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Best Hikes On Oahu: The Hau’ula Loop Trail

Basic Information

  • Name: Hau’ula Loop Trail
  • Where: Hau’ula, Oahu
  • Distance: 3.6 miles
  • Elevation Gain: 747 feet
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Time: 2-3 hours
  • More Information: The Hikers Guide to O’ahu

Topographic Map of Hau’ula Trail

Hauhula Trail Topo

Google Earth Map of Hau’ula Trail

Hauhula Trail2

Hauhula Trail1

Narrative

On a recent weekend I needed to find a shorter trail that was in good shape to hike because I had broken my big toe.  I had been healing my toe for two weeks and wanted to get out and do something.  I could walk just fine, but my toe would hurt very badly if I bumped it into anything.  After reading through my copy of the The Hikers Guide to O’ahu I decided to try out the Hau’ula Loop Trail which was described in the book as being an easy hike with a great trail.  Getting to the hike was pretty easy, I just followed the Kamehameha Highway north from Kaneohe to the small village of Hau’ula in northwestern Oahu.  The trailhead is located on the outskirts of the village:

Something important to realize about this hike is that the trailhead has no parking.  I do not recommend trying to park in the village and take parking spots away from the locals who live there.  The best place to park is at the north end of the Hau’ula Beach Park.  I did this hike on a Sunday morning and there was plenty of parking at the beach park.  Before walking to the trailhead I decided to checkout the beach at Hau’ula.  I really wasn’t impressed because the beach had a lot of rocks in the water:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

The beach park also has a reputation of being a homeless encampment.  I did not stick around to find out, but I made sure I left no valuables in my truck for someone to steal.  Here is the view from the beach looking back towards the hills behind Hau’ula where the trail was located:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

It was raining off and on, but being familiar with Hawaii weather I knew there was a good chance the weather would break up during the hike and offer some views despite the clouds:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

From the beach park I carefully crossed the busy Kamehameha Highway:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

I then walked over to the intersection of Kawaipapa Street and Hau’ula Homestead Road:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

I followed Hau’ula Homestead Road into the village.  Hau’ula actually looks like a nice place to live.  As I walked through the village I passed this Hawaiian fruit and vegetable garden:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

Just a short distance passed the garden I came to Maakua Street:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

Right below the street sign I spotted an official Na Ala Hele trail sign for the Hau’ula Loop Trail:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

There is also another hike in the area called the Maakua Ridge Trail that I plan to try some time in the future as well.  From the street sign I followed Maakua Street a short distance to a yellow gate that was adjacent to a home with a lot of junked cars and No Trespassing signs:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

After passing through the yellow gate I was now following a paved road into the valley that was lined with No Trespassing signs:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

A short distance later I had to pass by another yellow gate:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

After the second yellow gate I continued to follow the paved road further into the valley:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

As I was walking up the road I spotted this small bird in the trees:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

I zoomed in with my camera for a closer look and determined that it was a Northern Cardinal that was an introduced species to Hawaii in 1929:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

After a short walk up the road I came to the trailhead for the Hau’ula Loop Trail:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

Here is a picture of the official Na Ala Hele sign for the Hau’ula Loop Trail:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

There was also a sign warning hikers to keep their dogs on a leash since it was an active hunting area:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

Here is a picture of the trail just passed the signs:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

The trail was a little rough, but very easy to follow.  I just took extra care to make sure I did not bump a rock with my broken big toe.  I soon came to the first stream crossing that had very little water in it:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

After the stream crossing the trail widened and became a superhighway through the dense foliage:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

Soon the foliage gave way to a grove of introduced ironwood trees who’s long needles fall to the ground and kill anything attempting grow below them:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

Here is a look at the long needles that hang from these trees:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

At this point of the hike the trail was ascending steadily up a hill via a handful of switchbacks.  At one switchback I actually had a view looking towards the summit of the cloud covered Ko’olau Range:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

At the top of the first ridgeline there was this solitary gum tree:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

I made sure to rub my hands and nose with some of its eucalyptus leaves because I just love the smell it gives off.  The trail then began to descend through another forest of ironwood trees:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

I could see that the trail was descending into a gorge below:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

At this point of the hike the trail became very muddy:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

If I was wearing my normal waterproof hiking boots I would have just trudged through the mud, but I was wearing sandals because of my broken toe.  So I very carefully walked around all the muddy sections of the trail.  At the bottom of the gorge the trail passes this waterhole with a small waterfall flowing into it:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

Here is a picture of the creek that flows towards the waterhole:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

I next came to creek crossing near a smaller waterhole that had this tiny waterfall that looked like a mini-Hamama Falls:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

