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Best Hikes On Oahu: Na Pohaku o Hauwahine Trail

Basic Information

  • Name: Na Pohaku o Hauwahine Trail
  • Where: Kailua, Oahu
  • Distance: .5 mile
  • Elevation Gain: 111 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • More Information: Ancient Sites of Oahu

Picture from Na Pohaku o Hauwahine

Google Earth Map of the Trail

Picture from Na Pohaku o Hauwahine

Narrative

I have been busy taking my family to see as many of the ancient Hawaiian cultural sites featured in the book Ancient Sites of Oahu.  It is a unique way to experience Hawaii and my kids really enjoy it.  The latest location we visited was Na Pohaku o Hauwahine.  The location is not well known on Oahu even though it is relatively easy to find.  Just take a left off of Highway 61 traveling to Kailua on to Kapa’a Quarry Road.

Drive up this road until the brown sign for Na Pohaku o Hauwahine comes into view on the right:

Picture from Na Pohaku o Hauwahine

Besides spotting the brown sign look for the big tiki with a scary looking head on it as well:

Picture from Na Pohaku o Hauwahine

The parking lot can fit maybe 5-6 cars with some more space across the street.  However, this appears to be more than enough parking because midday on the weekend that we visited there was no one else there.  From the parking lot there is a good trail that descends up a hill side into the park:

Picture from Na Pohaku o Hauwahine

Along the way I spotted this marker for a gentleman named Jim Whitaker who showed a lot of Aloha to help restore this site:

Picture from Na Pohaku o Hauwahine

A short ways up the trail there is a primitive outdoor auditorium underneath a monkeypod tree:

Picture from Na Pohaku o Hauwahine

I imagine that the Ahahui Mālama i ka Lōkahi (AML) that runs this park probably uses this auditorium to conduct education programs.  From the AML website here is what they had to say about Na Pohaku O Hauwahine:

NĀ PŌHAKU O HAUWAHINE (Rocks of the Hawaiian Mo‘o goddess and guardian of Kawainui Marsh) is located on the marsh side of Kapa‘a Quarry road at the Y-intersection (old Kapa‘a Landfill Transfer Station entrance), mauka of the steep drop in the road. The site offers a panoramic view into the “piko” of Kawainui Marsh where one can observe in tranquility the wetland birds and marsh vegetation. ‘Ahahui Mālama i ka Lōkahi is the curator for this newly designated State Park. We are planting the 12 acres with native plants to recreate a native lowland forest, presently with 80 species of Hawaiian natives and early Polynesian introductions growing there. Brush removal and trail construction has revealed ancient Hawaiian terraces that align with the the massive rock outcrops.

After passing the auditorium the trail reaches a fork that is marked by a pile of garbage:

Picture from Na Pohaku o Hauwahine

We took the trail to the right that does a short ascent to the top of a rock formation with sweeping views of the surrounding marshlands:

Picture from Na Pohaku o Hauwahine

The rock outcropping also had two signs on top of it.  One sign explained the significance of the Kawainui and Hamakua Marshes that surround the park.  The total acreage of the two parks is an impressive 850 acres making it the largest wetland in Hawaii:

Picture from Na Pohaku o Hauwahine

The other sign explains the geologic and natural history of the area.  For example the rock formations in the Kailua area like the one at Na Pohaku o Hauwahine were formed inside the caldera of a massive shield volcano that his since gone extinct and eroded over many thousands of years exposing the rocks:

Picture from Na Pohaku o Hauwahine

Here is a picture of this rock formation:

Picture from Na Pohaku o Hauwahine

For anyone looking for great views of the marshlands around Kailua this is the best spot I have seen yet.  For example here is the view looking straight across the marsh towards Kailua in the northeast:

Picture from Na Pohaku o Hauwahine

Here is the view looking southeast towards the impressive peak of Olomana:

Picture from Na Pohaku o Hauwahine

Here is the view looking east towards Ulupo Heiau which we had previously visited:

