Distance: 4 miles (6437 meters)
Elevation Gain: 1624 feet (495 meters)
Route Type: In-And-Out
Terrain: dirt, rocky paths, fallen leaves, lots of stairs
Completion Time: 1.75 - 3.5
Difficulty: 4 / 5
The Kuilouou Ridge Trail is a hike located in Hawaii Kai, the eastern edge of Honolulu. The hike is a bit longer than some of the other hikes on our hike list. The terrain is probably the most interesting part of this hike, as you will enter distinct areas.
As you see from the above image, there is a lot of zig-zagging early on. This means the elevation gain is divided over a longer distance, meaning it is EASY. After the halfway point however, you will be greeted with tons of stairs, which on this longer hike, is very tiring.
Don’t worry though! The peak is a great view, with an open, panoramic view of the Eastern part of the island.
This hike is located in Honolulu, the eastern part called Hawaii Kai. The best way to reach here is by going on the H1 East, until you transition into Kalanianaole Highway (If you come from the North Shore, you can use the same highway, as this is the only road that goes around the eastern edge of the island). Turn left onto Kuliouou Road and drive all the way to near the end — you should see Kalaau Place on the right and a DEAD END sign. You can try going up Kalaau Place to find parking, but because of all the hikers looking for parking, I would park at the bottom and just walk the extra 8 minutes to walk up Kalaau Place to the entrance.
I recommend you definitely schedule this hike when it has not been raining recently! The most recent trip I took, which is when I took these photos, shows you how difficult it can be when it’s muddy. Our view at the end was also spoiled because of all the clouds!
After you pass the gate at the entrance, take the right path by the sign — if you go left, you will end up in front of a water tower and a fence.
A Local's Advice
Once you are in the hike, please pay attention to where you are going! There is one path that goes left called “KULIOUOU VALLEY TRAIL”. Also, because you are zig zagging, you need to pay attention. Finally, some people going down from the hike will go straight down creating new paths! So, please in the beginning, pay attention to your path!
Area 1: You will walk along a rocky road
Area 2: You will begin to slowly zig-zag up this rocky road
Area 3: You will begin to start walking on a floor of fallen leaves… this area can be a little dangerous, because the large piles of leaves can affect your traction. I haven’t had problems, mainly because many of the leaves are pounded into the ground already and not loose.
Area 4: You will reach a halfway break-point in a very WIDE area. Note: this area will be tricky going down, as it is on a decent decline, without many trees to grip onto or embedded rocks to step onto. I personally used the back leaning step: you ride your momentum forward so you can move quickly, but lean back, so if you fall, you fall on your butt, and not forward (ouch).
Area 5: You will go through a narrow area with lots of trees and foliage.
Area 6: You go up many, many steps in the open.
On this most recent hike, it was cloudy. Also, despite the weather report saying it was sunny, it had been rain maybe the night before, so we had a muddy hike with a bad view. The above image is my photo from a long time ago, showing you the view on a sunny day! Amazing, isn’t it?
If you are headed back into Honolulu (west bound), you can stop at Aina Haina Shopping Center, which will be on your right. You can stop here for the following:
- Elaborate shave ice and dessert at Uncle Clays’ House of Pure Aloha
- Pieology custom pizza
- Local-style BBQ
I think this is a pretty good hike. Although it is a bit longer than my favorite hikes, it is very good exercise and the variety of terrain you go through makes it very appealing.