Ka’au Crater Hike on Oahu

This hike isn’t for beginners!  But WOW is it BEAUTIFUL!  This is for the adventurous, well rounded lovers of the challenge, and people whose bodies are conditioned for many inclines/declines and climbing.  If you are as mentioned, you’re going to LOVE this hike!  Nestled deep in the Palolo Valley, you’ll find the trail-head, BUT it’s hidden.  There’s no sign that says “Trail Head Here”.  So how do you get there?

Take Waialae Ave to 10th st, Take 10th st into the valley away from the H1, then make a right onto Waimao Rd.  You’ll know you’re going the right way when you pass by the MuRyangSa Buddhist Temple on your right.  You can’t miss it.  It’s beautiful.  Follow Waimao Rd all the way to the end of the pavement.  When you reach the end you’ll see a set of mail boxes &  a make shift car port on your left, and a gravel area on the right side.  If you can, parallel park in the gravel area.


The trail head is behind the mail boxes and it’s almost like entering the dark forest.  Haha.  As soon as you enter, there’s a rocky climb down with a rope.  So you know this trail means business.  Follow the pink ribbons.  When you get to the top of the 3rd waterfall you’ll see the crater.  From here you can head back and feel that you had a great hike or you can continue on for the ridge hike and the summit.  NOTE: There is a return trail! Take a left at the top of the waterfalls and after a short distance you’ll see the return trail on your left.  If you decide to hike the crater go counterclockwise around the ridge!  You’ll have a better day.


Tips:  Go earlier in the morning!  Easier to park and the hike can range anywhere from 4-6 hours. Don’t go while it’s raining.  It hadn’t rained for a while and it was still muddy and wet.  We’re avid hikers and we hiked entirely around the crater and the entire hike took us a total of 5 hours.


Distance: Round Trip from the top of the waterfalls – 3.7 miles  Round Trip from the Summit of the crater – 5 miles.  Hiking entirely around the crater – not positive, approximately 6  (The hike feels longer than the mentioned distance due to the ups and downs as well as the climbing involved)

Elevation: Over 2,000 ft.


What to Expect: Rocky + muddy = slippery areas (You will get muddy) Crossing the stream many times.  (You will get wet) Narrow trail areas along steep hills Steep rocky areas where you will need to use the rope provided to climb up/down 3 amazing waterfalls (NOTE: To continue on & get to the top of the 1st you must climb ropes on your left before the short trail that leads you to the base of it.  On the 3rd waterfall you will be using a series of ropes to climb up and traverse across it.) One of the best views on the island once you reach the summit of the crater!!

What to Bring: Sunscreen Bug Spray Bathing Suit (if you want to swim in the waterfall pools) Gloves (if you want extra grip) Good hiking shoes (that you don’t mind getting muddy/wet) 2-3 liters of water per person. Pants (if you decide to hike the crater / your legs will get nicely scratched up by the dry brush surrounding the trail)

Written by Johann Moguel