Friday, July 4, 2014

Beware of Ratings on Oahu Hiking Trails on Review Websites

The more that I've hiked on Oahu, the more I realize that you can't really trust the ratings that some people give to certain trails.

What some people will get on Yelp! and TripAdvisor to rank as a "novice" trails are actually, in many cases, a lot more difficult than that.  Many people don't realize that, while they may hike often, many of the people who are reading these types of reviews are visitors to the islands, or people who don't hike often.  They're looking for a workout and some good views.  They're not looking to get extreme or start the next "Unreal Hawaii".

Sure, some of them are in great shape but that doesn't equate to great hiking shape.

Here's an example that I like to keep in mind:

I did the Wiliwilinui Ridge Trail with my wife and daughter recently.  While this isn't an extreme hike, it is not a novice hike.  It is muddy and steep in some areas.  There is an area where you have to use the help of  a rope to get up and down.

So, if my mother or a family with really young kids had read "novice" trail then they may have attempted it. That would have sucked.

In my time hiking on Oahu, I've seen kids with flip-flops being drug through the mud on trail, like the Maunawili Falls Trail.

I've seen a 75 year old lady, in high-wedged shoes huffing and puffing up Diamond Head. I thought she was going to die.

Nothing makes me shake my head more than seeing men and women hiking in flip-flops (or "slippers" as they tend to be called here.)

Keep this mind when Hiking in Oahu:

  • You can't always trust the ratings on review sites like Yelp! and TripAdvisor.  Consult many different sites.
  • Always read a hiking safety article that is Hawaii based.  There are unique risks when hiking in Hawaii.
  • If you're just looking for a photo walk or a real easy hike DON'T read Hawaii adventure blogs or extreme hiking blogs.  
  • When in doubt, hire a tour guide.  

The Views are Great Though!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Shark's Cove: Honu and Scuba

Sharks Cove, North Shore Oahu

Sharks Cove was something I had put off for a while.  I had wanted to do it a lot but I don't really spend a bunch of time on the North Shore.  It is a gorgeous lava rock "beach", but it's more of just a cove to snorkel in than any kind of sun bathing spot.

When I finally did snorkel there a couple of weeks ago I wanted to kick my own butt because it was just that awesome.  It might actually be cooler than Hanauma Bay.  There aren't as many fish but there are still a bunch and the water is calmer and clearer at Sharks Cove, too.

The water is crystal clear and there are warm thermal spots where the fish actually gather.  It's not really a place for kids unless you're taking them to the Pupukea tide pools which are south of the cove.  (You can see them and they in the same area. No worries.)

Fish and Marine Life that I Saw Snorkeling  at Sharks Cove:

Sea Turtle Sharks Cove

  • HONU!!  (2 of them!)
  • Angel fish
  • Reef trigger fish
  • Needle Fish
  • Perch 
  • Wrasse
  • Box Fish
  • Butterfly fish
  • Parrot fish

(What I didn't see was any eels but the two Honu kind of made up for that!)

Sharks Cove Tips:

Parking is small.  Get there early.
No beach. Not really.  Just a place to sit while not snorkeling.  It gets crowded too.
Wear beach shoes.  It's rocky especially entering the water.  Get down and snorkeling ASAP
Sharks Cove is a marine conservation district.  Respect the environment!

Need snorkel gear?   Check out our recommended products!

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Hawaii’s Sunrise Seashells: Good Luck and Money! - Move to Hawaii! : Move to Hawaii!

Since this is about snorkeling and hiking, I wanted to share this article and let you all know to keep an eye for these shells.  They are worth money and good luck.  Lemme' know if you find any.

Hawaii’s Sunrise Seashells: Good Luck and Money! - Move to Hawaii! : Move to Hawaii!

Maunawili Falls in Kailua: A Muddy Hike with an Awesome Pay-off

Maunawili Falls and the watering hole.

The Maunawili Falls trail is short, muddy and wet.  There is literally mud the entire way through.  I can’t imagine there ever being a “dry time” to go on this hike. 

Distance:  1.4 miles  (2.8 round-trip) 2.25 km (4.5 round-trip)

Conditions:  Muddy and streams. Uneven ground with star, inclines and declines.  Wet gulches with tree cover on 90% of the trail.

