Note: Puu Maelieli trail is a closed trail and is not open to the public. As our disclaimer partially reads: “I’m not your daddy, these are dangerous as sh*t hikes, even the simple ones, if you got [insert applicable disorder, disease, or physical impairment] don’t even think about it yo.” Also, consider these tips on Hiking Safely In Hawaii. Mahalo.
If you’re on the Windward side of Oahu and looking to do a short hike with an amazing view at the end then consider doing Puu Ma’eli’eli in Kahalu’u. Or, if you’ve got kids that enjoy hiking then this is a great option. This short 30-45 minutes shaded hike is relatively easy to do, despite a few steep sections in the beginning and toward the end of the trail. However, once you do reach the end, you’ll be greeted with not one but two World War II bunkers and a grand view of the Windward Coast.
There are two ways (possibly three) to go about doing Puu Ma’eli’eli. The first route starts off on the Kamehameha Highway side of Puu Ma’eli’eli, near Heeia State Park. We initially decided to start the trail on this end, however, we noticed a lot of “shady” people hanging out at the park. Worried that the Exploration: Hawaii 4Runner would not be safe, we opted for the alternate route of starting just off of Kahekili Highway near the Valley of the Temples. Just across the street of the Valley of the Temples you will find the Koolau Center formerly Temple Valley Shopping Center. Right next to the McDonalds is East Hui Iwa Street, this is where you will park. Try and park on East hui Ewa Street and as close to Kahekili Highway as possibly. This is a heavily trafficked area next to the shopping center and residential homes and seemed much safer than leaving our car at Heeia State Park.
Once you’ve parked your car, immediately walk back toward Kehekili Highway and make a left on Kahekili Highway. Remember to stay close to the guard rails as locals love to zip down Kahekili Highway. A few feet after you turn left, you will notice a faint trail next to a private property sign. The day we hiked a ribbon was present that indicated the trailhead. Follow the trail up through what seems like a tiny dirt road. We noticed either dirtbike or 4×4 tracks on the day we hiked. Walk up the dirt trail until you reach a junction. At the first junction you will turn left.
From there just continue to follow the trail. There will be ribbons throughout the hike to guide you along. About 20 minutes into the hike you will get you first views of the Windward Coast. Enjoy the view and then keep on heading up, you’re only about 15-20 minutes away from the top of Puu Ma’eli’eli. Eventually, you will reach a second junction, keep left and follow the trail up. Shortly after the second junction, you will reach a wooden sign indicating that you have reach the top of Puu Ma’eli’eli. Take a moment to read the legend of Puu Ma’eli’eli on the sign.
Or, you can read it here:
“According to Hawaiian mythology, Pu’u Ma’eli’eli translates to “Digging Hill.” The companion-Gods, Kane and Kanaloa, once raced to the top of the hill and had to dig into the slope with their hands to climb up. The bunkers found on the summt are the reminants of the Heeia combat training area (Camp Heeia) built during World War II to support nearly 4,500 military personnel. “
A few feet past the wooden sign will be the first bunker. You can climb down, but be careful, its a fairly far drop down. Inside you’ll notice the remnants of an old World War II bunker. Just past the first bunker will be a second bunker and the best part of this hike – the rewarding summit view. If you complete Puu Ma’eli’eli then you’ll be treated to an excellent view of the Windward Coast. To the left will be Kualoa, Kahana Valley, Manamana, Ohulehule, Chinaman’s Hat and on your right will be Kaneohe Bay and the peak of Keahi a Kahoe. Just below you is the Marine Corps Base of Hawaii. The sky was unbelievably clear on this day and we decided to just hang out and enjoy the panoramic views. We ended up spending about an hour at the top. Moments like this remind me of why I love living in Hawaii.
Eventually we did have to leave Puu Ma’eli’eli. We went down the same we came up. However, I imagine that if you staged two cars you could finish the hike on the other side and end at Heeia State Park. We’ll save that hike for another day.
Explorers: Coty Gonzales and Joel Sabugo.
Total Time: 50 minutes roundtrip (1 hour summit break). 30 minutes up to peak and 20 minutes down and back to the vehicle.
Puu Ma’eli’eli Trail Tips:
- This is a great trail for keiki (Hawaiian word meaning kids) that have hiked before.
- Be as inconspicuous as possible when accessing the trailhead.
- After the hike, stop by he Byodo-In Temple and the Valley of the Temples Memorial Park.
Directions: From Honolulu you will take the H1 west bound and then take exit 20A andmerge onto HI-63 N/Kalihi St toward Likelike Hwy. Take the HI-83/Kahekili Hwy ramp and then merge onto HI-83 W (signs for Kahekilli Hwy). Turn right at East Hui Iwa Street and park along the side of the road. Residential homes will be on your right and McDonald’s will be on your left. Once you’ve parked your car, immediately walk back toward Kehekili Highway and make a left on Kahekili Highway. Remember to stay close to the guard rails as locals love to zip down Kahekili Highway. A few feet after you turn left, you will notice a faint trail next to a private property sign.