Immediately after crossing over the creek the trail then began to ascend up another ridgeline:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

The top of the ridgeline is marked with this trail sign:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

At the trail sign there was a nice view of the ridge across from me:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

However, the view was obscured by a lot of vegetation so I followed the trail further across the ridgeline:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

I then came to a lookout that had a tremendous view of the Kaipapa’u Valley:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

The view was a welcome surprise especially since I was concerned it would be clouded in.  Here is the view of the ridgeline across from the Hau’ula Trail:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

Here is the view looking down the valley to where it exits at Hau’ula:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

Here is a closer look at the Ko’olau Range summit where in the gorge below them is the beautiful Kaipapa’u Falls which is a very dangerous waterfall to hike to:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

Just like other sections of the Ko’olau Range on Oahu’s Windward Coast, the cliffs known as “Palis” are extremely steep:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

Here is a closer look at one of the palis”

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

Here is a look down into the Kaipapa’u Valley below the trail:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

In some sections of the valley I could see the Cook Pines sticking out:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

The Cook Pines are an introduced species of tree from the South Pacific Island of New Caledonia which is named after the great British explorer James Cook who died in Hawaii in 1779.  There was also plenty of native Hawaiian vegetation to see as well:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

Here is a panorama picture of the view that I took:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

The awesome view is one of the best on Oahu and if this hike was closer to Honolulu I have no doubt it would be jammed packed with people.  However, since it is all the way over in Hau’ula I had seen only one couple on the trail that morning.  In fact I saw more people flying in helicopters touring the valley than hikers that day.  As I continued to walk along the ridgeline the trail began to descend with the use of some stairs that had been installed:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

The trail next began to descend off the ridgeline, but not before offering one last view of the spectacular Kaipapa’u Valley:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

Here is a panorama picture of the view:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

From the viewpoint I also spotted this solitary Cook Pine growing out of the valley below:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

Here is a closer look at the Cook Pine:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

That solitary Cook Pine was only a preview of things to come because as I descended off of the ridgeline I entered into a large forest of these impressive trees:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

This large forest of pine trees made it hard to believe I was still in Hawaii:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

When looking at the needles of the Cook Pine it is obvious this is not a normal pine tree because of how different its needles look:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

The Cook Pines only grow in warm climates such as those in the South Pacific which is why they have evolved to look so different from other pine trees.  The Cook Pines can grow quite tall, up to 60 meters in height.  This height in such wet soil means the trees need to have massive root systems to keep them from falling over:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

Interestingly in the middle of the Cook Pine forest I saw a few of these trees with white bark that was some how growing in this dense forest:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

In the middle of this forest the trail next came to another small creek crossing that was a bit slippery, but easily crossed:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

Right below the creek crossing there is small drop off into a pool below which gave me plenty of reason to be careful crossing the creek and to not slip:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

After the creek crossing it was once again a superhighway of a trail created by the pine needles:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

The trail continued to be engulfed with Cook Pines:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

I next came to the only area of the hike where I had a view looking up towards the North Shore and the city Laie:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

It is too bad the vegetation isn’t thinned out here a bit to offer more of a view for hikers.  As I walked down the trail I ran into a dog that was not on a leash.  Its owners soon came up the trail behind the dog.  They were the only other people I saw on the trail the entire day.  I guess they did not see the sign about keeping dogs on a leash at the trailhead:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

Shortly after passing the two hikers with the dog I came to the intersection of the Hau’ula Loop Trail:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

From the loop trail intersection I just had to walk a short distance back down the path to the trailhead:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

I soon found myself back at the signed trailhead next to the paved road:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

I walked back down the road towards the village of Hau’ula:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

Soon I saw the yellow gate ahead of me:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

After getting to the yellow gate, I completed my hike by walking through town and back to the Hau’ula Beach Park where I had parked my truck:

Picture from the Hau'hula Trail

Conclusion

After walking back to my truck I measured the total hike to be 3.6 miles long when starting from the Hau’ula Beach Park.  Considering the moderate distance and elevation gain of 747 I believe the Hau’ula Loop Trail should be easily doable by most people, especially with the great trail conditions.  I hiked it with a broken big toe with no issues.  I completed this hike in two hours walking at a moderate pace which means that most people should plan up to 3 hours to complete this hike.  However, long it takes you to complete the Hau’ula Loop Trail it is well worth the effort because the beautiful forest and the views were surprisingly outstanding and I did not have to compete with hordes of other hikers to take it all in.  The Hau’ula Loop Trail is definitely one worth checking out.

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