use: Petzl Head Lamp 450 Lumens
My Camera Backpack: You simply won’t find a better camera backpack for hiking that my Atlas Athlete Backpack, which I’ve been using on all of my hikes all over the world for years now: Atlas Athlete Camera Backpack
What to pack for a trip to Hawaii
What to pack for Hawaii?: After multiple trips to Hawaii, there are some items you NEED to pack. I wrote a blog post with all of my suggestions about things you might not think about packing: THE HAWAII PACKING LIST: WHAT TO PACK AND WHY
Where to stay on Oahu
Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort (Overall Favorite): In the heart of Waikiki, this high-end resort is right on the beach. Luxury rooms overlooking the beach, a private lagoon and a free fireworks and dance performance show. Hilton is easily the most recognizable hotel on the Island.
Why I recommend this hotel: It has its own private lagoon. While lots of people love the beach it is perfect for families. Kids can kayak, swim and snorkel with no worries. There are no currents, waves or sea creatures to worry about. The hotel is right on Waikiki Beach so don’t worry the beach is right there also.
Sheraton Waikiki (Luxury): A luxury resort with the most amazing infinity pool on the island, which overlooks the beach. The bar and nightclub at the Sheraton is a great place to relax after a long day of island adventures.
Why I recommend this hotel: The Sheraton is always exceptional no matter the location but imagine you are leaning over the edge of an infinity pool, the ocean is below you and you turn to your left and watch Diamond Head crater in the distance. That’s where you will be at the end of each day, having a Mai Tai cocktail in your infinity pool. Later on, in the evening Rumfire is a great bar venue, which is actually part of the Sheraton. It is open to the public and is one of the best high-end venues on Oahu. It has a small dance floor but is mostly standing and seating areas for drinks, chats and good times.
Ewa Hotel Waikiki: (Value): Hotels in Waikiki can be expensive. Deciding where to stay on Oahu can be difficult if you don’t have much cash. Luckily, there is an accommodation option on the edge of Waikiki that is excellent value.
Why do I recommend this hostel/hotel: This is the perfect hotel if you want location but are willing to sacrifice a pool and some luxury items to save up to $200 per night. All of the hotels in this area are minimum $300 per night and often much more. Ewa Hotel is just one block back from the beach and is just over $150 USD. If you are like me, I never swim in the hotel pool anyway. Didn’t you come halfway across the world to swim in the beach!
Waikiki Beachside Hostel (Budget Choice): A budget alternative, which is still in an amazing location. Walking distance to Waikiki beach and a central location to base yourself for a week of adventures.
Why I recommend this hostel: Unfortunately Waikiki and Honolulu, in general, are not cheap. You can grab a dorm room for under $35 a night within walking distance to Waikiki surf beach. This location really is great. You are near a lot of attractions and can take public transport to a lot of great east coast beaches and hikes. It is the number one hostel in Waikiki and I’m sure you will meet other adventurers to go on hikes with!
Disney Aulani Resort (Family Choice): This is a resort your kids will never forget. It honestly feels like a theme park at times with just how many pools and activities are available. If you can afford it, this is the #1 place to stay for families on Oahu.
Why I recommend this hotel: Disney Aulani Resort combines luxury accommodation with family fun. A huge lazy river/tire tube lagoon is probably the highlight of the resort although the water slides and private beach aren’t too far behind. The kids club and massage center are just among a few of the many activities included in your stay. Attend ukelele lessons, free fire-pit story-telling at night and more and more! Your kids will never be bored and the quality of entertainment and facilities is just beyond amazing.
MORE OAHU BLOG POSTS
I lived on Oahu for two years and loved adventuring from the beaches to the mountains to the waterfalls! These are my most popular blog post and guides from the beautiful island of Oahu to help you plan your trip!
What to pack for Hawaii: THE HAWAII PACKING LIST: WHAT TO PACK AND WHY
A helpful guide to choosing accommodation: WHERE TO STAY ON OAHU: WHICH REGION IS BEST FOR YOU?
Most epic hike on Oahu: THE STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN OAHU, HAWAII: UPDATED 2018
The best Waterfalls: 11 AMAZING WATERFALLS ON OAHU, HAWAII
Ultimate Cliff Jumping Guide: 11 BEST CLIFF JUMPING SPOTS ON OAHU, HAWAII
Guide to Swimming with Sea Turtles: WHERE TO SEE TURTLES ON OAHU, HAWAII
The Best Hikes on Oahu: 10 BEST HIKES ON OAHU, HAWAII
My favorite experience on Oahu: AMAZING DOORS OFF HELICOPTER TOUR OF OAHU, HAWAII
The Ultimate Guide to Oahu: 80 THINGS TO DO ON OAHU – THE BUCKET LIST