Kamanaiki Ridge Trail: Views From Kalihi Valley

I’ve had Kamanaiki Ridge Trail on my radar now for some time. I’ve been wanting to do it mainly because the trailhead is located in Kalihi Valley, a favorite Oahu town of mine.

The trailhead nestled between two houses. It might feel a little unnerving to start walking up those steps located between the two houses, but other reports have noted that the residents of the two homes are quite friendly. The Hawaii Trails and Mountain Clubs (HTMC) is also known to regularly frequent this trail. In fact, Marvin mentioned that this was the first hike that he had completed with HTMC. With that in mind, we didn’t hesitate about heading up those inviting green steps.

The articificial green lining doesn’t last for long. After a few steps (maybe 15-20 at most), the original stone steps come into view. Trek carefully on these steps as they can be very slippery. There are approximately 150 steps and the incline is steep but manageable – take your time here and you should be fine. You will also notice that the trail is fairly well maintained (at the beginning at least) with hiking ribbons placed strategically along the trail.

The first thing you will notice once you leave the comforts of the man-made steps will be a very large water tank marked with graffiti. The trail contours around this watershed. For fun, me, Joel, and Marvin decided to climb to the top of the watershed. There wasn’t much up there other than a locked concrete shack. The climb up the water tank is about 15-20 vertical steps.

Marvin climbing up the Water tank with his fancy spikes.

Coty poses at the top of the Kamanaika water tank.

The trail will gain elevation rather quickly. You will notice a lot of steep climbs that will test your cardiovascular endurance. The next point of interest that you will pass on the trail will be a large rocky boulder. Climb up this boulder and you will have some really nice views of Kalihi Valley and ‘Alewa Heights. This actually might be the best view from within the valley toward the residential area that you will get on this particular trail. You can also see the ocean from this view, something that the summit view doesn’t provide.

Sitting atop the aforementioned boulder, Coty overlooks his hometown of Kalihi.

This was fun to climb.

Continue pass the big boulder, you will encounter pine groves as well as strawberry guava plants. Marvin and I indulged on a few strawberry guavas as we worked our way up the trail as they serve as nice and refreshing treats. Marvin noted that it’s ‘nice to live off of the land.” He probably just said that because he hadn’t eaten anything all day and was just hungry to having something in his tummy.

Marvin Eating Strawberry Guava.

The next point of interest will be a lookout that will provide you with some amazing views of the Ko’olau’s. From here, you can see the entirety of the Bowman Trail that we did last August. This was also a great place for me to OWL. See below for what has become a Scott’s Pilgrims tradition, Coty OWLing.

Coty just had to OWL. He does this on every hike. Marvin risked his life to snap this shot.

From this OWLing spot, you also get a beautiful view of the Bowman Trail on the Ko’olau’s.

Once you pass the lookout point, the terrain will get pretty rough and overgrown. This is an ungraded ridge, so much of the time from this point on you will passing sections with drop off to your left and right. These drop off might not seem so apparent though, mainly because of the overgrown vegetation. Needless to say, you will need to watch your step carefully or you will go tumbling down the ridge.

For the rest of the trail, we took notice of some notable flora and worked our way up a few steep sections. Some of the steep sections came equipped with rope. For the most part, the ropes of unnecessary but feel free to use them if you feel like you need the extra assistance. We started the trail at 2pm and reached the cleared grassy summit at 4:15pm. This was with a lot of picture taking breaks and exploration (i.e. water tank climbing). The view from the top is not as spectacular as some of the east side trails (see Hawaii Loa Ridge and Mariner’s Ridge). There is no ocean view. However, you do get a wonderful view of the Ko’olau mountain range. Visible are the Bowman summit, the Kalihi Saddle, and Lanihuli. The Kamanaiki Ridge Trail definitely offers a unique view of the Ko’olau summit. At around 4:40pm we worked our back down the trail. We reached the trailhead at around 6:15pm.

Joel and Marvin look out into the Ko’olau’s from the summit of Kamanaika Ridge.

This is where Coty had his mid-hike snack break on the summit of the Kamanaika Ridge trail.

And Joel decided to one up Coty by climbing Exploration Hawaii’s new favorite tree.

Marvin opted to simply stand. He attempted to do an “M” pose but ultimately failed.

Metrosideros polymorphs and white flower from a Strawberry Guava (Psidium cattleianum) plant.

Fiddlewood (Citharexylum spinosum). This is an invasive plant.

Octopus Tree (Schefflera actinophylla).

Freycinetia arborea.

Millipede on the trail. Marvin wasn’t that impressed.

About Coty

Founder of Exploration: Hawaii. Adventure, Minimalism, Vinyl, Typography, and Coffee + Matcha. A single space after a period, please.


  1. You guys missed the really fun part, heading up to Alewa Ridge and joining the Lanihuli Trail! Good job on the ID’s, the white flower isn’t a lehua, it’s strawberry guava. If you guys had found a white lehua flower you’d be famous!

    • Thanks for the reply XJ (Dave right from the awesome NSGH Blog!). Oh man, I was really pumped that we found a white lehua, bummer, I guess we keep looking!

      We’re actually planning a trek to Lanihuli via the Kapalama Loop and Na Pueo Bypass. I’ve been reading up on the some of the different acconts mentioned on the web (including yours). Did you happen to also go through Kamanaiki? Also, I might have to hit you up with a few more questions on how to access Kapalama Loop via Na Pueo Bypass if you don’t mind.

    • Thanks for these links Dave! Both will prove to be useful when we attempt to find Lanihuli via Kapalama Loop (via Na Pueo Bypass). Have you ever thought about continuing on from Lanihuli to Pali Puka? That of course would require two cars as we would finish up at the Pali Lookout.

  2. Your hikes, photos, etc., are friekin’ great.

    I grew up in Kahaluu, so I especially enjoyed your hike to the bomb shelters there where we used to go camping small kid times.

    Did some crazy hikes and it is great to see you continuing the tradition. Hiking in Colorado now days and it is great but no kiddin’ gotta watch (always go armed with 44 mag) out for bear, mountain lion, snakes and crazy people!


    Unka Kevin

    • Hey Kevin, that’s awesome! I really loved the Puu Maelieli hike in Kahaluu – it’s one of my personal favorites. The view is absolutely stunning.

      When did you leave the islands? Out of curiosity, what were some the crazy hikes that you’ve done here on the islands? I might be interested in doing them! And yep, living in Hawaii does have its perks – no need to worry about bears and snakes.

      And I am glad that you’re enjoying the photos!

  3. Theda Pilar-Pineda

    Hi, can I cite your blog in my new blog: “I Love Kalihi?” I’ll use my photos from my hike but it would also be nice if readers can read your post.

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