Beyond the beaches: Hiking in Hawaii
HONOLULU, Hawaii (AP) — It would be an arduous 2,000-foot climb up more than 3,500 metal steps anchored into a lush green cliff in Oahu’s Koolau Mountains.
With Palolo Valley and the Pacific Ocean in the background, hikers Kevin Fujimoto, left, and Irene Ko walk the Waahila Ridge Trail.
But those who try the Haiku Trail risk a trespassing ticket and a towed vehicle. The trail is closed to the public by the private land owner at the base of the stairs, even though the island government spent $875,000 in 2002 to make repairs.
Fortunately, even though this and a few of Oahu’s other finest trails are off-limits due to access issues or rock slides, there are another 80 trails to choose from.
A system of nearly 20 paths in the Koolau Mountains above Honolulu wind through the thick canopy of the rain forest and lead to some of the highest ridges that overlook deep vistas and lush valleys. Others take explorers to hidden waterfalls or introduce hikers to the variety of native plants and wildlife.
For many, it’s an escape from crowded Waikiki, now lined with luxury shopping and fine dining.
"These trails have been the most redeeming part of our trip," said Dan Lemley, 26, of Portland, Oregon, who trekked to Manoa Falls above the University of Hawaii’s main campus and then climbed up the steep, muddy Aihualama Trail.
If you go …
Na Ale Hele: http://www.hawaiitrails.net/. Maps, trailhead access points and trail descriptions for hikes throughout Hawaii, organized by island.
Hawaii’s hiking trails: http://www.backyardoahu.com/. Maps, tips, recommendations, weather, discussion boards.
Hawaiian Trail Mountain Club: http://www.htmclub.org/
This Oahu-based club leads different hikes every weekend and publishes a quarterly hiking schedule on its Web site noting which hikes are open to nonmembers. A $2.00 donation is requested for each nonmember, age 18 or over. Children under 18 must be accompanied by a responsible adult.
"Since we’ve been here, we have been appalled at the tourism and lack of Hawaiian culture. This hike made us just stand back and say, ‘Wow!"’
Getting to the beaches is easy, but the trails wend deep into the real beauty of Hawaii, with crooning birds, endless varieties of plants and greenery — all while offering a sweaty workout.
Hiking in Hawaii has gained popularity in the past few years with the availability of more guidebooks and comprehensive Web sites, said Aaron Johnson Lowe, Oahu trails and access specialist for Na Ala Hele, which maintains and manages the trails for the state.
Lowe said there seems to be a trend of people looking for more healthy activities, and he’s also noticed many repeat visitors who have done the tourist activities are now wanting more from the island.
"It seems once they get on one trail, they become hooked," he said.
A brief warning: Watch out for pig hunters, who sometimes use the trails, and check online if permits are required for certain hikes.
Based on hikes of more than 30 trails, here are some of the best:
Many of the marked trails in the tropical forests can become tough to navigate, but those looking for help can call on the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club, which takes groups to different trails on Saturday and Sundays with members who know the locations of the island’s most breathtaking landmarks.
The club also works to get permits and permission from land owners to complete some trails not normally open to the public, said member and trail coordinator Steve Brown.
But Brown admits many hikers still wish they could go back in time and climb the Haiku Stairs, the challenging ascent to the summit of Pu’u Keahiakahoe built by the Navy during World War II for access to radio equipment.
"That’s a really sore spot for a lot of hikers," Brown said
source CNN travel