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A Downhill Climb To The Kalihi Ice Ponds (Naohia Falls)

Note: Naohia Falls is closed to the public. It is illegal to hike this trail and to do so would be cause for citation or arrest. There is also a risk of falling boulders, landslides, and drowning. As our disclaimer partially reads: “I’m not your daddy, these are dangerous as sh*t hikes, even the simple ones, if you got club feet don’t even think about it yo, and if you or your estate tries to put this on me for damages I will F*ck your Sh*t up, I know some Samoans who can do it too.”

I’m a Kalihi boy at heart. I’m a proud Governor having graduated from W.R. Farrington High School. Deep within Gulick Avenue is where I grew up. This probably explains my love for musubis from Gulick Deli. I remember waking up on days that I had school excursions to go to Gulick Deli to buy bentos. Back then, the old Filipino ladies weren’t allowed to use the cash registers. This was long before the deli caught on fire and long before there was a “Gulick Deli” on King Street. Kalihi runs deep through my veins. Despite this, I never really ventured into the heart of Kalihi Valley and as a teen, I never knew that a swimming hole and waterfall existed at the end of Kalihi Street. Once I found out of the existence of what locals call the “Kalihi Ice Ponds,” I knew that I had to seek it out.

My visit to Na Ohia Falls has been about a year and a half in the making. That’s how long that it’s been on my to-do list. I finally was able to get a nice big red marker and strike this waterfall off of that to-do list. With a morning to myself, I quickly ran through various “short” hiking options and for some reason Na Ohia Falls jumped to that forefront. It was as if the falls was shouting out to me to come and visit her. Coincidentally, we picked up a few Gulick Deli musubis before heading to the falls.

At the end of Kalihi Street you’ll need to continue on foot over this bridge.

Malama The Aina.

Following the bridge, you’ll walk around this locked gate.

Most of this “hike” will be a walk.

Wooden Tank.

An old structure.

Alien.

Finding Naohia Falls is relatively simple. You will not find directions to this waterfall in any guide book since it is located on restricted land belonging to the Hawaii Board of Water Supply. To access the falls, make your way to Kalihi Valley via Likelike Highway. You’ll continue pass the intersection of Likelike Highway and School Street. To your right will be the elementary school that I attended many years ago. Just past the intersection, you will veer slightly right and then make a left turn on to Kalihi Street. From there, simply follow Kalihi Street to the very end. Eventually, you will hit a dead end. Park on the side of the road in the residential area and then make your way on foot to the very end of the street. You’ll cross a bridge and then you’ll encounter a locked gate. This is the trailhead. Make your way around this gate and continue to follow the dirt road.

The road will meander for about 20 minutes or so. Along the way you’ll pass a large graffiti covered water tower on the left, an abandoned car, and another graffiti covered building structure. Once you’ve passed the abandoned car, keep your eyes and ears open for the junction to the waterfall. To your right will be an opening that leads down a steep hill bringing you directly to Na Ohia Falls. Someone had spray painted the walkway just before the right turn. You can actually see the swimming hole at the top on the road while look down the hill at the junction.

This isn’t a problem. Not at all.

An abandoned vehicle.

At the moment, finding the junction down to the falls is extremely easy. That’s because someone decided to spray paint (not nice) the area in which you begin your decent down to the falls.

A labyrinth of rope.

At the bottom of the hill you’ll find the trash can.

The steep hill offers the only major challenge during this hike. It’s very steep but there is rope installed to help make the climb down much easier. That hill really is a labyrinth of ropes. As we were making our way down, we noticed that there was a crowd of kids down there having the time of their lives. We also noticed smoke, as if they had brought a habachi down there with them and was having a little BBQ.

When we reached the bottom, we were greeted by about 10 or so filipino boys who were probably between the ages of 10 and 13. They were definitely enjoying the swimming hole. One boy greeted us by leaping off of the cliff that hugs the right side of the waterfall. The boys were very friendly. I was snapping photos of the falls when one of the kids came up to me and showed me a spider that they had found. It was a huge ass spider and spider that I definitely would not pick up myself! He told me to take photos of the spider as it crawled mischievously up his right forearm.

Graffiti near the falls. Hawaiian Hostage?

Na Ohia Falls.

Risky behavior by an adolescent boy. Actually, this spider could be completely harmless and I could be the scare-dy cat.

Another view of Na Ohia Falls.

This group of kids were a wild, uninhibited and friendly bunch. As soon as they realized Joel and I were as easy going as they were, they really started to perform for the camera. They took turns jumping off the of the waterfall and the cliffs to the right. We immediately figured out who the daredevil of the bunch was. It was this scrawny filipino boy in greenish-yellowish-whitish shorts who constantly climbed to the very top of the cliff on the right, probably 30-40 feet high, and he would jump off with barely any hesitation to the amusement of his friends. There were a few times in which they would all climb up on the cliff and then, one-by-one, they would each jump off. Gnarly.

During this time, we noticed a few of their other friends making their way down upper Na Ohia Falls. They had been up there gathering the groups lunch. Seriously. They had brought back a bucket of bright red crawfish. Immediately, the friends below sparked a small fire using found sticks and branches and began cooking up the crawfish. Amazing.

Fire?

A bucket of crawfish!

A burnt crawfish.

These are ready to eat.

I ended up having a great time despite my initial apprehension of seeing a large crowd of kids at the falls. They were an awesome bunch of kids. What’s more amazing is that each of them were creating memories that day that will stay with them for the rest of their lives. Now some of you might feel dismayed that they were starting fires and cooking up picked crawfish from the stream. However, I can see how a 12-year-old might find refuge in a place like this. And really, there is a lot worse things that a 12-year-old kid could be doing other than exploring a stream and tasting the outdoors. The Kalihi Ice Ponds is as much theirs as Na Ohia Falls were to the ancient Hawaiians that roamed this area many years ago. Kalihi definitely runs deep in their veins and as such, I hope they cleaned up the area before they left. As we left, they asked if I would be posting the photos online. I told them yeah, if it was okay with them. We then exchanged information and I gave them the URL to Exploration: Hawaii by typing it up on one of the kids’ iPod Touch. They were stoked.

Explorers: Coty Gonzales and Joel Sabugo

Kalihi Ice Ponds (Na Ohia Falls) Tips:

  • Bring mosquito repellant
  • Bring mosquito repellant
  • Bring mosquito repellant

Total Distance: ~1 mile

Total Time: ~1 hour

Directions to the Kalihi Ice Ponds (Na Ohia Falls) Trailhead: From the H1 freeway you will head west (ewa bound). You will then take the Likelike exit towards Kalihi Valley. You’ll continue pass the intersection of Likelike Highway and School Street. Just past the intersection, you will veer slightly right and then make a left turn on to Kalihi Street. From there, simply follow Kalihi Street to the very end. Nalanieha street will intersect with Kalihi Street. Find street parking around this area. It is a residential area so be mindful of where you decide to park. Continue on foot past the bridge and to the gate at the very end of Kalihi Street. This is the trailhead that will bring you to Na Ohia Falls.

Below are a few photos that I took of the kids leaping from the cliff to the right of Na Ohia Falls.

Jump!

Everyone getting ready to jump. They called it “bombing.”

The highest jump of the day. This kid was pretty stoked when he got out of the water, and also very sore.

Woohoo!

Belly Flop. After the jump, this boy said that his boto really hurt!

The last risky member of the group launches.

About Coty

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

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