The Kahekili Trail is a great option for those looking to experience the beauty and adventure of hiking on O’ahu without logging long miles.
The trail is challenging but short and packs some of the best views on the entire island. Being located on the east side of O’ahu, the Kahekili Trail is a great hike for any time of day but especially at sunrise.
While it’s a bit of a drive from Waikiki, it’s worth the road trip. The Kahekili Trail is closely located to many other iconic O’ahu attractions such a Chinaman’s Hat, Ko’oloa Ranch, and Crouching Lion, making for the perfect adventure day.
In this guide, I cover what to expect hiking the Kahekili Trail, getting there, parking, finding the trailhead, and more. I also suggest nearby adventures to tack onto your trip around the island.
Complete Guide to Hiking the Kahekili Trail
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Kahekili Trail Stats
Distance: 2.9 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,774 feet
Time: 3-4 hours
Getting to Kahekili Trail
The Kahekili Trailhead is located just under an hour from downtown Waikiki.
While the drive is long, it’s straightforward and offers some incredible views of the Ko’olau Mountain Range. From Waikiki, get on the I-H-1 W until you see the veer off for the HI-63 W and HI-83 W. You continue on this road until you see the left turn on Huamalani Street.
If you have the time, you could make a whole island detour of the trip. My favorite road trip on the island involves driving around the whole south tip and up the east side.
Taking this route adds roughly 45 minutes to the drive but it’s absolutely worth it and a must-do adventure in itself while visiting O’ahu.
If you’re attempting to do the Kahekili Trail for sunrise, I recommend taking the quicker, direct route up, and the longer route on the way back.
Where to Park
Kahekili Trail, like many other trails on O’ahu, is located in the back of a residential neighborhood. There is no designated trail parking and very few parking opportunities in the neighborhood at all.
It’s important to respect the residents and park clear of any driveways. Keeping this in mind, I recommend parking at the nearby park, Swanzy Beach Park.
Swanzy Beach Park is only .3 miles from the trailhead and offers plenty of parking options. Parking here gives your legs a warm-up before the trail and keeps the locals happy.
It’s a win-win.
As always, make sure to remove all valuables from your car and hide charging cords before hitting the trail. Car break-ins are common on O’ahu. Make sure to do everything you can to minimize the incentive for theft.
Finding the Trailhead
Finding the Kahekili Trailhead can be a little tricky. As I mentioned previously, the trail is located at the end of Huamalani Street.
Just past the last house on the left, you’ll notice a very small and overgrown footpath located just beside the residential shed. The path is sandwiched between two private residences.
This tiny overgrown path is the start of the Kahekili Trail.
Shortly after you venture onto the path you’ll know you’re in the right place as the trail widens and begins to feel more like a typical hiking trail.
When starting out, be mindful of residents and proceed quietly until you are deeper into the rail.
What to Expect Hiking Kahekili Trail
We didn’t know what to expect when hiking the Kahekili Trail as it’s not as popular or widely talked about as other ridge hikes on O’ahu like Olomana Trail or Kuli’ou’ou Ridge Trail.
Part of the trail’s allure is its underrated status. We’ve done the trail several and almost always encounter only a handful of (if any) other hikers.
The trail starts off wide and flat under tree coverage, but not for long. Shortly after beginning the trail, you start to feel the incline.
The trail is scrambly and steep as you begin to make the ascent from the valley floor toward the top of the ridge. Through a series of switchbacks, steep vertical sections, and short rope climbs you reach your first view along the trail.
The Lookout Detour
When you emerge from the trees onto the ridge, you notice the trail continues to your right. However, if you look left you’ll notice a cluster of rocks.
If you continue left along the social path toward the rocks you’ll get an incredible view of the ocean and surrounding coastline.
These rocks are a great place to sit down and soak in the sunrise and stunning views. We always make a pitstop here, as it’s one of our favorite views on the entire island.
Think Crouching Lion Trail, without the crowds.
From here, head back onto the main trail and continue the trek upwards. More elevation gain, more rope sections, and more scrambles are involved in this last section. While this part of the trail is more challenging, it’s brief.
With the challenge, comes more views.
The best views of Kualoa Ranch can be found in this ridge section of the Kahekili Trail. The surrounding mountains are massive and jagged from the ridge line and completely unobstructed.
