Makiki Valley Loop Trail: Connecting the Maunalaha and Kanealole Trails

The Makiki area is a great place to live. The University of Hawaii is five minutes away. I can walk to work at Queen’s Medical Center. Ala Moana Beach Park is a hop and a skip from my apartment. And as if that’s not good enough, the Honolulu Mauka Trail System is located right in my backyard. About two minutes from my apartment is the Honolulu Watershed Forest Reserve. Just above the reserve is the Hawaii Nature Center. A few feet beyond the nature center is the start of the Makiki-Tantalus Trail, a grand 8-mile loop trail.

Team Exploration: Hawaii Group Picture. Half of Scott’s Pilgrims. Photo by Marvin’s Camera and Coty’s Tripod.

On this day we passed on the long 8-mile loop and instead opted to do the more mangeable 2.4 mile Makiki Valley Loop Trail. It is important to understand that this particular loop trail is actually made up of 3 individual trails: the Kaneolole Trail, the Makiki Valley Trail, and the Maunalaha Trail. From the trailhead, you will cross a bridge and then reach the Maunalaha – Kaneolole Junction (you will see the sign; this is about a 3-5 minute walk from the trailhead). This is where the loop trail begins and ends. You can either go left (clockwise) or right (counterclockwise). We decided to go counterclockwise and as such, we found ourselves initially on the Maunalaha Trail.

Note: With the recent release of iOS 5 and the new iCloud and Photostream features, my iPad was now chock full of automagically synced photos from this hike. Excited, I decided to see how well it would do at editing, cropping, and watermarking the photos. The iPad performed better than expected. All of the photos shot by me in this post were fully edited on my iPad. Let me know what you think!

A Taro Patch in Makiki. We were surprised to find this mini lo`i kalo or (flooded taro terrace). Photo by Coty Gonzales.

I spotted this small wild taro patch while on the trail. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

The counterclockwise route via Maunalaha Trail was an uphill climb nearly the entire way. As you walk the trail you will wonderful views of within the Makiki Forest. You might even find some avocados, mountain apples, and strawberry guavas if they are in season. You’ll also likely run into many older koreans decked out in full hiking gear [1]. Eventually you will see a section with some very large boulders. Continue to work your way past these boulders and eventually you will reach a 4-way junction with a resting bench. At this point you want to take the Makiki Valley Trail (as indicated by the sign pointing LEFT to the Makiki Valley Trail) [2].

A Set of Large Boulders. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Black and White Trees. Fortunately, the day was not as gloomy as this pictures makes it seem. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

A jungle awaits you 10 minutes from the city. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

As you descend down the Makiki Valley Trail, you will find yourself crossing a few gulches and a bridge. tread carefully along the rocks and the bridge as they can be slippery – this trail tends to be a wet one. Eventually, you will once again reach a signed junction. To the right, you ascend up and continue on to the Makiki Valley Trail, and to the left you descend down the Kaneolole Trail to complete the loop.

The bridges will help you cross the various streams. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Marvin Crossing the Bridge. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

On your way down the Kaneolole Trail you will pass a few more bridges. Of interest will be the numerous native plants that you will pass, many of which are nicely labeled. Continuing on you will eventually make your way back to the Maunalaha – Kaneolole Junction. At this point, you’ve officially completed the Makiki Valley Loop Trail and hopefully you’re leaving the trail with a bag full of fresh fruit.

Explorers: Marvin Chandra, Coty Gonzales, and Joel Sabugo.

Makiki Loop Trail OWLing. Photo by Marvin Chandra.

A View of Diamond Head from the Ualaka’a Trail. Photo by Marvin Chandra.

Makiki Valley Loop Trail Tips:

  • This trail is often very wet so bring mosquito repellent.
  • A jacket would also be helpful in the event that there are light showers (very likely).
  • For a nice view of Diamond Head, take the Ualaka’a Trail detour.

Directions: On Nehoa Street, you will turn mauka (toward the mountain) on to Makiki Street. The road will then fork, you will take the left fork on to Makiki Heights Drive. You will drive for about 0.5 mile until the road makes a sharp left turn. Keep an eye out for a row of mailboxes on the right side of the road. Drive past the mailboxes and through the green gate. You will see a sign that says Makiki Forest Restoration Area. A few feet from the gate you will notice a gravel parking lot on your left. This is where you will park. From here, you must proceed up the road on foot until you reach the public restroom just past the Hawaii Nature Center. A trail map is located behind the restroom and the trailhead is found to the left of the sign.

1. I’m not exactly sure why there are so many Koreans that hike this trail. However, it may be that the Hawaii Korean Hiking Club maintains or promotes this particular trail to its members. Near the trailhead you will see a black and gold sign that is completely Korean, with the words Hawaii Korean Hiking Club.

2. At the 4-way junction, we decided to explore the Ualaka’a Trail. This short trail (less than 1 mile) will lead you to an awesome tree (see above) as well as a lookout point from which you will have an amazing view of Diamond Head, with the University of Hawaii below. To access the lookout point, you will need to eventually cross the street and continue on to the other side of the road.

About Coty

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