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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Getting to Know Hawaii: Ka'ena Point Trail

The Need to Knows:
  • Ka'ena Point Trail is located on the leeward (western) side of Oahu, all the way at the very end of Farrington Highway.  You can't miss it because you literally can't drive any farther, unless you have some wicked 4WD!  Here's the Google Maps link:

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  • There is a small dirt parking area at the head of the trail, but just like every other hiking trail/tourist spot on Oahu, do NOT leave valuables in your car or you'll risk getting your windows smashed to bits.  I've personally seen way too much broken glass in this area!
  • If you take a leisurely pace, this trail will probably take you a couple of hours or so if you don't spend too much time at the albatross sanctuary.
  • I'd recommend doing this hike in the morning to avoid the brunt of the sun since the trail has very little vegetation cover (it's literally just walking along the coast).  In the afternoon the sun comes over the mountains and can get pretty blazing, especially if you're not wearing hats/proper clothing/sunscreen.
  • Don't forget to bring water!
  • If you do go all the way to the end of the trail to the albatross sanctuary, please keep in mind that dogs are not allowed here.  They technically aren't allowed along the whole trail, but in particular the gate and beyond into the sanctuary since albatross are considered endangered.

One of my favorite "hikes" so far (I say it in quotations because it's not exactly a hike, but more of a walk on a dirt road!) on Oahu has definitely been the Ka'ena Point Trail.  It's very easy, relatively quick, and has some amazing views along the way that are really just gorgeous.

Along the way you will have plenty of chances to see the surf pounding the side of Oahu into smithereens as well as a little bit of vegetation and wildlife here and there.  If you're lucky, you'll even get to see a rainbow in the valleys like we did one day!

And don't forget to keep your eyes peeled on the tide pools below as you walk along the road -- you might get lucky and see something as awesome as this:

Can you see them?  There are two Hawaiian monk seals sunning themselves on the rocks!  Here's a closer view:

The monk seal was on our "big three" list of animals to see while here on island (the other two being humpback whales and green sea turtles, or honu!) so we were beyond excited to catch a glimpse of them!  I've also heard that during the winter months, this trail is a great place to spot whales playing off in the distance.  I'll definitely be going to check them out here this season!

While some people come here just to look off the cliffs into the Pacific Ocean beyond (and maybe see a seal or two), the main goal for this hike is to get to the albatross sanctuary at the northwestern most tip of Oahu itself.  It doesn't take too terribly long to reach it, and it is absolutely worth the walk!

Albatross are here in good number, and you'll see plenty flying around or walking on the ground near their nests.    You may be familiar with this particular seabird already; it's mentioned in Samuel Taylor Coleridge's famous poem "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" and is considered a good omen:

"...a good south wind sprung up behind;
The Albatross did follow
And every day, for food or play,
Came to the mariners' hollo!
- Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner"

The two types of albatross that live in Hawaii are considered rare and endangered, so please stay on the path and do not disturb the nests or the birds themselves (and definitely do not bring your dog here since they aren't allowed).

Albatross nests -- they're in the ground because of how windy it is on this exposed corner of Oahu and any traditional nest would literally be gone with the wind.
 If you keep walking through the sanctuary and turn around, you will see that you are on the most northwestern point of Oahu.

On your left, you will see a good portion of the North Shore, in particular Mokuleia, and on your right, you will see the trail on which you got here, which is on the leeward side of the island.

As you can also see in the picture above, the hard rock and little bits of vegetation give way to sand within the sanctuary, and continues until you reach this beach made of bleached coral...

...and then the tide pools and Pacific ocean beyond.

This area is actually a breeding ground for the Hawaiian monk seals that we saw earlier, and I'm told you can often find them here sunning, although we didn't on this day.  If you do see them, please don't disturb them either and remain respectful!  You can definitely go down and explore the tide pools as long as you aren't disturbing the peace though.  They're beautiful, and many of them should be safe for swimming if you opted to bring along your bathing suits.

I love checking out the pools and all the little fish and creatures that make their homes here.  Plus they're really just stunning to look at and admire.

If you're planning on visiting Oahu, I definitely recommend doing this hike for two reasons.  One -- it's a good activity to do as a way to see pretty much all of the leeward side of the island on your drive up there (from what I understand tourists rarely see this side other than the resorts at Ko'Olina, which is a shame); two -- you get to say that you hiked to and stood on one of the corners of Oahu, and maybe even spotted some awesome wildlife along the way!



  1. I wish we had gone on a good day and had been able to spend more time! It looks like a gorgeous walk when you find the right day to go =]

    1. I know! We definitely should have planned it out a little better. Maybe next time ;)



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