We’ve featured the easternmost point of the island of Oahu on this site before (see Makapu’u Point), but what about the westernmost point of the island? That distinction belongs to Kaena Point. Located just beyond Waianae and Yokohama Beach, Kaena Point is actually a nature reserve and bird sanctuary that is managed by the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources.
Music: Pacific Sun by Ian Axel
Kaena Point is definitely a special place that is worth visiting not only for the scenic views but for the wildlife. You’ll be able to access it via either the Waianae side or the Mokuleia side (North Shore). On this day, we chose to access Kaena Point via the Waianae side. We chose this route for three reasons: 1. Joel and I have done the Mokulei’a route to Kaena Point before (sort of), 2. en route to Kaena Point, there are some notable stops like Makua Cave, the “Arch” (see below), and a few blowholes, and 3. the parking options are better (in my opinion) on the Waianae side.
After parking our car (see directions below), we set out to the trailhead which is located just to the left of the makeshift dirt parking lot. If you’ve got the right type of vehicle (i.e. 4-wheel drive), you can actually drive up the trailhead as far as the Arch. Beyond this point, there are boulders blocking the road so it might be a bit difficult to go beyond them. On this day, a group of climbers from Climb Aloha were scouting the Arch – we didn’t see them do much climbing, though.
After checking out the Arch, we pushed forward toward Kaena Point. The trail is flat, though it is a bit rocky, which made my feet a bit uncomfortable because I was wearing my Vibram FiveFingers. With every step I could feel what seemed like each and every little pebble and stone. Also, be cautious of the sun. Although located right along the shoreline, the trail itself is very dry and devoid of any shade. The sun will fry your skin if you forget to apply sunscreen.
The trail to Kaena Point is said to be 2.4 miles long (one way). At the end of those hard-earned 2.4 miles, you will reach a double sided gate that is used to prevent intruders (i.e. dogs) from entering the nature reserve. Once you are through the brown metal doors, you will be flooded with a bunch of signs indicating what you can and cannot do at the nature reserve. Read these signs carefully and then follow the sandy trail which will lead you to the westernmost tip of the island.
As you follow the trail, you will notice little holes in the ground. These are actually nesting holes for nesting Nene birds, Laysan Albatrosses and Newell’s Shearwaters. We also noticed little rectangular boxes throughout the sanctuary, especially near these nesting holes. Closer inspection indicated that they were rodent traps. Eventually you will reach a point in the trail with signage indicating that you are a good point to spot Hawaiian Monk Seals. We spent about an hour exploring Kaena Point. During this time, we spotted 2 Hawaiian Monk Seals sunbathing and another one a short distance away taking a dip in the cool Hawaiian waters. On this day, we spotted a few young albatross flying solo. We relished every moment as we explored the westernmost point of Oahu.
Directions: From Honolulu you will drive west bound on H1 Freeway towards Ewa/Waianae. Follow H1 past Ewa, eventually it will become Farrington Highway and you pass Nanakuli, Makaha, and Waianae. Keep going just past Yokohama Beach where the road will end. Park on the dirt road to your right.
Kaena Point Trail Tips:
- This hike is a scorcher lacking any kind of shade. Remember to bring sunscreen and enough water to last the journey to and from Kaena Point.
- Use shoes with good sturdy soles. Barefoot shoes aren’t a good idea for this particular trail.
- If you plan to explore the wet shoreline rocks then it would be wise to bring a pair of tabis. Tabis are felt-soled reef shoes that are perfect for navigating slippery rock.