Kuaokala Trail: A State Trail With Restricted Trailhead Access

By completing the Kuaokala Trail, I was able to strike off another Na Ala Hele maintained trail off of my list. Kuaokala terminates at a lookout that overlooks Makua Valley, however, the best views are to be had before reaching this lookout. Our crew had previously reached this same lookout point via the Kealia Trail in Mokuleia. The Kuaokala trailhead is located in Waianae, far from the trailhead of Kealia. Access to the Kealia Trail is open, whereas you will need to get a permit from the Hawaii Division of Forestry if you want to hike the Kuaokala Trail. That said, I believe that Kuaokala is a better hike, with much more varied vistas.

Hey, guy, don't get too close to the edge! Photo by Coty Gonzales

Hey, guy, don’t get too close to the edge! Photo by Coty Gonzales

Long dirt road. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Long dirt road. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Awkward peace sign. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Awkward peace sign. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

The day started with a long drive along the Waianae Coast. The meeting point would be the Kaena Point Satellite Tracking Station sign, located near a dirt parking lot, just before Yokohama Beach. The group then convoyed past the guard station and then through two large metal arm gates. During the drive up, we passed the two white satellite balls, which you can see from the highway below. Just slightly past the second metal arm gate wil be a dirt parking lot, and the trailhead to the Kuaokala Trail.

After a quick debriefing by Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club leader, Laura Owens, we were off on the trail. The trail begins by shortly meandering through the forest, until you get to a wide dirt road. The dirt road continues uphill for sometime, passing a picnic table to the left. Toward the top of the dirt road trail, you’ll begin to get some nice views of the Waianae Coast. The vast ocean will be your view, so be on the lookout for whales.

Shade. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Shade. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

That's Laura, she was the HTMC hike coordinator for this particular trail. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

That’s Laura, she was the HTMC hike coordinator for this particular trail. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

A short detour trail. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

A short detour trail. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Rad view. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Rad view. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Continuing on and following the ridge, you will eventually encounter an ambiguous junction that veers right and off of the main trail. Some of us took the 0.25 mile side trail to the lookout point, while others forged forward. The side trail terminated near a fenced off area. We then backtracked and made our way back to the main trail. From here, you follow the ridge to a lookout point of Makua Valley. This is the same lookout point that we stopped at when doing the Kealia Trail.

Kuaokala is a very easy going trail, that would be suitable for most ages and hikers of varying abilities. Although a five-mile trail, we were able to complete it within a brisk time of 2 hours and 30 minutes. The five-miles go by very quickly, so be sure to take your time to enjoy the the views of the Waianae coast and Makua Valley.

[Note: By completing the Kuaokala Trail, I was able to finally fulfill the three HTMC led hike required for membership. I’ll be sending in my membership forms soon!]

Explorers: Allison Baird, Coty Gonzales, Joel Sabugo, and members of the the Hawaiian Trail & Mountain Club.

Ridge portion. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Ridge portion. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

More ridge. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

More ridge. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

On the edge of glory. Or something like that. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

On the edge of glory. Or something like that. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

When's lunch? Photo by Coty Gonzales.

When’s lunch? Photo by Coty Gonzales.

The best views don't come at the end, but in the middle and near the end. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

The best views don’t come at the end, but in the middle and near the end. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

And here's why the best view isn't at the end, because it's obstructed. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

And here’s why the best view isn’t at the end, because it’s obstructed. Photo by Coty Gonzales.

Total Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes.

Total Distance: 5 miles roundtrip.

Kuaokala Trail Tips:

  • The final lookout point is obstructed (as you can see from the final photo), so, be sure to soak in the views AS you’re making your way to the end of the Kuaokala Trail. The contour trail will offer some awesome panoramic views.
  • You might choose to extend this trail by continuing on to the scenic, but switchback laden, Kealia Trail. For this, I would recommend staging two cars, one at the Kuaokala Trailhead and the other at the Kealia Trailhead.
  • Finally, this is a restricted hike. You will need to obtain a hiking permit to access the trailhead.
  • Food options are limited in Waianae, but we do recommend the burgers and fries from Faith’s Place and the Poke at the Waianae Grocery Store right next door. In fact, we combined the fries and poke and called it a Poketatoe Bowl!

Directions Kuaokala Trail: To access the Kuaokala Trail, make your way on to Farrington Highway, and drive towards Kaena Point. Eventually, you will reach Yokohama Beach (Bay). Here, you will notice a road that turns right, leading to a security guard station. Show the guard your permit and ask for further directions.

About Coty

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

3 comments

  1. i definitely will be doing this hike soon. Your pictures are amazing! I think I also want to look into joining the HTMC.

Comments are closed.