Difficulty level:  Without the mud this would be an easy 45 minute trek to the falls at the end.  The mud makes this trip a little bit towards the moderate end of difficulty.

Notes:  Keep dogs on leash.  No biking or mountain climbing.

My daughters

The small waterfall and the watering hole at the end of the hike is the best part about this hike.  There is another spot where you can stop to cross the stream which is kind of cool, too.

There are some short areas and inclines with some steps which are safe and very well maintained by someone.  (Probably volunteers).

The last 100 yards of the hike was my favorite as you are hiking through the stream and over some rock to get to the watering hole.  Once you’re there you can swim out the small, rock wall and jump the 8 feet into the water.  For those of you who are real daredevils you can climb higher and jump 30 feet into the watering hole.


The trail is mostly covered so a one-time application of sunscreen before heading out should suffice.  Unless you sweat a lot.  Re-apply at the watering hole whether you swim or not.

Lots of mosquitoes.  Lather on the bug spray.

REALLY MUDDY.  Wear appropriate foot wear.  Sandals are not APPROPRIATE!  You will slip and hurt yourself.

IMPORTANT NOTE:  Residents are complaining and they are petitioning authorities to closing the hike.  People are leaving trash and piles of muddy shoes from beginning to the end of the hike.  NOT COOL.  If you take it in then you take it out.  Be cool.  Malama Hawaii.  Don’t be a jerk and ruin it for everyone else!

Please be quiet in the neighborhood and park far away from the trail head on the street somewhere.  

Directions to the Maunawili Falls Trail

Directions: Drive along the Pali Highway towards Kailua, through the tunnels and past Kamehameha Highway. Pass Auloa Road (on the right) for the first time, then take the second turn onto Auloa Road (it is a horseshoe shaped road). The road splits very soon after the turn off the Pali - take the left fork which is Maunawili Road. Follow Maunawili Road until it ends in a residential neighborhood. Notice the trail access road to your left (look for trail signs). DO NOT DRIVE OR PARK ON THIS PRIVATE ROAD! Instead, legally park on the right in the neighborhood. Please respect the residents by not loitering or making a lot of noise and obeying parking laws. Walk along the access road until you reach the trailhead on your right.

Directions courtesy of Hawaii Trails/

Friday, June 6, 2014

Snorkeling Ko'Olina Lagoons

Ko'Olina Lagoon:  You can how it's protected.

The Ko' Olina Lagoons is a a relatively "new" beach/resort on Oahu.  The area has only seen major development in the last ten years or so.  The lagoons are man-made and the developments around them (the Disney and JW Marriott Resorts) are bringing the area fame as a beautiful vacation spot.

I've heard rumors that in the 15-20 years, the developers hope to make the area as big as Waikiki.  That's alright with me.  I'm not the biggest fan of Waikiki.  Waikiki is expensive. 

My First Sea Turtle Ever I saw while snorkeling at Ko 'Olina Lagoon #2

Snorkeling in Ko'Olina Lagoons

I'll be the first to admit, snorkeling in the lagoons isn't near the best on Oahu.  It doesn't even rate up there with some of the best spots.  However, Ko 'Olina  holds a special place in my heart because it's where I saw my first Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle or Honu.

Benefits of Snorkeling at Ko'Olina

Calm waters.  The lagoons are all protected by sea walls and tiny coves all offer protection from the open ocean.
Clear water in most places.

Some coral at Ko 'Olina but not much.

Disadvantages of Snorkeling at Ko 'Olina

Little to zero coral
Small variety of marine life.

There are ways to get "free" parking at Ko 'Olina but to be safe you can get all-day beach parking for $10 near Lagoon #4.

Directions to Ko'Olina Lagoons

From Waikiki, take the H-1 (located above Waikiki towards the back Mountain ridge)
Stay on the H-1 for about 25 miles
Continue on as the H-1 turns into the Farrington Hwy
Take the Ko Olina Oahu Exit
Drive up to the security gate, where you will need to check in (announce where you are headed on the Ko Olina Marriott grounds) before proceeding down to the beach.
Follow Aliinui Dr to the left, and look for the posted signs for the different Ko Olina Lagoons.  They will be numbered 1 thru 4. 
Directions courtesy of:  Best of

Monday, May 26, 2014

Hiking Kaena Point on West Oahu: Tide Pools, Monk Seals, Coastal Vies and Albatross

Gorgeous, rocky coastline with blue water at Kaena Point

Kaena Point is a wide open hike that is 2.4 miles from the trail head to the tide pools and the wildlife preserve at the end.  So, that’s almost 5 miles round trip.

