The Kaunala Loop Trail, located in Pupukea on the North Shore, is an interesting hike. Some might classify only half of this trail as a hike, with the other half being walking on an excruciatingly long and boring road. Okay, maybe the walk down the road isn’t that excruciating, but, for some reason, when it’s asphalt my feet is walking on, I tend to get tired (probably from boredom) very quickly. Not to say that the entirety of this hike was boring, it wasn’t. In fact, it had its share of pleasant delights.
After making the long drive to the North Shore, you will turn right on Pupukea Road (just before Foodland). Follow the road until it ends. Find parking on the side of the road. You will notice that it sort of splits at the end of the road. To the left will be Camp Pupukea and to the right will be a gravel dirt path. Follow the gravel dirt path for about 3/4 of a mile. The trailhead will be on your left. Keep an eye out for the brown and yellow Na Ala Hele trailhead sign.
Na Ala Hele has the Kaunala Trail listed as being 2.5 miles. However, this does not to take into account the entire loop, which includes the access road. After roughly 2 miles on the trail, you will break out onto a dirt road. Turn right and follow the dirt road. I hated this dirt road. It’s an uphill climb. The one upside is that it will bring you to a nice lookout of point with a good view of the recently installed wind turbines. What an awful distraction blocking a rather beautiful view. Follow the dirt road until you reach a large gate with a paved road on the other side. Go around the gate and proceed to turn right and continue to walk down the road. Eventually, you will reach a picnic table. Continue past the picnic table and you will eventually find yourself back at the trailhead.
I found this trail to be very similar to the Aiea Loop Trail and the Makiki Loop Trail. It’s a combination of valley and ridge, with the views being mainly adjacent mountains in the distance. There was very little elevation gain on the trail, which is probably the reason why we were able to complete over 5 miles in under 3 hours.
Would I do this trail again? Probably not. It doesn’t offer anything spectacular or unique. I could get the same experiencing by doing Aiea Loop, minus the 45 minute drive and long dirt road. Nonetheless, another hike to check off of my list.
Explorers: Coty Gonzales and Joel Sabugo.
Total Distance: 5.09 miles roundtrip.
Total Time: 2 hours and 45 minutes roundtrip.
Kaunala Loop Trail Tips:
- After the trail, make a stop at the Pu`u O Mahuka Heiau. The heiau, built in the 1600’s, is the largest heiau on the island covering nearly 2 acres of land. The heiau is located just off the start of Pupukea Road.
Directions to Kaunala Loop Trail: Take the H2 and drive toward the north shore. Eventually, you will pass Haleiwa town. Continue pass Haleiwa toward Pupukea. Just before the Foodland, you will turn right on Pupukea Road. The the road to the end on park on the side of the road, just before Camp Pupukea.