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Oahu’s Stunning East From Above – Kuliouou Ridge Trail

I love hiking – especially in Hawai’i! It opens you up to uncountable stunning views of the coasts, valleys, beaches and the ocean – it’s the best way to discover the unique Hawaiian nature! The Kuliouou Ridge Trail has an amazing view of the Oahu’s East coast, especially of the Waimanalo Beach.

The Waimanalo Beach: Blue ocean, white-sand beach, waves and green mountains
This is the one – My favorite beach on Oahu

When I went to this beach for the first time, I instantly fell in love with it – and Oahu! The mountain ridge in the back makes this beach unique! So I was wondering if you could hike it. And yes, you can!

Basic information

Distance: 5 miles round trip
Altitude: 2000 ft
Level: Easy to moderate (only because the last part is a bit tougher)
Time needed: 3 to 4 hours

Pick the perfect day for the Kuliouou Ridge

The Kuliouou summit is a bit tricky when it comes to choosing the right day. It’s often cloudy there. Uncountable times I drove past the ridge and there were clouds. Usually, the clouds would disappear within some hours, but if you’re unlucky – like us on our first trial – you’ll sit in a thick rain cloud. The best view right in front of you and you can’t see a thing.

Me sitting in a cloud on Kuliouou summit, visibility is around 10 ft
Nothing of a great view, when there are clouds

This trail is also very busy on weekends. So parking can be a hassle, but it’s for sure worth it! Maybe pick a weekday and come very early.

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The trailhead of the Kuliouou Ridge Trail

The trail starts in the very back of the Kuliouou Valley. Follow the Kuliouou Road until you see the Kalaau Place – it’s a cul-de-sac. You’ll see an entrance to the Kuliouou Reservoir at the end of the street.

After a few feet of walking on the paved road, you’ll see the hunter’s entrance to your right.

Follow this trail till you see the sign for the Kuliouou Ridge Trail. Signs are pretty much everywhere, so keep your eyes open and you won’t get lost.

Green trees with long soft needles as leaves let appear the trail to be mysterious.
These green trees always catch my interest. They look so mysterious!

Just follow the trail and enjoy the Hawaiian nature!

Roots form natural stairs on the Kuliouou trail
Roots as stairs will help you along the trail

After lots of switchbacks, you will get to a little open-ish area. Look for the pink ribbons to the left in order to stay on the trail. After a few more minutes you will reach a picnic area – it’s about two-thirds of the trail.

From now on it’s getting steeper. The roots will help you and become your best friends.

The first time we did this trail, it was raining so much, that it got really muddy. So the last part was really challenging, but there were more waterfalls in the mountain range across the valley.

A thin but long waterfall on the other ridge is slowly developing a canyon into the rocks
The good side of rain: There are waterfalls

As you follow the trail you’ll see a gate – a gate made by trees, which has been grown this way naturally.

Those trees on the Kuliouou Ridge Trail have grown in a way, that they form a gate
I love nature

You can do it!

Now, test your level of fitness! There are many many many steps to the summit… This is the worst part of the Kuliouou Ridge Trail. I was struggling with this every time. My legs would burn like on fire and I would start hating the whole world. And Everyone…

…Until the moment I finally reached the summit and every challenging step has been forgotten.

The view from the Kuliouou: Hawai'i Kai from above, with the Koko Head, blue ocean and the stairs in the foreground
The reward of the stairs – view of Hawai’i Kai

The view – amazing! One of the best views that you can get from a hiking trail! I’ve done 19 trails in Hawaii – I know what I am talking about!

The spread mountain range behind the Waimanalo beach is covered in green
Stunning view into the valley of Waimanalo
The Hawai'i Kai and the Koko Head pictured from above on the Kuliouou Summit
The view of Hawai’i Kai and Koko Head from above
From the Kuliouou Summit you can see the other mountain ridges and the ocean
“Tiny” Diamond Head far back on the right side

Some final tips

Start early – it’s a summit, so it’s hot up there! Even if only the last third is on the uncovered ridge

Bring enough water – especially when you start later the day

Bring some snacks and have a wonderful picnic on top of the world 😉

You can go further from the summit, but you’ll need to use ropes

Please keep the trail clean and pretty – don’t leave any trash (cigarette buds, bottles etc.) and don’t use shortcuts, because they lead to erosion of the trails.

If you choose to do the Kuliouou Valley Trail afterwards: There are some small waterfalls. We went there the first time and it was pretty adventurous as the trail isn’t maintained perfectly. We loved it though – it’s like Jurassic Park in real – without the dinosaurs. BUT bring mosquito repellent! They ate us alive, so we had to return – because, of course, we forgot to bring it!

A small waterfall in the back of the valley
Hidden falls in the Kuliouou valley
What is your favorite trail on Oahu, which makes your jaw drop?

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Curious who writes here?

Curious who writes here?

Adventurer, digital nomad, and freedom seeker - that's me, Nate the Nomad!
In October 2016, I packed my bags in Berlin and been roaming the world with my husband ever since.
We are slow travelers, who enjoy the freedom of the location-independent life! We love to go on little adventures and to learn about new cultures everywhere we go.

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