Kuliouou Ridge Trail: A Switchback Monster

One of my goals is to complete all of the Honolulu hikes listed in Stuart Ball’s popular book, The Hikers Guide to Oahu. Eventually I would like to finish the entire book but for now my focus will be on completing Honolulu. Up to this point I had completed 5 of the 15 Honolulu trails. Kuliouou Ridge Trail would be my number 6.

Clouds Hovering over Hawaii Loa Ridge.

After reading the various reviews of Kuliouou Ridge (it’s one of the more popular trails on Oahu), I figured that it would take us between 3-4 hours to complete the hike from start to finish. With that in mind, we started the hike a bit late in the day at 12:50pm. We made stops prior to the hike to feed our hungry stomachs. Fresh musubis from Manabus and Gulick Deli always do the trick. With our appetites satisfied, we headed toward Hawaii Kai.

The Kuliouou Trail.

Kuliouou Ridge Trail is located just past the Hawaii Loa Ridge Trail and before the Mariners Ridge Trail. Make your way on to H1 east bound and continue on to Kalanianaole Highway and then turn left on to Kuliouou Road. Follow the road just before it ends and then turn right at Kalaau Pl. The trailhead is locate the end of this street. Make your way past the Board of Water Supply concrete resevoir and follow the road until you see a Hunting/Hiking trail sign on your left. This is the start of the trail. Follow the path until you reach a metal marker indicating the split to the Kuliouou Valley and Kuliouou Ridge Trails. On this day, we chose the Kuliouou Ridge Trail.

Enjoying nature.

The trail reminds me a lot of the Hawaii Loa Ridge Trail, which makes sense considering that they are right next to each other. Both start off a bit dry and then end up a bit wet toward later portions of the hike. One thing that I did notice about the Kuliouou Ridge Trail is the crazy number of switchbacks during the first half of the hike. It seemed like switchback after switchback. In fact, it’s probably so common for people to cut through the switchbacks that they needed to install a sign indicating the hazards of cutting through the trail. This was actually the first time that I encountered such a sign.

Joel looks tiny next to these tall trees.

Young noni. Thanks Vanassa!

Joel made this photo his Facebook profile pic.

Humans get warts, trees get these things.

Pass switchback hell, you will encounter a seemingly open area of pine trees (be on the lookout for metal arrow guides screwed into the trees). You will then encounter your first resting spot. This is a nice area to stop, gather your breath, and have a swig of water. The two picnic tables also make it a great place to have lunch and then turn around if you so choose.

Continuing on the trail you will notice the the incline becomes more intense. You will also notice that the trail will have become much more wet. Eventually, you will encounter a set of stairs that are very similar to the ones that you find at Hawaii Load Ridge. I counted the steps and there are a total of 276 steps. It’s not that bad! Take breaks when you need them and continue on. The last set of steps will be the longest, with a total of 189 continuous steps. At the end of the steps, though, will be the peak of Kuliouou Ridge.

The stairway ascent.

Once at the summit, we searched for this Geocache. I’m not telling where it is!

The peak of Kuliouou Ridge, on a clear day, is a very rewarding one. You get beautiful views of the Windward side and can see all the way to Kahana Valley. To the right you will also be able to see all of Hawaii Kai and even Koko Crater. It’s a beautiful lookout point. While you’re at the top, be on the lookout for the hidden Geocache!

The original plan was for us to make out way to Pu’u O Kona from the top of Kuliouou Ridge. We did make it halfway to Pu’u O Kona but then decided to turn around. The distance between the two is not very far, it’s only about 20-30 minutes. However, It had become crazy windy and Joel did not come prepared in proper hiking shoes (he had casual Nike’s instead). So we decided to try this another day, maybe in reverse and instead go from Pu’u O Kona to Kuliouou Ridge.

The top of Kuliouou offers amazing views.

View of Hawaii Kai as Joel makes his way up to the summit.

Coty enjoying the view.

A Hazardous Cliff.

Total Distance: 5 miles roundtrip

Total Time: 2 hours and 50 minutes (including a 35 minute summit break); 1 hour and 40 minutes up, and 1 hour and 10 minutes down.

Kuliouou Ridge Trail Tips:

1. Park at the end of the Kalaau Place, however, be aware of the No Parking signs near the end of the street. Do not park in these areas or you will be towed. Also, be courtious to the neighborhood patrons and resist parking in front of mailboxes and those large plastic garbage depositories.

2. Kuliouou Trail is a great place to hike and then stop for lunch, either at the picnic rest stop halfway or at the summit.

Directions: Kuliouou Ridge Trail is located just past the Hawaii Loa Ridge Trail, but before the Mariners Ridge Trail. Make your way on to H1 east bound and continue on to Kalanianaole Highway and then turn left on to Kuliouou Road. Follow the road just before it ends and then turn right at Kalaau Pl. The trailhead is locate the end of this street. Make your way past the Board of Water Supply concrete resevoir and follow the road until you see a Hunting/Hiking trail sign on your left. This is the start of the trail. Follow the path until you reach a metal marker indicating the split to the Kuliouou Valley and Kuliouou Ridge Trails. On this day, we chose the Kuliouou Ridge Trail.

About Coty

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

16 comments

  1. You actually counted every single step?

    I can see why this trail is so popular. You should walk to the other Kuli’ou’ou summit just past the Pu’u O Kona summit next time as well (about 20 minutes away from O Kona).

    • Yep, counted EVERY step! It’s no Koko Crater – nothing can beat that stairmaster! More importantly, what do you think of the new gallery 😉

    • JOEL originally thought it was the year “1001” and then it changed to “2001” and then finally we made it to the year 2011.

      I was testing out the gallery in this post. In the future, we can use it to add the photos that were good but not good enough to garner a full size embed within the post.

      • Oh whatever. First I was gonna right “10” for 2010 but then quickly realized my mistake. So then I changed the 1 into a 2 to write out “2011.” However, I foolishly wrote 2001. OH whatever, I was tired.

  2. back in 1976 me and my friends did the kulioluridge from kawahae street in hawaii kai where I lived. We called those small and big trees the hobbis.Bruce

    • Very cool, Bruce! Do you happen to have any old photos from your hikes in the 70’s? I’d love to see how these trails (and the views) looked back then!

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