MAU’UMAE TRAIL (PU’U LANIPO TRAIL) ON OAHU, HAWAII

The Mau-umae Trail (Pu’u Lanipo Trail) is one of my favorite hikes near Waikiki and leads you all the way up to the scenic Koolau Summit Trail. You can actually start this trail from your hotel in Waikiki as it is so close. The route is pretty adventurous with muddy slopes and some minor rope climbs. You won’t find too many others on this slightly overgrown trail. I combined this trail by looping up along the Koolau Summit Trail to Mount Olympus and coming back down via the Wa’ahila Trail.

In this blog post, I will share with you the directions, all of my photos from throughout the hike and some information on what to expect throughout the route.

BLOG POST: You might also be interested in my experience (many years ago) hiking the Stairway to Heaven. 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

MAU’UMAE TRAIL (PU’U LANIPO TRAIL) HIKE HIKE DETAILS

Hike Distance: The total distance of the hike is 10km out and back (return trip) if you return from Pu’u Palikea. I turned the route into a loop visiting Mount Olympus and descending via the Wa’ahila Trail and the total distance was 12km.

Hike Duration: The hike to Pu’u Palikea and back should take about 4-5 hours due to the muddy, slow-going terrain. If you do my route via Mount Olympus the route should be about 5-6 hours with plenty of drink stops and photo opportunities.

Hike Difficulty: The Mau-umae Trail (Pu’u Lanipo 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. If you are in average athletic condition, reaching Pu’u Palikea will be an exciting and challenging route but easily achievable for most in decent hiking condition. Continuing on the Koolau Summit Trail to Mount Olympus and descending via the Wa’ahila Trail is another step up with overgrown sections and more exposed ridges.

Hike Incline: 850 meters incline on the hike to Pu’u Palikea with the return trip or 1200m incline continuing on to Mount Olympus and descending via the Wa’ahila Trail.

My Strava Map Upload: Mau-umae Sunrise Hike

HOW TO GET TO THE MAU’UMAE TRAIL (PU’U LANIPO TRAIL) TRAILHEAD

The trailhead is just 3.5 miles from the Diamond Head end of Waikiki. I caught an Uber here in the early morning for just $13. The trail starts in a local neighborhood and is a small alleyway next to a house and a fenced-off area. The trailhead is signposted and legal but because it is in a neighborhood, make sure you are very quiet and discreet to respect the local homeowners. I’ve attached an image below showing the trailhead and have also pinned the trailhead location on the map below.

MY EXPERIENCE HIKING THE MAU’UMAE TRAIL (PU’U LANIPO TRAIL)

After looking for a nice hiking option while staying in Waikiki, I came across this trail and decided to hike to the summit and then traverse across the Koolau Summit Trail (KST) to Mount Olympus and then descend back down into the suburbs via the Wa’ahila Trail. It’s a tough one to catch the sunrise on the KST with a couple of hours of ascending to be done so we set off on the trail at 5 am. Early but not early enough to summit for sunrise. We caught the golden glow during our climb up the ridge.

One of the main things to note about this trail is a make-or-break piece of information. You NEED to wear pants and gaiters. The undergrowth will scratch your legs a lot and wearing pants and gaiters made this an enjoyable hike rather than a battle. It’s a non-negotiable on this hike.

The trail begins with some undulations out of the suburbs and into the wild as you begin to get your first looks back towards Diamond Head Crater and Waikiki. The pink tones of the sunrise gave us a beautiful backdrop every time we stopped to turn around and enjoy the views. The rocky terrain and narrow trails mean this route is pretty slow-going so don’t expect a clear run to the top. Even early on, the bushes on either side of the trail are quite thick and we were glad to have our legs covered.

It’s only a 5-kilometer hike to the summit, which is known as Pu’u Palikea. However, due to the 700 meters of elevation, slippery slopes, and rocky terrain, this one will take you a little while. There are a few sections where you can use the assistance of the installed ropes, which are very helpful on a rainy day due to the slippery clay surface found all across the hiking trails of Oahu.

Oahu is a hiking paradise and it can be quite rare to complete an entire route and not see another person enjoying the trails. However, on our journey along the Mau-umae Trail (Pu’u Lanipo Trail), we didn’t see a single other hiker.

It’s pretty common to be engulfed in clouds when you reach the peaks along the KST on Oahu. This morning was no different. We put on our windbreaker jackets and sat down for breakfast and a rest at the Pu’u Palikea summit after two hours on the trail. Luckily, the clouds cleared for us just enough so that we could take in the views of the east coast of the island. The Olomana Trail ‘Three Peaks’ and Lanikai were clearly visible in the distance and we even had glimpses all the way to Chinaman’s Hat.

At this point, you have reached the Pu’u Palikea Summit and can simply return down the Mau-umae Trail (Pu’u Lanipo Trail) to complete the ten-kilometer out-and-back route. However, for a more adventurous route, we decided to head left along the KST towards Mount Olympus. This was probably my favorite part of the trek as we were able to traverse the narrow ridge-line with huge drop-offs towards the east. This section is only for experienced hikers but a very enjoyable section of trail. The wind picks up here and things intensify with muddy and overgrown sections of trail.

Even though the distance between Pu’u Palikea and Mount Olympus is just 1.6km, it took us 1.5 hours. We took a lot of photos but the trail is also very thick, as is common along the KST. It’s an incredible part of trail and I highly recommend it if you are confident with narrow ridges, big drop-offs and have ample experience with such conditions.

We were again lucky enough to have clear views at Mount Olympus summit with views on one side of the eastern coast and the Koolau ridges and in the other direction we could look down towards the south coast and spot Waikiki.

From Mount Olympus back to the Wa’ahila Recreation Park along the Wa’ahila Trail is just four kilometers. It should take about 1.5 hours due to the slippery terrain and minor rock scrambling along the way. It’s another beautiful section of trail and is a great out-and-back route in itself.

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After reaching Wa’ahila Recreation Park we called an Uber for $15 back to Waikiki. Taking Uber allowed us to start and finish at alternate trailheads rather than having to do an out-and-back route, which I always avoid as much as possible to keep the hiking interesting.

I hope you enjoyed this guide to the Mau-umae Trail (Pu’u Lanipo Trail) and have good luck and good weather on your journey!

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. This is how our Hawaii trails get ruined when influencers post detailed directions on how to get these beautiful, sacred spots. These are not your places to promote your adventures to be overrun by visitors who don’t know how to treat the land. Please consider taking this down. Your post of this is disrespectful to the native Hawaiians and their land.

    1. Hey there, this is a regular trail found on All Trails with a GPX map and step-by-step guide on how to reach the route with hundreds of reviews.

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