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.
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 conditions. 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.
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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 section 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 the sun to take some nice photos as the ridges received some golden light.
After enjoying the sunrise, the hike continues 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 with. 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 shots and helicopter shots from the ridge and eastern coast of Oahu.
THE FOUR MOST POPULAR OAHU TOURS
- Doors-Off Oahu Helicopter Flight Tour: My number one recommendation is to do a heli-flight (doors off) and be blown away when you see Oahu from the air.
- North Shore Shark Cage Tour: The biggest adrenaline rush you can have in Hawaii is beneath the surface with sharks!
- Eco-Friendly Dolphin and Snorkel Tour: One of the best experiences I had on Oahu was swimming with the beautiful spinner dolphins on this exact tour.
- Turtle Canyon Snorkel Cruise by Catamaran: The number 1 MOST POPULAR snorkel tour on Oahu. GUARANTEED Turtles!
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.
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 with a private lagoon.
- Sheraton Waikiki (Luxury): A luxury resort with the most amazing infinity pool on the island, which overlooks the beach.
- Ewa Hotel Waikiki: (Value): Ewa Hotel is just one block back from the beach and is just over $150 USD.
- Waikiki Beachside Hostel (Budget Choice): A budget alternative, which is still in an amazing location.
- Disney Aulani Resort (Family Choice): This is a resort your kids will never forget. It honestly feels like you are living in a theme park.
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
- A helpful guide to choosing accommodation: WHERE TO STAY ON OAHU
- Most epic hike on Oahu: THE STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN OAHU, HAWAII
- The best Waterfalls: AMAZING WATERFALLS ON OAHU, HAWAII
- Ultimate Cliff Jumping Guide: 11 BEST CLIFF JUMPING SPOTS ON OAHU
- Guide to Swimming with Sea Turtles: WHERE TO SEE TURTLES ON OAHU
- The best Waterfall Hikes: TOP WATERFALL HIKES ON OAHU
- Best Tours: 20 BEST TOURS ON OAHU
- The Ultimate Guide to Oahu: 80 AWESOME THINGS TO DO ON OAHU