KAHEKILI TRAIL – EPIC RIDGE HIKE ON OAHU, HAWAII

The Kahekili Trail is a short but adventurous ridge hike on the beautiful east coast of Oahu, Hawaii. With 600 meters of elevation over just three kilometers to the summit, this trail is a steep climb. With lots of exposed ridges, you will find some of the best east coast views while on the Kahekili Trail with vantage points of Kualoa, Chinaman’s Hat, and Kahana Bay. The hike is an awesome choice for sunrise but also great for those vibrant blue and green hues of the midday sun.

In this blog post, I will share with you my experience on the Kahekili Trail, all of my photos, directions and what to expect on the trail so you are all set for an adventure of your own.

BLOG POST: If you are interested in my experience (many years ago) hiking the Stairway to Heaven the regular way you can check out my blog post here: STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN HIKE ON OAHU, HAWAII: UPDATED 2021

OAHU HIKING GUIDE: I’ve written a guide for the top hikes on Oahu that I am sure you will find useful: TOP 10 HIKES ON OAHU, HAWAII

KAHEKILI RIDGE TRAIL DETAILS

Hike Distance: The total distance of the hike is 6km for the out and back.

Hike Duration: The hike up to the summit and back down should take about two hours but if you hang out at the viewpoints along the way and the waterfall, you could bargain for three hours.

Hike Difficulty: The Kahekili Trail is quite technical compared to a normal hiking route. While the path is relatively easy to follow you will encounter very uneven terrain with constant shuffling over tree roots and naturally formed clay stairs. Muddy embankments and slippery slopes require ropes at certain points to navigate. There is some basic rope climbing required but only to help you clamber up the muddy slopes. There are a number of areas with exposure to one side of the ridge so you will need to be cautious and okay with heights. Several parts of the trail are falling away and usually there are ropes installed but expect the unexpected on this one. If you are in average athletic condition, reaching the summit will be an exciting and challenging route but easily achievable for most in decent hiking condition. I would not recommend this hike for beginner hikers and would suggest only experienced hikers with scrambling experience should hike along this trail. Make sure to wear pants and/or gaiters especially if going all the way to the summit as the trail is overgrown and will scratch up your arms and legs.

Hike Incline: 600 meters incline up to the summit and back.

My Strava Map Upload: A Sunrise Mission

HOW TO GET TO THE KAHEKILI TRAIL

The Kahekili Trail is found just before Kahana Bay on the east coast of Oahu, Hawaii. As it is in a residential cul de sac, the locals request you park a short walk away at the beach parking. The trail begins at the end of the cul de sac with the trailhead found between two houses. It heads straight into the bushes and without the small sign, it would be tough to find. I have pinned the location on the map below and also added an image of the trailhead to ensure you find the route. You have my GPX on my Strava, which is linked above for the trail map or you can use the AllTrails map, which I found to be accurate.

MY EXPERIENCE ON THE KAHEKILI TRAIL

The east coast of Oahu is always a good idea for sunrise. Most of the ridge hikes face directly to the ocean so once you get up high enough, there are usually some great sunrise views. We decided to begin this hike at 4:30 am giving us enough time to reach a great viewpoint halfway up the hike in time for sunrise.

If you plan to do this hike for sunrise, make sure you are confident hiking in the dark with a headlamp. There are some big drop-offs on this hike so it can be a little interesting in the dark. I’ll provide a few photos of what the hike looks like on the way up, although I took them on the way down as the trail for me on the way up was completely dark at 4:30 am.

The first sections of the trail takes you through the undergrowth of the forest before it emerges above the treeline to traverse a stunning ridge. Views of Kaawa and the coastline beneath the lush surroundings of the ridge make this one of the most scenic trails on the island. From an aerial point of view, you can quite easily see the course of the ridge-line trail as it leads hikers further and further up towards the peaks of the mountains.

A few basic rope sections help you clamber up the rocks here with uneven, slippery gravel surfaces par for the course. It’s a steady climb for a few hundred meters until you make it to what is essentially the halfway point of the hike. It’s a small plateau area of the ridge with a number of climbable rocks, spires, and boulders. These make for the perfect sunrise viewing area. After these boulders, the trail dives into the undergrowth again and the views aren’t as spectacular so it’s best to watch the sunrise here and continue on after the sunrise.

I climbed upon a large rock, settled in, and watched the sun break through the clouds over the ocean. Kualoa Ridge was looking mighty to my right while the Kahekili Ridge I had just climbed became visible as the morning light seeped through the clouds. It was one of my favorite mornings on Oahu and one I’ll never forget. We didn’t get a perfect sunrise and it was a bit of a grey morning but there were a few moments of sun to take some nice photos as the ridges received some golden light.

After enjoying the sunrise, the hike continues on up the ridge towards the summit. The trail gets distinctly more overgrown and my arms and legs began to take a beating from the bushes on either side of the path. With wild roots and uneven drops becoming more common, it was quite slowgoing to the summit.

Along the way, you will pass a waterfall and a small infinity pool. However, I visited in the summer and both were dry so no photos were taken and I’ll let you discover those for yourself. It’s impossible to miss as you walk directly over the river.

The final climb up to the summit is quite steep and there are many rope sections to help you pull yourself up the slippery trail. At the summit, it is a little bit of an anticlimax with somewhat of a view of Kualao Ridge to one side and a glimpse of Kahana Bay to the other. However, with just a small plateau and tall bushes on either side without a dramatic drop-off, you will see that the best views were at the sunrise spots halfway up the trail.

The journey down is a slippery one so do take care as you cover the same path you came up. It is possible to link this trail with others in the area but I did this as an out-and-back so won’t give any further details on the other hiking routes I have not experienced yet. I hope you enjoyed this guide of the Kahekili Trail and have a great hiking experience on Oahu. Here are a few drone and helicopter shots from the ridge and eastern coast of Oahu.

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

Micro-spikes – You might not have used them much before but they basically slip over the top of your normal shoes giving you incredible grip, which is perfect for the slippery trails of Oahu. They will be the best purchase you make if you plan to hike a lot on Oahu. Microspikes I use: Kahtoola MICROspikes

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

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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!

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.

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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

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

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Blog Comments

  1. For that Kagekiyo trail on the sunrise pic of you on top of the rock, was it taken on the drone or a regular camera for the pic? Thanks in advance and keep up with the photos bro 😎

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