The locals seem to have an unnatural affinity for Spam, and the pineapple here tastes better than anywhere else in the world. The language is hard, really hard. It has only 13 letters- 5 vowels and 8 consonants. But what stands out the most about this place is the natural beauty. I am talking about Hawaii, of course!
I have traveled to Hawaii several times, but on my most recent visit I found myself in Oahu, Hiking for Picture Perfect. Hawaii has more than 100 islands; Oahu, translated to English as “The Gathering Place,” is the most populated, and is home to the states largest city and capital, Honolulu. Despite the fact that there is over a million people on the small island, Oahu is still full of wild and beautiful scenery. It seems that one is never far from some amazing summit, hiking trail, or scenic vista. During my visit, I hiked three trails – Koko Crater, Ka’ena Point, and Diamond Head State Monument. Each hike was an adventure I hope everyone gets to experience in his or her lifetime.
Koko Crater is an ancient volcano located on the southeastern coast of Oahu. Koko is not the tallest peak on the island, or the largest crater. However, its views are not to be missed. In fact, the view from the crater is possibly the only thing that draws people to its summit, as the hike to the top is one of the mostnotoriously difficult on the island. An abandoned inclined railroad bed leads straight up the side of the 1,208-foot tall summit. There are no turns, no switchbacks, and no easy way to get to the top. The trail is steep; at its steepest point it shoots skyward at over 60 degrees! A slip here would not be advised. But at some points crawling and using your hands is recommended. Half way up, the old volcano throws the hiker another obstacle: a 25-foot deep, 100-foot wide chasm. Luckily the railroad crosses the gap, but one must use caution as the ties of the railroad are 2.5 feet apart, and there is nothing in between. But once at the top, the view is absolutely amazing and breathtaking… until you remember that the only way down is the same way you came up!
Ka’ena Point is the westernmost point of Oahu. Due to steep sea cliffs and jagged coral shore, it is completely inaccessible by anything other than hiking boots. It is an amazing place to get away from the crowds of Honolulu and truly enjoy the rugged beauty of Hawaii. The Ka’ena Point trail is located in Ka’ena Point State Park, and is only 3.5 miles long. This trail is easy by most hikers’ standards, but it isn’t the challenge people come for, it is the wildlife. Located here is a wildlife preserve that contains many endangered species, some found only in Hawaii. The Hawaiian monk seals are the star attraction; there are only 1,100 of these seals left in the wild, and the point is an excellent place to see them. Ka’ena Point is also home to Laysan Albatrosses, with wingspans of up to 8 feet. In addition, during the winter, the Island is host to one of the great migrations of nature, as hundreds of humpback whales make the waters of Oahu their temporary home. Visitors can see the whales, and it is an astounding site. I believe that Ka’ena Point is an under rated, and under appreciated Hawaiian attraction, and one worth visiting.
My last hiking location on this trip was Diamond Head State Monument. Diamond Head is another ancient volcanic crater. Almost perfectly circular, and easily visible from all of Honolulu, Diamond Head has become a famous symbol of the state. The hike is only .75 miles, but begins inside the crater. Most of the hike is a hot, dry, steep, and windless climb of switchbacks up the inside of the crater wall. The crater was previously used as a military installation, and the trail takes you through the remnants of World War II defensive bunkers. Exactly 203 very steep steps later, youreach the top, and the view is post card perfect from every direction. The vast Pacific Ocean lies in front of you. To the right is the skyline of Honolulu, and to the left is a view of Koko Crater. Also, while enjoying the scenery at the top, be sure to savor the cool breeze of the famous and ever present trade winds, because once you descend into the crater it will become very hot once again.
In Hawaii it seems that everywhere you look, an amazing view or experience awaits. Hike the Koko Crater; the challenge is worth the rewarding view from the top. At Ka’ena point you will see wild life that you cannot see anywhere else in the world. At the Diamond Head State Monument, climb from inside of the crater wall. Explore Oahu; enjoy the natural beauty of the most isolated islands in the world. And, don’t forget the pineapple, its amazing!
– Sean Myers
Sean is an adventure guide at Terrapin Adventures. Growing up on a farm in rural St. Mary’s County contributed to his love for the outdoors. He enjoys backpacking, rock climbing, and scuba diving in his free time.