Maakua Ridge (Papali) Trail: A Quick Loop Trail North of Punaluu

The last time I was in this area was over a year ago when I did the Hauula Loop Trail with Joel and Marvin. Since then, I’ve done many trails throughout the island, but never had the chance to return to do the second half of what Stuart Ball calls the Hauula-Papali Loop Trail. I finally found the time to finish the larger portion of Ball’s double loop, but unlike last time, I would be doing the hike solo.

Hauula, which means “red hau,” is a small community in the Koolauloa District of Oahu. The trail is located in a seemingly rural neighborhood, compared to the more popular east side trails. With that said, be careful in regards to where you choose to park. The risk for theft is considered to be high in this area, however, I myself have not had any issues. Park with consideration and make sure you don’t upset anyone. There are also a lot of loose dogs that run around the neighborhood.

Trailhead. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Trailhead. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

The initial dry stream crossing. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

The initial dry stream crossing. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Some kind of old irrigation or water system? Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Some kind of old irrigation or water system? Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Looking over Hauula town. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Looking over Hauula town. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Another view from the lookout point. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Another view from the lookout point. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Looking left of Hauula. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Looking left of Hauula. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

This is the trail that leads up to the second bench. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

This is the trail that leads up to the second bench. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Hauula Panorama. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Hauula Panorama. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Coming from town, you will drive Kaneohe bound, continuing on Kahekili Highway and then past Punaluu. You’ll eventually arrive at your destination in Hauula. From Kamehameha Highway, you will pass the first left to Hauula Homestead Road and instead take the second left on to Hauula Homestead Road. The trailhead is located off of Maakua Road, which is a closed off private road off of Hauula Homestead Road. Keep an eye out for the Na Ala Hele trail sign that can be seen from Hauula Homestead Road. Find parking in the neighborhood.

Continue on foot past a metal gate. You will pass a wall on your right that is filled with graffiti and you will eventually see the trailhead for the Hauula Loop trail on your right. Continue further down the path, ignoring the Hauula Loop trail, and you should come to the trailhead for the Maakua Ridge trail on your left as indicated by the brown and yellow trailhead sign.

As soon as I reached the trailhead, I pulled out my DSLR to take some photos of the graffiti lining the wall adjacent to the trailhead. I snapped a few photos and then looked down to review them. My memory card slot was empty! Crap. Good thing I had my iPhone with me. With that said, all photos in this post were taken with an iPhone 5.

Rooted. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Rooted. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Yellow. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Yellow. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Down in the valley. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Down in the valley. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Nicely carved. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Nicely carved. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Steps. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Steps. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Shadow. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Shadow. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

The trail will immediately drop down into the valley and you will be greeted by your first stream crossing, which will likely be dry. The trail will then follow a couple of switchbacks, allowing you to quickly gain elevation until you reach the highlight of this hike. That highlight being a low lookout point of Hauula town and the surrounding area. You’ll know that you’ve reached the lookout when you see two plastic benches. At the second bench, the trail will split. It is a loop, so you can choose to go either clockwise or counterclockwise. I chose to go about the trail in a counterclockwise fashion. From here, the trail will meander in and out of the valley. The surrounding ridges will be your view for the rest of the trip. Eventually, you will make your way back to the plastic benches. This is a great place to stop for a snack before heading home.

If you want to be a recluse while hiking, then the Maakua Ridge (Papali Loop) trail is a great choice. It’s not popular like the east side trails and so foot traffic is very low. The entire time hiking, I only ran into one other group of hikers. Maakua Ridge is a great “get-away-from-it-all” hike. Having said that, I probably wouldn’t do this hike again. The lookout point, would, however, make for a nice stop during around-the-island drive.

Large boulder. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Large boulder. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

All pau. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

All pau. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Explorers: Coty Gonzales.

Total Distance: 2.5 miles roundtrip.

Total Time: 1 hour and 45 minutes roundtrip.

Maakua Ridge (Papali Loop) Trail Tips:

  • This is a high theft area, so do not leave any valuable in your car. Also, be considerate and quiet while walking in the neighborhood.
  • Beware of any loose dogs, and there are many.
  • If you don’t want to do the entire 2.5 mile trail, then you can instead opt to just check out the lookout point. It should take no more than 15-20 minutes to reach the lookout.
  • Risk takers might want to consider checking out the Maakua Gulch Trail.

Directions to Maakua Ridge (Papali Loop) Trail:

Coming from Waikiki, you will head west on H1. Continue on H1 and then take exit 20A to merge onto HI-63 N/Kalihi St toward Likelike Hwy. You will drive about 7 miles and then take the exit 20A to merge onto HI-63 N/Kalihi St toward Likelike Hwy Continue to follow HI-63 N. Merge onto HI-83 W (signs for Kahekilli Highway). Just past the Hauula Congressional Church is Hauula Homestead Road. Turn left on Hauula Homestead Road and follow until you reach the sign indicating the trail head. See notes below on tips for parking your car.

1. There are potential parking spots on Hauula Homestead Road, however, I would recommended against parking in this area. It is a residential area and this is the type of place that you don’t want to upset the residents.

2. If you go left for the Papali Loop Trail, you will eventually end back at this junction point. You can then finish up or continue on and complete the Hauula Loop Trail. The double loop trail option is about roughly 7-miles long.

About Coty

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

3 comments

    • Very cool, Paul. Castle is one of those trails that I’ve been wanting to visit for some time now. Have checked out Castle Trail via this particular route?

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