Actually, there are two different hikes that end at the same point.  The one I did was on the west side of the Island and starts at the end of the road (literally).

Now, some of you may not think of Kaena Point as a hike but I consider any walk that isn’t to my mailbox or on a track as a hike. 

Right from the beginning you can tell this hike is going to take a while.  Not because of the length but because of the beautiful views along the way.  You start out staring at beautiful, blue ocean and rock landscape on your let and mountain ridgeline on the right. 

Tips of Kaena Point Hike:

It's a wide-open, hot, dry hike but it sure is BEAUTIFUL!

·         It’s an open hike.  You need sunscreen, covering for your skin and lots of water.  I like to bring my Camelbak everywhere I hike.   Don’t underestimate it.  This hike wouldn’t be the same on an overcast day. You need the sun for the beauty of this hike.

·         There wildlife and bird reserve at the end of the trail (where you’ll see albatross and monk seals will is in a gated area.

·         There are monk seals and beautiful tide pools off the path that you have to climb down to get to.  Be very careful.  We did it but it isn’t right for kids or older people and if you’re not confident climbing and scrabbling.


Don’t mess with the monk seals or the albatross.  They’re endangered and you could go to jail.  Plus, it’s just not cool.
Monk Seal lounging and drinking up some sun.

Directions to Kaena Point Trail:

If you use the Wai‘anae route from Honolulu, take the H1 freeway west, it will eventually turn into Farrington Highway (Route 93). Farrington Highway will become a two lane road at it’s northern end, and terminates at Ka‘ena Point State Park. If you use the Mokule‘ia route, take H-2 to Kaukonahua Road (Route 803) to Farrington Highway (Route 930) past Waialua and go about 1 mile past Camp Erdman. The trailhead on either side of Ka‘ena Point begins where the paved road ends and a rough 4-wheel drive road begins. (directions courtesy of Hawaii State Parks)

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Snorkeling in Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve

Hanauma Bay is the premiere Oahu snorkeling spot.  There may be other snorkeling spots in Oahu with less crowds and more open water, but when it comes to snorkeling on Oahu then most tourists and even some dedicated Islander residents choose Hanauma Bay as their "go to" snorkeling spot on the Island.

The Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve is regulated and there is a charge to get in.  For non-military and non-Hawaii residents the charge is $7.50.  You can rent snorkel gear at the beach on Hanauma Bay for $5 per individual piece or $12 per set.

Before entering the beach, you will need to watch a short, 9 minute video on the history of the bay, preservation and safety tips.

There is a tram that will take you down or up the steep hill to the beach for $1 one way or $2 for an all-day bracelet. There is food on site but it is up the hill so it might be a good idea to get tram pass if you’re going to eat or have to go and down the hill for any reason.

Other Amenities at Hanauma Bay:

Gift shop, bathrooms, changing rooms, showers, informational booth and, of course, the snorkel rental booth.

Many snorkel tour companies and Waikiki Beaches offer transportation to Hanauma Bay.
Directions to Hanauma Bay:

From Waikiki/Honolulu:

Take H1 east from Waikiki till it ends & becomes Kalanianaole Highway for approximately 10 miles. Entrance to the preserve is on the right at the top of the hill just past the city of Hawaii Kai. 

From the west, take the Kalanianaole Highway.  Pass Waianae Beach Park, Ka’iwi Beach Park (Makapu’u Lighthouse trail) and Sandy Beach.  The entrance to Hanauma Bay will be on your left.

Note:  The Hanauma Bay parking lot fills up early and costs $1 to park for the full day.

Hanauma Bay Hour of Operation:  6am to 7pm and closed on Tuesdays.

