Pu’u O Hulu is one of those places that I never knew existed by name but knew of just from its formidable appearance. Pu’u O Hulu is located in Maili on the Waianae Coast. Maili itself lies between Pu’u o Hulu and Pu’u O Ma’iliili. The legend  goes that Pu’u O Hulu used to be a chief that was in love with Ma’iliili. Ma’iliili, however, had a twin sister and the chief could not tell the two apart. A mo’o (powerful lizard or dragon spirits that are said to inhabit waterfalls, fishponds, and the ocean) is said to have turned them all into mountains, with Pu’u O Hulu being the chief looking over the two twin sisters, Pu’u O Mailiili, forever trying to figure out who which of the two is his true love.
Our buddy Dr. Dewald was joining us for this Sunday hike. He’s a busy guy so we were sure to choose something that wasn’t too long, but was still exciting. We needed to find a hike that squeezed a lot of thrill for the buck. Pu’u O Hulu filled the bill.
Since each of us had prior commitments in the morning, we decided to make this hike an afternoon one. At around 12:45pm we pushed off from Manoa and drove toward the Waianae Coast. First off, this isn’t one of those designated state trails. You’ll likely be trespassing on someones property (see fence climbing photo below). There are two points of entry when doing Pu’u O Hulu. You can either ascend via Hakimo Road or Kaukama Road. We decided to go the Kaukama Road route (for instruction on how to do the Hakimo Road route, please see this article by Richard McMahon from the now defunct Honolulu Advertiser).
Parking in Waianae can be tricky. Especially if you’re not local . Joel and I parked in one of the older communities. The people in the neighborhood were friendly. It probably helped that we parked in front of an abandoned home. Interestingly, we parked just next to a house that had three orca whales hand painted on its driveway. After seeing the orca whales, our qualms about parking in this Waianae neighborhood were extinguished. I mean, how mean can people be who have orcas painted in the front of their house? Oh, and there was a guy blasting Christian music a few houses down. I told Joel that we chose the perfect parking spot. A few blocks down, Dr. Dewald parked his brand new Ford Fiesta in a recent development that I never even knew existed prior to that day. He felt very safe parking there and was convinced that his car would not be threatened .
The Majestic Snow Owl. Photo by Marvin Chandra.
OWLing was popular on this day. This here is a rare non-Fijian Indian Imitation OWLer. Photo by Coty Gonzales.
Coty inspects all of the faux OWLing going on. Photo by Marvin Chandra.
Based on Joshua Serano’s post on Pu’u O Hulu, we headed toward Kaukama Road and counted 8 streetlight posts from the main road (Kamehameha Highway). The obvious trailhead is located just between the 7th and 8th streetlight post.
The first third of this hike is relatively benign and very safe, though be careful of the loose rock. At about 20-30 minutes in you will encounter a formidable 8-10 ft. rockface that you will need to climb. Just past this first rockface you will then encounter a second, taller, rockface. Clear this rockface and you’re home free as the rest of the trail is quite easy. The trail actually does go around this rockface, but you can also climb it if you want to. It’s very climbable. In fact, Andy, Joel, Ahnate, and I climbed it to the spine of Pu’u O Hulu. Marvin took the EASY route and walked around the rockface and took the “stairs” to the spine. Dr. Dewald insisted that I write that (In Marvin’s defense, the side route was much faster). It’s very climbable and shouldn’t be much of a problem as long as you watch your footing and test your foot and hand holds. Loose rock is your enemy here. Pass this and you will have your view of the first of 5 World War 2 era bunkers. Since the bunker was below us (you can see it from Kamehameha Highway), we decided to skip it and continue to work our way upwards.
A Small Rock Face. Photo by Coty Gonzales.
The view from inside one of the bunkers. Photo by Coty Gonzales.
Inside The WW2 Bunker. Photo by Marvin Chandra.
Continue to follow the trail and you will eventually reach the spine of Pu’u O Hulu. Walk along this spine and you will find 4 bunkers as you journey mauka (toward the mountain; away from the ocean). We stopped at each of these bunkers and marveled at these old World War 2 relics. Each of the bunkers were unique of each other and interesting to inspect. As I looked out of the concrete windows I could only imagine what the soldiers who manned these stations witnessed. The graffiti also added another interesting element to these bunkers. Some are the graffiti is noticeably dated, while others are more recent.
Too cool for school. Photo by Coty Gonzales.
Jump. Photo by Coty Gonzales.
After the final bunker we walked along the spine of Pu’u O Hulu a bit more. At one point, we needed to make a decision – continue on the trail and end at the water tank on Hakimo Road (known route), or blaze our own trail down the side of the mountain facing Kaukama Road. We could see our cars and the road did not seem too far. On the other hand, the thought of walking around the mountain from the main road after reaching the water tank did not appeal to us. So, we decided to blaze our own trail down the side of Pu’u O Hulu and work our way to Kaukama Road. I do not recommend this.
Top View of Puu O Hulu. Photo by Marvin Chandra.
Descending Pu’u O Hulu though an unknown path increased the excitement of the hike tenfold. The hike now turned into an unexpected adventure. We all donned our gloves, except Ahnate, who suffered without any. He also had short shorts that day. Then again, Ahnate always wears short shorts. I don’t recommend short shorts on this trail because of the dry vegetation – it will eat away your skin. Andy intelligently used very long socks, a practice that I adopted for my hike up Poamoho.
Not Weeds but Devil's Balls! Photo by Coty Gonzales.
Working Our Way Down. Photo by Marvin Chandra.
As we navigated our way down, we encountered a lot of loose rock. Fortunately, the dry vegetation made for good hand holds. If you slip, just grab on to something. After the rough descent, we found ourselves in a pickle. We were confronted by two fences which were probably installed to prevent entry to the mountain. These fences were now preventing our entry back into civilization. We now had to decide whether we wanted walk along the fence up to the point that it ended on Kaukama Road (I knew it ended because I had noticed its termination point while at the top of Pu’u O Hulu looking down) or we could hop both fences and walk on a paved road. We all decided that on this day we would be rebels and hop the fences. Our balls indeed hated us for this.
Once over the fence we ended up on Kaipo’i Street located in the new development area that I mentioned earlier. After a short walk, Dr. Dewald, Ahnate, and Marvin were back at the green Fiesta. A few minutes after that Joel and once again encountered the three orcas guarding the 4Runner. Moments later, the sun began to set over beautiful Maili. Pu’u O Hulu proved to be a short hike, with lots of thrill and a great view that was enjoyed by awesome company.
Marvin's Testicles Hate Him. Photo by Coty Gonzales.
Explorers: Marvin Chandra, Andy Dewald, Coty Gonzales, Ahnate Lim, and Joel Sabugo.
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