Picture from Na Pohaku o Hauwahine

I could also see Ulupau Head to the north located on Marine Corps Base Hawaii:

Picture from Na Pohaku o Hauwahine

Here is a final look at the view from the rock formation:

Picture from Na Pohaku o Hauwahine

Just below the rock formation there is a trail that leads to a hidden lake at the base of the rocky hill:

Picture from Na Pohaku o Hauwahine

The trail was a bit grown over with foliage due to little foot traffic through here, but it was still very easy to follow due to the steps that had been constructed:

Picture from Na Pohaku o Hauwahine

Here is a view looking back up at the top of the rock formation from the trail:

Picture from Na Pohaku o Hauwahine

The trail soon comes to a clearing with a nice park bench to sit on:

Picture from Na Pohaku o Hauwahine

From the park bench the trail descends down to a rocky outcropping right above the hidden lake:

Picture from Na Pohaku o Hauwahine

According to my Ancient Sites of Oahu book, the fresh water pond belonged to the local chief and famed for its easy to catch fish.  The pond also features in Hawaiian mythology.  The sister of Pele the fire goddess, Hi’iaka was traveling through the area with her companion, Wahineoma’o.  Wahinemoma’o commented about two beautiful women she saw sitting on a rock near a pond sunning themselves.  Hi’iaka replied that those were not women, but instead magical lizards called mo’o.  Hi’iaka then did a chant that made the mo’o disappear.  Hi’iaka then explained that the mo’o were the supernatural beings Hauwahine and her companion that safeguarded the marsh.  When the Hauwahine and her companion are present the hala leaves and uki grass in the marsh turn yellow.

Picture from Na Pohaku o Hauwahine

Here is a closer look at the pond standing on the very rock that Hauwahine was sunning herself on:

Picture from Na Pohaku o Hauwahine

Hauwahine picked a good spot because my kids and I enjoyed sitting on the rock as well taking in the sun and enjoying the views of the marsh.  Something else of interest that we spotted around the marsh are the loulu palms that are endemic to the tiny island of Nihoa in the northwestern Hawaiian islands.  A fire on the island has greatly reduced the number of palms, but here at Na Pohaku O Hauwahine a number of these loulu palms have been replanted and are thriving:

Picture from Na Pohaku o Hauwahine

From the pond we retraced our steps back to the trail fork we came to earlier in our hike.  From there we took the other trail that ended at another pile of garbage:

Picture from Na Pohaku o Hauwahine

From this pile of garbage we backtracked to the other pile of garbage at the fork and then back over to the trailhead.  Along the way we did spot this tree with a bunch of noni fruit growing on it:

Picture from Na Pohaku o Hauwahine

One of the most advertised features of the park is that many native Hawaiian plants have been replanted here.  Noni is a native-Pacific island fruit, but I am not sure if it is native to Hawaii.  Regardless I was surprised no one has picked these fruit and walked away with them yet considering how prized noni fruit has become in recent years.  For example when I was on Saipan they had a whole industry established there to sell noni fruit to Japanese tourists.  Something else I noticed walking back was the amount of mushrooms growing along the trail which I have no idea if they are edible or not:

Picture from Na Pohaku o Hauwahine

The park is supposed to be a refuge for native Hawaiian flora that are being replanted here.  Hopefully in the future the park begins to put up markers explaining the different types of plants for people like myself to become more familiar with.

Conclusion

My family and I spent about 30 minutes exploring the park.  The roundtrip hike was an easy half mile that featured some great views.  The volunteers who continue to work on this park have done a great job establishing the trail that is in good shape. Culturally though there is not a lot to see at Na Pohaku o Hauwahine compared to the nearby Ulupo Heaiu.  Regardless this park is well worth visiting just to experience the views from the lookout and hanging out on the rocks above the pond.  Keep in mind though that if a couple of beautiful Hawaiian women join you on the rocks they are probably magical lizard women!

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