Pu’u Ma’eli’eli: An Easy Hike In Kahaluu With a Panoramic View of the Windward Coast of Oahu

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.

This is the most “extreme” portion of this hike. The steep initial dirt road. It’s not extreme at all. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

A very sharp and tall Agave sisalana (Sisil). Thanks to L Steve Rohrmayr for identifying this plant. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

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.

Another interesting plant. If you know the name of this plant then please leave a comment. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Some funky looking Ardisia crenata (Hilo holly). Thanks to Nate Yuen for identifying this plant. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Tree friends. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

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.

A Tangled Tree. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

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.

Puu Maelieli Welcome Sign and History. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

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.

A man made structure, function unknown. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

The rabbit hole down Puu Maelieli WW2 Bunker #1. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Pass the first bunker will be an amazing view of the Windward side of Oahu. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Coty is totally stoked by the view atop Puu Maelieli. Photo by Joel Sabugo.

This plane kept flying around. I guess someone was practicing their flying skills. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

A shaka from a Waialua boy. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Coty Rests on Bunker #2. Photo by Joel Sabugo.

This is what the second Puu Maelieli WW2 bunker looks like. The bunker that Coty is sitting on in the above photo. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

From bunker 2, turn left and you see all the way to Kahana Valley, Manamana, and Chinaman’s Hat. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

From bunker 2, turn right and you see Kaneohe Bay, Marine Corps Base of Hawaii and the peak of Keahi a Kahoe. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

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.

Above you see McDonald’s on the right and Kahekili Highway straight ahead. Walk down East Hui Iwa Street and then turn left at Kahekili Highway. Walk along the side of the road you will bee a private property sign and a faint trail. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Hat tip to Nate Yuen of Hawaiian Forest and L Steve Rohrmayr for help in identifying the flora in this post.

About Coty

Founder of Exploration: Hawaii, Blogger, Hiker, Foodie, Apple Aficionado, T-Shirt Enthusiast, Psychologist, and Rogue Scientist.


      • I can definitely see that ; pics are awesome. Looking forward to spectacular views! I was going to attempt Lulumahu Falls this Sunday, but I’ve decided to this one instead. I’ll save getting lost in a bamboo forest for another weekend, LOL. If time permits, I may also be doing Kapena Falls right after since it’s on our way back into town. Lets hope this is an easy one too.

      • Lulumahu Falls is actually not too bad, Grace! It’s definitely worth checking out. We went maybe two-three weeks ago and found it relatively easily. It takes about 30 minutes to get there from the Pali. I should have a post up about it soon (maybe sometime next week). If you do decide to do Lulumahu you should also take some time to check out the ruins of King Kamehameha’s summer home. I have a post about it here…it’s very neat. You can really feel the “mana” flowing there.

        • Coty, where is your Lulumahu Falls post?? =) I moved to Oahu about a year ago and have really enjoyed hiking the island. Your website has helped me do that. Thank you for sharing you passion. I’ve googled Lulumahu Falls and I haven’t found a website where I feel comfortable with the directions or description like I do when I read yours. Thanks again!

        • Hey Jesse, thanks! Glad you enjoy the site and find the directions useful! I did do Lulumahu back, but for some reason I never found the time to post it up. I’ll work on getting something up soon, though. I’ve actually been thinking of revisiting this spot.

  1. Found this site by accident and glad I did! I’m ashamed to say that I’m a local and don’t know a majority of these trails/hikes existed. Thanks for sharing your mana’o. I did this hike Saturday and it was breathtaking! Wasn’t an easy hike, especially for a beginner. Got scared and wanted to turn around a couple times because I thought we were lost. Hike feels very secluded and it was longer than I assumed by reading this story. In any event, totally worth it and I plan to hike this trail again. Mahalo!

  2. I lived just down the road from this trail in the ’90s on Lulani st. – i had no clue that one could hike right off of Kahekili highway; Growing up in Kailua, i hiked to many old bunkers and ruins on the windward side with my friends but i never saw these two and their amazing view.
    My 6 year old daughter had no trouble with the trail and she loved exploring the bunkers at the top. She found a bush with christmas tree ornaments near the bottom of the trail. I wanted to do Ulupaina as well, but the lure of the happy meal from McDonalds was too much for her to overcome. We will have to come back so i promised her spam musubi from Times for that trail.
    My daughter and I love the hikes and photos on the EH website- i have learned to add at least 25% extra to your trail times to get a good 6 year old pace. We took Waimanu a couple of weeks ago and ended up returning in the dark with a flashlight for 2 hours because i failed to add enough extra time for her.

    • That’s awesome, Check! I’m stoked that you are your daughter are having a blast outdoors – so much to do in Hawaii outdoors! And yes, good note about adding the 25% extra time to the trail times. Plus, it’s always good to get a nice, good start in the early morning so you avoid getting stuck out there in the dark. It’s a good thing that you had a flashlight when you did Waimanu! Happy trails!

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