Kawiwi is a fairly steep trail that takes you near the center of Kamaile’unu ridge that connects Mt. Ka’ala to the Leeward coast of Oahu. Kawiwi is best known for the series of rock faces it contains, many being in the 10-15ft range towards the end. Being a great climber, this is one of Francis Jimenez’s (aka Kinky, Blue Beetle) favorite trails and he invited me to summit Kawiwi then crossover to the north side to three poles. This would entail crossing over some narrow sections and clinging to a fence for short durations while hanging over a cliff as we visit No Name Peak and Tiki along the way.
Kawiwi starts in the same place in Wai’anae valley as the Wai’anae Kai and Tiki loops, Water Works and many more. To get here, read what Stuart has to say:
At Punchbowl St. get on Lunalilo Fwy (H-1) heading ‘ewa (west). Near Middle St. keep left on Rte 78 west (exit 19B, Moanalua Rd.) to ‘Aiea. By Aloha Stadium bear right to rejoin H-1 to Pearl City and on toward Wai‘anae. As the freeway ends near Campbell Industrial Park, continue along the leeward coast on Farrington Hwy (Rte 93). Drive through Nānākuli and Mā‘ili to Wai‘anae town. Pass Wai‘anae Mall on the right. Turn right on Wai‘anae Valley Rd. Turn left on a one-lane paved road (still Wai‘anae Valley Rd.) by a bus turnaround marked with white curbs. Pass several houses. A locked gate blocks the road at the forest reserve boundary. Park in the dirt lot on the left across from a house.
Bus: Route 75 to the turnaround. Walk 1.1 miles along Wai‘anae Valley Rd. to the forest reserve boundary.
Go around the locked gate and continue up the one-lane paved road on foot through scrub koa haole trees. Pass a water tank on the left. Ahead, Kamaile‘unu Ridge climbs to massive Ka‘ala. Along the ridge to the left is the prominent peak of Kawiwi.
Ball, Stuart M., Jr. (2000-09-01). The Hikers Guide to the O’ahu, Rev. Ed. (Kindle Locations 4937-4953). Latitude 20. Kindle Edition.
As you continue on the paved road, you will see a wide opening on your left that yields an excellent view of Wai’anae valley. This is the area where the above picture was taken and you can enter the forest from the left side on the image to gain access to Kawiwi. As you enter the forest, continue along the path and turn right when you meet up with the fence. Follow the fence until you are at the base of Kawiwi. There will be an opening in the fence and perhaps a few ribbons. The trail initially is vague and there will be multiple ways you can gain elevation. Simply start going up in the route that looks most manageable.
Kawiwi is not constantly maintained but there are some ribbons along the way to aid you and the overgrowth is never bothersome. Although pants would be suggested to avoid scratches from dry leaves, rocks and branches.
The trail will become more obvious once you gain some elevation and there will generally be only two paths you can go on. You can tackle the rock walls head on or contour them. Almost all of the rock walls here can be contoured. Even the final set of rock faces can be contoured, although you may end up passing the Kawiwi summit like we did and have to backtrack to the summit.
At the summit, you will get a near 360 view of Wai’anae and Makaha valley, as well as the terminus of Kamaile’unu trail and the peaks of Ka’ala and Kalena on a clear day. From the summit, you can make a left to connect to Kamaile’unu and Knife Edge ridge. This is a very advanced route, however. As this route makes you down climb 2 long cliff faces, with the second one being around 80 feet. Do not attempt this without someone in your party with experience with this route or similar routes.
The safer route would be to make a right at the summit. As you continue, you will notice the trail is rocky and narrow. Although a few boulders are a bit wobbly, this section is stable. While the drops on both sides are large, the ridge is wide enough to give you some confidence that you (hopefully) won’t fall.
There will be a few places where ropes are already installed. Use them to descend the boulders when you have to.
Soon, you will encounter your first fenced area. Here, you will stay on the right and continue along the ridge. The drops behind you may be large at times, but the fence was in good condition when we went at least. Do not rely completely on the fence to hold you up except in a few situations where you may not be able to keep your feet on safe ground.
After the fenced area, there will be some more boulder hopping. Now, you will see an area which some describe as a pile of boulders, as if someone just dumped them there. It is easy to navigate, however. Simply stay in the center then contour to the right. You will soon be at the top of No Name Peak. Behind No Name is Razor Ridge, which you can use to descend into Makaha valley if you choose to. Between No Name and Three Poles, there is little to no danger except for another fenced area. You can relax from this point on as it will soon become a regular trail.
As you continue north, you will see a stack of boulders from far away, this is Tiki. After Tiki, an obvious, although a bit overgrown, trail will lead you to three poles. Once you arrive at three poles, you can continue along to Ka’ala if you have time. Otherwise, backtrack a few steps and head down into Wai’anae valley. The Wai’anae Kai trail is wide and obvious. Once the steep section ends inside the valley, follow the orange marks to exit. You will soon be on a paved road that will lead you back to the parking lot. Along the way, you will see a water station and there will be a faucet in front that you can use to fill up water containers as well as wash off a bit.
Expect the loop to take between 5 and 6 hours depending on your speed and the weather. You can also exit from Tiki, however, the trail is less obvious at times and may not significantly decrease the trail length. This is a fun trail and perfect for climbers. There are some crumbly sections but they are not too bad. Do bring some rope if you intend to take on all the rock walls head on. This is an exciting and memorable hike throughout.
Explorers: Marvin and Kinks