Fish and other marine life in Hanauma Bay:

You can’t snorkel at Hanauma Bay and NOT see fish.  It’s dang near impossible.  Here the most common fish that I’ve seen when snorkeling in Hanauma Bay on Oahu:

Green Sea Turtle
Moray Eel
Parrot fish
Butterfly fish
Yellow fin surgeonfish
Christmas Wrasse
Trumpet fish
Needle fish
Cornet Fish
Sea Urchins
Reef Triggerfish (Hawaii State fish, “humuhumunukunukuapuaaa”)

Bonus Tip:

All of the tourists will snorkel very close to the beach in shallow water.  The key is to get out just past the shallow reef. The water will be clear.  There will be caves and the water will be open while still have lots of reef for fish and turtles to gather.  You’ll love it.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Kuilima Cove: Best Snorkeling for Kids

Snorkeling in Hawaii is one of the greatest and most majestic experiences that you can take part in when you visit or move to Hawaii.  It's not just the chance of your lifetime but imagine what it could mean for kids!  A good snorkeling experience can form a true appreciation for the beauty of nature on young minds.

Kuilima Cove on Oahu is the perfect place for kids to snorkel

There are good and bad places for kids to go snorkeling in Oahu.  Some spots will have the possibility of being a little tough rough in the wave department.  High surf is never good for snorkeling but what the definition of what is acceptable surf for some snorkelers that tell you about great snorkeling spots may not be good for the kids to be splashing around in and learning to snorkel.

Kulima Cove has crystal clear water.  The water is so clear, in fact, that you may have a hard time trying to find a place on Oahu with the same water quality.  It's almost like you're snorkeling in a huge aquarium. That's how clear the water is!

The entire cove is shielded by a coral barrier that keeps the water still and perfect for snorkeling and underwater picture taking.

And...the fish are plentiful.  In my opinion, there are as many fish in Kuilima Cove as their are in Hanauma Bay.  The fish are just as tame and friendly and I'll even go so far as to say that the conditions are better for snorkeling, both in the water and out.

Kuilima Cove is not near as popular as Hanauman Bay so there is always plenty of room on the beach. Also, the beach front on Kuilima Cove is on the grounds of the Turtle Bay Hilton Resort, so it's maintained and clean.

Another good thing is that there is usually plenty of parking at Kuilima Cove on the Turtle Bay Hilton grounds.  Stay to the beach on the right side Hilton and you'll be in Kuilima Cove.  If you're left of the resort then you're actually in Turtle Bay and it's not real great for snorkeling.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Ka'iwa Ridge Trail or Lanikai Pillboxes Hike

One of my favorite hiking trails on Oahu so far.

The Ka'iwa Ridge Trail on Oahu is more well known as the Lanikai Pillbox Trail.  The towns of Kailua and Lanikai sit next to each other so the "location" of this hike has become confusing over the years.  The hike also has some old World War II pillboxes that sit on the trail.  

There are 3 pillboxes on the trail, however most people call the hike "over" at the 2nd pillbox.  From the start of the trail to the 2nd pillbox it is about .6 miles in distance and about 560 feet of total elevation over that distance.  The highest point on the trail is actually over 600 feet a little further past the 2nd pillbox.

Where to find the Trail Head?

The location of the trail head can be a little bit confusing and difficult to find.  Most people who write articles about the trail will give some really confusing directions.  Here's an easy fix, though.  Just throw the below address into your GPS.

266 Ka’eleplu Drive, Kailua, Hawaii 96734

That's the address to a Golf Country Club that is less than a .10 miles from the trail head.  If you're in that area then all you have to do is ask for directions from there.  If you want to be a rebel then walk a tenth of a mile past the golf course entrance.  On the left hand side you'll see a street that is labled "Private Drive".  At the top of that short hill you'll see the sign that I'm standing with in the image at the start of this article.

The Lanikai Pillbox Hike

The beginning of the hike is the most difficult and the steepest.  Once you're past that initial point then the rest of the hike to both pillboxes is a lot easier, albeit uphill the entire time.

This is an open hike with very little shade.  It gets hot.  
  • Get there early before the heat of the day
  • Wear sunscreen.
  • Wear the proper clothing.
  • Drink water and pack water.  Hydrate!
There are hikes with good view on Oahu.  There are easy hikes on Oahu.  It is very rare that you will find a hike that is both. This might be the only one, actually.  It's beautiful.  The views of the Lanikai, Kailua, the Koolau Mountains and the Mokolua Islands are spectacular.  Don't forget to bring a camera!