WILIWILINUI RIDGE HIKE ON OAHU, HAWAII
Apr 4, 2016
Look past the funny name and discover narrow trails, lush scenery and coast-to-coast views making it a must do on Oahu.
IMAGES BY JACKSON GROVES & JESSICA BLACKMUN // TEXT BY JESSICA BLACKMUN
Standing at the summit of Wiliwilinui Ridge I can make out Waikiki, a city of white buildings seemingly a world away from the ridges we are roaming. I spin around to see the turquoise water of the east coast and the panoramic views make me feel like I am at the center of this beautiful island.
The summit provided amazing views reminding us how small we are and how grand nature is, but it wasn’t a hike without mishaps. The morning began slowly when the guard told us the trail wouldn’t open until sunrise. After waiting for over an hour for the sun to come up, he allowed us to enter. However, no mopeds or motorbikes are allowed in the guarded community situated below the hike, which meant we had to walk an extra mile to reach the trailhead.
Despite the delayed start and the added warm-up the guard had gifted us, our spirits were high and each step was full of anticipation. Reaching the trailhead, we were surprised at how well the trail was maintained. Wiliwilinui began with a road rather than a trail, but the canopy of trees and thick covering of soft and pulpy dead leaves along the ground gave the wide,open space an eerie atmosphere.
After less than twenty minutes our shoes were covered in mud, the hike had turned into a marbled dirt path surrounded on either side by ironwood trees. This region of the hike lasted for about 40 minutes. There were a few parts where we would get a peek through the trees but that was only a little teaser of the view that was to come.
The trail wound around a bend and opened up into a clearing with a swing hanging from one of the trees! Of course we both had to have a go on the swing. I was a little bit freaked out by the fact that if you fall backwards off the swing you could very well tumble to your death, but it made for some cool pictures.
A muddy set of stairs awaited us at the other edge of the clearing and lead to the inception of our game of who could fall over into the mud the least. This is the part of the hike where the entertainment picked up for me (I can be a little too competitive for my own good).
The plastic stairs installed into the trail were definitely helpful (without them this hike would’ve been more like an episode of Wipe Out) but there were also many areas where there were not any stairs and instead just a rope to help you drag yourself up.
We were treated to views of the valleys at almost every landing during this period of the hike up. After reaching the relay station tower, it’s just a short trail along the ridge to a small room-sized clearing with a lone bench, which concluded the Wiliwilinui Ridge hike.
If you sit on the bench, you are overlooking Kailua and Lanikai and if you turn back in the direction you came, you can see Waikiki, Koko Crater, and Diamond Head. This is a great place to pull out a snack and enjoy the view. Watch out though, it is a bit windy.
After finishing up our snacks we quickly realized the way down is even more slippery than the way up. This is where I solidified the gap in our game of “who could stay on their feet”. While it caused us both a few falls, I spent a lot of the hike down laughing my butt off at Jackson wiping out and he spent a lot of it with his feet up in the air. In the end I had four all out slides in the mud, while Jackson came out with a whopping eight!
Wiliwilinui is a beautiful hike that offers amazing views, provides an imposing, isolated atmosphere and is one of the least crowded hikes on Oahu. The incline is worth the feeling of peace you will find as you sit atop a ridge overlooking everything that has been created below you.
How to get there
Duration: 3 hours
Altitude: 2,480 feet