The single most limiting factor (in my opinion) when it comes to hiking in Hawaii is the weather. More specifically, rain. And if you know me then you know that I am not a fan of rain. Despite recent lofty plans to complete some epic hikes, Team Exploration: Hawaii had to modify their schedule in order to cooperate with the cloudy skies and occasional showers that Oahu has been experiencing over the last couple of days. With that said, our planned hikes that involved multiple summits on the Ko’olau range as well as an attempt at completing the treacherous Kalena had to be scrapped.
Going back and forth between a couple of hiking options, we settled on the Hau’ula Loop Trail which is located at the end of Hau’ula Homestead Road. For those unfamiliar with Hau’ula, it is a small and rural community located just before Lai’e.
The trail itself was very well maintained, which makes sense since it is a state regulated trail. Walk past the metal yellow gate and you will come to a sign indicating the start of the Hau’ula Trail. To the left is what looks like another trail and we actually though that we would exit the loop from there, but we didn’t, so I am not too sure where that particular trail leads. Follow the signed trail on the right and you eventually reach a junction with a sign that gives you the option to go left or right. Turning right will lead you to the Hau’ula Loop Trail. If you go left, you will begin the Papali Loop Trail . We chose to go right.
As we headed right, we began to notice the steady incline and multiple switchbacks. There actually are a ton of switchbacks on this trail, which is good on the knees because of the very steady (not steep) incline. There are no real steep spots on this trail other than the short dirt slope that you will need to climb to reach the peak of the trail. It took us about an hour to reach the peak of the Hau’ula Loop Trail. At the top of the peak you get a nice view of the Ko’olau Range and you also get a partial view of Lai’e – think lots of mountain and some ocean.
The views from the top of the trail weren’t that spectacular, however, the journey to the peak did make up for it. As you walk through the Hau’ula Trail you feel as if you’ve been transported to a far away jungle. The vegetation was lush green and the breeze was nice and cool. The trail was a bit wet, but not overly so. Just be mindful of slippery rocks on the few occasions that you will need to cross them.
On the way back I also got excited because I spotted some birds that peaked my interest. I’ve been itching to photograph birds that are endemic to Hawaii. However, although the moment was exciting, these brids were not endemic. The birds that we saw were Red-billed Leiothrix (Leiothrix lutea) and they were introduced from East Asia (Thanks Matt for verifying this).
There are a few things that make the Hau’ula Loop Trail special. First, it’s a short hike that is great for those with children. In fact, the only other people that we ran into on the trail was a group of kids (around the ages of 6-10) being led by some adults. The kids were even able to climb the not-so-difficult dirt slope to the peak of the hike. Speaking of the peak, this leads me to the second reason why this hike is special. The peak is filled with strawberry guava, which makes for an excellent mid-hike treat. The trail also has other fruits such as mountain apple (though we didn’t find any of this day), guava, and lilikoi. Finally, it has been said that when it’s raining on Oahu, Hau’ula Loop Trail is a perfect place to hike. And on the day that we hiked Hau’ula, this was indeed true.
For comparison purposes, I would say that Hau’ula Loop Trail is an easier hike than Mariner’s Ridge Trail. Although the view from the Hau’ula peak is not as spectacular as Mariner’s Ridge, the hike itself is very beautiful (unlike the very dry Mariner’s Ridge trail).