Which theme music? Take your pick. The Jurassic Park movies, Lost, Magnum PI, The Karate Kid Part II, and (of course) Hawaii 5-0 all feature scenes shot on the ever-gorgeous Oʻahu. I’m humming the JP theme music as I type… join me, if you’d like. Wahhh. Wahh wahh wahhhh. Bah dah dahhhh dah dahh. Weh weh wehhhh weh weh wehhhhhhhhhhhh.
I was lucky enough to fit three short hikes into my schedule while on the island of Oʻahu in Hawaiʻi earlier this month. They varied in intensity – one left me soaking wet, the second left my shoes mud-drenched, and the last left me without glasses, unable to see well in the fog and and the darkness. A trio of delight, all were clearly quite thrilling.
The first hike is perhaps the best known to Honolulu visitors – Diamond Head State Monument. Dominating the views from Waikiki beach, Diamond Head is an extinct volcanic cone, home to the United States’ first military reservation in the state, and now home to tourists looking for an easy hike with rewarding views.
The Diamond Head trail begins inside the crater, and takes hikers past grassy slopes, at this time of year just emerging from their summer drought stage (above, bottom). The frequent sputters of rain that greyed the skies above our heads every day of the visit were sure enough present while hiking. Emerging at the top of the trail just as a brief rainstorm stopped, we were allowed the delight of watching dark clouds burn off the landscape. Honolulu and the surrounding coastline slowly came into focus.
Diamond Head was a great first-day activity on the island, paving the way for the more adventurous excursions still in store.
Our second hike was on a whim, spurred from the desire to get off the sandy beach and work off some of those Spam-filled calories. Locals told us in hard-to-decipher English that we should hike to Maunawili Falls, but our maps were sad and non-descriptive. We found what appeared to be a hiking trail on one of our maps, and decided to navigate to it. And of all the great fortunes – it was the Maunawili Falls trail.
Maunawili Falls takes a bit of time to reach, due to the muddy and slippery path that must be traversed to get there. At one point, I sunk fully into the muck, as my shoes that barely lived to tell the tale would attest. If you’ve seen the Jason Mraz video for I’m Yours, you will have visited Maunawili Falls too (see 1:49); it’s likely, though, that you didn’t get as dirty as I did.
Once at the falls, I slipped into the chilly and somewhat small pool of water, and watched the near-daredevils around me jump off a small ledge (above, bottom right). Other taller jumping ledges exist too, but no one braved those while we were there. Refer to the jumpers in the music video and perhaps you’ll see why.
After lingering in the waters to let fish nibble our toes, knees and elbows, we noticed a sign warning of the dangerous bacteria Leptospirosus, potentially present in the water. I purposefully chose not to look up the symptoms of Leptospirosus until many days later, worried that I would develop disastrous placebo effects. Stranger things have happened.
The last hike was more of a non-technical climbing route, if you will. And it was also technically illegal. So, disclaimer. I “didn’t technically climb it.” Or did I?
The Haiku Stairs, or Stairway to Heaven, is a set of 3,922 stairs leading directly up a mountain to an abandoned radio station on the windward side of the island, near Kāneʻohe. The steps were redone in 2003 with the intention of opening the hike to the public, meaning that it is really quite a safe hike, although less so if it is dark, rainy, and foggy, such as when I “didn’t climb it.” It is by far one of the neatest hikes out there.
How amazing is it to hike up something that you can’t see because it is dark, wet, and foggy? (And cold, although the cold doesn’t much hinder your sight.) And then, how much more amazing, to come down out of the clouds, to find it growing ever lighter, and to see highway traffic buzzing like small wasps at least half a mile below you?
Crazy wild frickin’ insane amazing, that’s how.
Keeping the fog off my lens proved as difficult as keeping the condensation off my glasses, so while I live to tell the tale, I honestly didn’t live to see the tale all that well. However, the patchiness in the pictures was real, as clouds sauntered across our path, weaving a web betwixt lush vegetation, sky, and ourselves.
All in all, a worthwhile act in criminality. For which we were punished with nothing but astonishing views, Stairmastered legs, and a lengthy chat with the friendly neighborhood security guard.
If you find yourself on Oʻahu, do yourself a favor and hike whichever of these you can. Diamond Head is a breeze, and the Maunawili Falls trail is a leisurely saunter.
As far as the Haiku Stairs – – be respectful of the neighborhood. Be sneaky like a cute l’il cat. Be quiet, and don’t use any lights or you will probably get caught. Memorize your directions so you don’t get lost navigating the back road paths, during which you may get caught. And make sure to get there as early as you can, likely earlier if it’s a weekend, otherwise you will definitely be caught. We arrived around 3am, which I think is playing it relatively safe.
If the guard is there, he will catch and stop you. He is smarter than you, and tanner than you. He lifts weights. And he has wild hair.
Don’t get caught… and you’ll have a fantastic story to tell all of your friends for weeks to come.
Located off Diamond Head Road between Makapuʻu and 18th Avenues, Honolulu.
Hours: 6h00-18h00 daily
Entrance fees: $5.00/car or $1/pedestrian
Trailhead located at the junction of Maunawili Road and Kelewina Street, Maunawili (near Kailua).
Look elsewhere for information on how to be a sly fox, because you won’t find it here. Remember? I didn’t hike this. There’s plenty of good info out there on the interwebs.