Ka’au Crater Hike
Fuel Level: Unleaded – Premium – Diesel – Rocket Fuel
Length: 6 miles
Duration: 5-7 hours depending on how often you stop for photos (1-2 hours just to the falls)
Located right outside downtown Honolulu, 10 minutes by car and approximately an hour by bus from Waikiki lies the enchanting Ka’au Crater. The hike leading up to the crater is a beautiful day hike in itself with 3 different waterfalls (the first of which has a pool large enough to cool off in).
We passed many people just hiking to the falls and back, and after completing the entire crater ridge loop, we know why…
Upon completion of the loop we sat down in the middle of the road with sheer relief that we had made it back. It was long past dark and we only had one phone left with battery to light our path. A woman pulling into her driveway at a residence next to the trailhead checked up on us and told us that she often sees the helicopter heading into the jungle to rescue unprepared hikers.
That being said, this hike is not for the faint of heart. The entire trail is a long and treacherous loop along the ridge of the crater, but if you can get past the steep drop offs on either side of a thin and rocky path while the wind threatens to blow you over, the views are incredible! I’m talking 360 vistas of the entire island. The problem we ran into was starting the hike a bit to late in the day, not thinking it would take nearly as long as it did, and the varying levels of the other hikers we were with.
We took our time enjoying the falls and the abundant fresh guavas that you can find all over the trail (they look like large lemons when they are ripe and have a delicious pink interior) that we ended up having to hike the last hour and a half back in the dark; shout out to my Birksun bag for coming in clutch and charging my phone so we at least had a flashlight.
If you are up for a long day of beautiful views we recommend starting this hike as early as possible, bringing plenty of water/snacks and preparing to be VERY dirty. You will be tackling steep and muddy terrain and climbing up waterfalls with the help of withered ropes.
We arrived via the 10th Avenue bus stop, off the H1 highway (you can get almost anywhere on the island on the bus for $5/day). The hike begins at the start of a private road at the end of Waimao Road. Waimao becomes a single lane and near the end of the road you will see a large, intricate Buddhist temple called Mu Ryang Sa, continue following the road past the temple until you see a row of connected mailboxes on the left. The yellow trail head sign is almost hidden behind the mailboxes and jungle overgrowth. Parking along the road and at the trailhead is minimal.
Follow the pink trail markers and for the hike leading up to the crater ridge you are basically following the stream/ water pipe, criss-crossing over it several times until you reach the first falls.
After the first waterfall the trail becomes a little more tricky, you have to literally climb up the last waterfalls using a rope to get to the be ginning of the crater ridge. If it has rained recently the ridge trail can become very dangerous, proceed with caution.
Enjoy and stay safe,