The Hau’ula Loop Trail is a 4.4-mile loop trail located on the northeastern coast of Oahu. The trail takes hikers through a dense forest of Ironwood and Cook Pines, offering a chance to observe Hawaii’s unique flora and fauna along the way. One of the highlights of the Hau’ula Loop Trail is the panoramic view of the coastline and the Hau’ula Beach Park from the summit. The trail is also dotted with various lookout points, where hikers can take a break and enjoy the breathtaking scenery.
HAU’ULA LOOP TRAIL
In this blog post, I’ll share all of the details about the Hau’ula Loop Trail including directions, what to expect, and my experience.
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HAU’ULA LOOP TRAIL DETAILS
- Hike Distance: The total distance of the Hau’ula Loop Trail is 4.4 miles, which is approximately 7.65 kilometers.
- Hike Duration: The hike typically takes about 3-4 hours to complete, depending on your hiking speed and if you add in the Waipilopilo Loop as we did.
- Hike Difficulty: The Hau’ula Loop Trail is a great hike for all levels, with no real dangers or drop-offs. However, the trail does have a bit of a steady incline, so it’s recommended that you be in decent shape. The trail is rated as moderately difficult.
- Hike Incline: The total incline for the Hau’ula Loop Trail hike is approximately 455 meters if you add the Waipilopilo Loop or 268m if you do the regular short loop.
- Strava Upload: Hau’ula Loop
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HOW TO GET TO THE HAU’ULA LOOP TRAIL
The Hau’ula Loop Trailhead is easily accessible by car. To get there from Honolulu, take the LikeLike freeway east and continue onto the Kahekili Highway until you reach Hau’ula. Look out for the Hau’ula Loop Trailhead signs on your left-hand side, just after the 7-Eleven convenience store. There is a small parking lot near the trailhead, but it can fill up quickly on busy days. If the parking lot is full, there is additional parking available along the nearby streets. Once you park, look for the trailhead sign and start following the trail. The hike begins with a gentle incline that gradually becomes steeper as you climb higher up the hill.
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HAU’ULA LOOP TRAILHEAD MAP
On the map below, I have pinned the location of the Hau’ula Trailhead so you are sorted with directions to the hike. It is signed well at the entrance and the route can be downloaded from many local hiking apps.
MY EXPERIENCE ON THE HAU’ULA LOOP TRAIL
The Hau’ula Loop Trail is a local favorite on the northeastern coast of Oahu. The regular loop is just over 4 kilometers with a moderate incline. However, the addition of the Waipilopilo Loop is suggested and makes the route much more exciting and challenging with more incline, more distance, and better views.
The trail begins in the neighborhood of Hau’ula with a well-signed trailhead. There are a number of trails that shoot off from the Hau’ula Loop Trail so I suggest having the map route downloaded onto your phone if it’s your first time.
The first few minutes of the route are on a paved road before the trail shoots off onto a series of switchbacks through the forest.
While it seems shady and protected, this route is incredibly humid with almost no breeze until you top out on the summit or the ridges. We hiked up early in the morning on an overcast day and were sweating heavily amidst the humidity after just a few minutes.
The trail reaches a split where you can go complete the entire Waipilopilo Loop in either direction. I chose to stay on the left side of the loop first in order to be able to complete the Hau’ula Loop section on the way back where it rejoins.
This blog post is about the Hau’ula Loop but the reality is that the Waipilopilo Loop was my favorite part of this route. It’s where the ridges, lookouts, and interesting sections of the trail were found.
After about thirty minutes, we reached our first lookout over the northeastern coast. Unfortunately, despite our sunrise wake-up call, the skies were overcast and not providing us with much light. Nevertheless, the views down the ridge and across to the adjacent ridges were starting to get better and better as we continued our climb up toward the summit. Below, you can see the two ridges we took up and down on the Waipilopilo Loop above the Hau’ula Loop Trail.
There were about five or six small plateau viewpoints along the journey to the summit. Each gave a slightly better view back down to the coast.
After about 1.5 hours, we reached the summit. It was a leisurely pace with lots of photos and time enjoyed at viewpoints but the 450m of incline also added to that time. At the summit, we took in the panoramic view of the Kaipapu Forest Reserve, Pu’uka’inapua’a, Hau’ula Forest reserve, and the wind turbines in the distance. The ridges behind us caught a little bit of light and looked incredible.
HAWAII HIKING PACKING LIST
Many people come unprepared for hiking on Oahu and that’s why there are so many rescues. Make sure you at least have the basics and you will be prepared for bad weather or any mishaps on the trail. A headlamp, rain jacket, and good hiking boots or shoes are the three main pieces of gear you need. Below are my four Hawaii hiking essentials.
- Arcteryx BETA AR Rain Jacket: This is my go-to rain jacket. It’s super light, folds down into a tiny ball, and protects brilliantly in a storm. This one never leaves my backpack.
- Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX Hiking Boots: For the best ankle support, waterproofing, and durable exterior I’m a fan of tough but light hiking boots like these Salomons for my adventures.
- Black Diamond Head Torch: I can’t tell you how many times, I’ve arrived back from a hike unexpectedly late. I always keep this lightweight but strong headtorch in my bag for the unexpected.
- Darn Tough Socks: These are the most comfortable hiking socks I’ve ever worn and last for years. They also have a lifetime warranty and you just send them in with a hole and they replace it no questions asked.
The route down the north ridge of the Waipilopilo Loop, heading back to the Hau’ula Loop was quite beautiful. The trail began with some minor rope sections due to a bit of muddy terrain. This was the most ‘technical’ part of the trail but the few ropes installed made these sections quite safe.
I found this northern ridge to be the lush side of the route with tropical plants spilling over onto the trail around each corner.
The trail then merges back from the tropical ridge back into the forest. The soft dirt trail accommodates the knees with shock absorption, making the descent a soft one. We came across a number of beautiful, old trees on this hike but some were more remarkable than others.
Finally, the tree reconnects with the Hau’ula Loop Trail and winds through the towering Cook Pines. This section of trail is a great way to end with soft pine needles underfoot, trees shooting up to the sky, and vibrant green undergrowth completing the scene.
We joined back up with the initial section of the Hau’ula Loop and made it back to the trailhead in just under four hours despite our slow pace throughout the route. It could be easily done in under three hours but I’d allow 3-4 hours for this route if you include Waipilopilo Loop. If you just do the Hau’ula Loop Trail, I’d allow 1.5 to 2 hours at a leisurely pace.
I hope you enjoyed this guide to the Hau’ula Loop Trail and Waipilopilo Loop Trail on Oahu, Hawaii. There are a few other great hikes on Oahu, especially in this region such as:
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- Hilton Hawaiian Village Beach Resort (Overall Favorite): In the heart of Waikiki, this high-end resort is right on the beach with a private lagoon.
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- Ewa Hotel Waikiki: (Value): Ewa Hotel is just one block back from the beach and is just over $150 USD.
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