Once you’ve reached this view of the Kualoa Ranch mountains, you’ve hit the climax of the Kahekili Trail, in my opinion. While the trail continues, I don’t think there’s any benefit to proceeding any further.
Shortly after you witness the spellbinding views of the Kualoa area, you’ll notice the trail skirting around another large rock cluster. From here, the trail gets more washed out, overgrown, and hard to follow.
You spend the next stretch in the trees with no views. This section of forest gets hit hard with storms and it’s common to have many trees down obstructing the path. Having offline maps for this section is very helpful as the trail becomes elusive at times.
When you do finally reach the “summit,” I think you’ll find it’s just a less impressive version of the initial view you already experienced of Kualoa Ranch. The foliage is overgrown and high and leaves a very small window of view.
Honestly, we weren’t even sure if we were in the right place. You by all means can continue onto the end for principle if you want, but just know the best views are behind you.
By turning around early you get all the views while having to cover less mileage.
Things to Do Nearby
The Kahekili Trail isn’t the most conveniently located trail on O’ahu, but it does happen to be in one of my favorite parts of the island.
We always like to make a day out of hiking the Kahekili Trail by adding on some other nearby adventures. Since the hike is so short, you’ll have plenty of time to tack on some other activities while you’re on the northeast side of the island.
Below are some of my favorites.
Crouching Lion Trail
Distance from Kahekili Trail: 3 minutes
Hiking the iconic Crouching Lion Trail is one of the most sought-after adventures on O’ahu.
There are many reasons this hike is so popular — it’s short, easily accessible, quick, and leads to views unbelievable views of Kahana Bay and the surrounding mountains. Whether hiking is your m-o or you’re just looking for one quick hike to do while on O’ahu, Crouching Lion is your trail.
Important to note: Crouching Lion trail is frequently hiked by locals and tourists alike, however, the hike is technically illegal and can result in fines. Know that you are hiking at your own risk.
Distance from Kahekili Trail: 7 minutes
Kualoa Ranch is recognized for its many screen appearances, such as Jurassic Park, 50 First Dates, Jumanji, and Lost, to name a few.
The ranch offers a variety of activities and tours for all ages. You can adventure through the park via ATV, horseback, or e-bike, and join movie-specific tours as a way to bring your favorite films to life.
Every time we explore Kualoa Ranch, I’m left even more in awe of the Hawaiian Islands and their endless beauty. Worth every penny.
Kualoa Regional Park (Beach)
Distance from Kahekili Trail: 11 minutes
Right across the road from Kualoa Ranch is the beach park. We love this park for its views of Chinaman’s Hat, picnic table access, and calm waters.
The ocean floor is rocky so it’s not the best for swimming, but it’s a great beach to cool off with a quick dip or lay out a towel for a relaxing afternoon of sunning or reading.
Chinaman’s Hat (Mokoli’i Island)
Distance from Kahekili Trail: 11 minutes
One of our favorite adventures on O’ahu is kayaking to Mokoli’i Island, more commonly referred to as Chinaman’s Hat, and completing the short hike to the top of the island.
It’s a quick, easy, and beautiful kayak session, followed by a quick and easy, albeit steep, hiking section. Getting to the top of Chinaman’s Hat does require some climbing and confidence as the pitch to the top of incredibly steep.
Luckily, there are ropes to help you pull yourself up the final stretch. From the top you get, hands down, the most breathtaking views of the Kualoa Ranch Nature Reserve that you can find on O’ahu.
Waiahole Poi Factory
Distance from Kahekili Trail: 13 minutes
You can’t adventure all day without getting a bite to eat. We never adventure on the northeast side of the island without stopping by Waiahole Poi Factory.
The Poi Factory is the best place on O’ahu to try authentic Hawaiian Food. The restaurant is a historic establishment and no trip to the island would be complete without adding it as a pitstop.
Try one of the combo plates and enjoy it while sitting at a picnic table at Kualoa Regional Beach Park.
If you have any questions about hiking the Kahekili Trail or other ridge hikes on O’ahu leave me a message in the comment section below.
If you’re looking to take the ultimate O’ahu trip, make sure to check out my other guides highlighting my favorite island hikes, adventures, and more.
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