Hawaii is a destination that has never been at the top of my list of places to visit, possibly due to its cliché popularity, perhaps because I prefer mountains to beaches or perhaps because I never considered what the island chain has to offer. At any rate Apryle and I made the flight over the vast Pacific to kick off the month of November. Honolulu was our home for the week and we certainly took advantage of all Oahu had to offer in our brief time on the island.
The first day on the island was a short one because our flight arrived a little after three in the afternoon. So we bused over to Waikiki, where we would be staying in a 43-story high-rise across from the canal. The structure was impressive and featured skyline views as well as a sixth floor outdoor hot tub and pool. We settled in and then went for a short run along shore, treated to ocean front views and surrounding landscape punctuated by Diamond Head Crater.
The second day I awoke early to run a ten miler and scout out the quickest route to Diamond Head from the hotel. Upon my return from the run Apryle and I were back on the road to pick up some groceries for the week. In transit we were able to add twelve new species of birds to our life lists. The task of the evening was to ascend the popular Diamond Head Crater.
Apryle and I made quick work of the 2.75 mile run to the entrance gait from the hotel and then I decided to make a run at a speed ascent. Because of its popularity I ran into some heavy traffic areas but still managed a time of 7:47 for the 0.8 mile climb which features 560 feet of elevation at 10.1% grade.
The trail is quite unique, starting with some gradually sloped, paved switch backs in a shrubby forest inside the crater it begins to pitch upward and the trail narrows. Old rusty handrails line the curves and offer a chance for a momentum thrust. Finally the trail transitions to a steep set of concrete stairs, then enters a claustrophobic, dimly lit tunnel, which gives way to a set of metal spiral stairs before exiting back into the daylight via a small crawl space. The last portion is back on a short paved trail to the top of the lookout, which is a Fire Control Station from the early 1900s. After running around the ridgeline a while longer, Apryle and I made our way down and back to the hotel.
The third day on the island was a struggle for both of us, Apryle had a excruciating headache and my anterior tibilialis tendonopathy was flaring up again. We feared a day confined to the hotel room. But after a 500m swim in the hotel pool, I decided to try out a run to Manoa Falls. I took my phone along to provide step-by-step instructions and after 4.6 miles of city running, I arrived at the heavily forested trailhead. The vegetation was like nothing I had ever seen, I felt like I was in an isolated jungle.
I quickly realized I was not isolated and had to navigate around scores of people in order to make good time to the 100 foot waterfall. I covered the 0.9-mile trail with 787 feet 9.7% grade in 9:04. Then after chatting with some locals, learned of additional trail and also that the HURT 100 covered some of them.
I ran up another trail through some bamboo forest, which opened up to great views of the vibrant green mountainsides. Here I met a new friend, Dave from Ireland and we made the descent back to the trailhead together before splitting at the road. After ascent without pain in my lower leg, the injury began to catch up to me and on the descent I was relegated to a slow trot with intermittent walking. I arrived back home and iced my leg which was beginning to show significant swelling. Still the waterfall and unique trails made it all worth it!
The fourth day consisted of a trip to Hanauma Bay, which is a protected marine life conservation area and underwater park. This was a highlight for both Apryle and I, as it allowed us the privilege to swim with thousands of colorful and unique actinopterygii, Echinodermata, and mulluscs. We spent hours swimming around the shallow reef in the recessed bay.
Though most people snorkel with breathing apparatus and flippers, Apryle and I went old school with just goggles. Swimming in the shallow reef is actually quite tiring and some times painful. Due to the delicate nature of the reef, standing is not permitted so you must continually stay horizontal in the water and at times rocks protrude inches from the surface. Therefore, on several occasions I ran my knee into sharp rocks or scraped up my legs on rocks while skimming the surface.
Nonetheless we saw between twenty to thirty different fish species which I could not remember all if I tried. We saw Trigger Fish, Tangs, Parrotfish, Butterfly fish, Surgeonfish, Goat Fish, Sea Urchins, and Sea cucumbers. After we were satisfied with our Hanauma Bay experience we made our way to the famous Koko Head Crater Stairs. Apryle pulled in the reigns on my speed attempt due to my injury and requested that I take it easy. I reluctantly agreed and we made our way up the trail.
The trail starts out as a dirt trail and then comes to a railroad tie track which continues to the summit. It starts out gradual but by the final hundred steps the trail seems nearly vertical. The most difficult section for me was the exposed portion in which the railroad ties are stilted about 15 to 20 feet off the ground with large gaps between the ties. Due to the volume of people and the condition of the wood this section seems pretty dangerous. The out and back is only 2 miles but the vertical gain is nearly 1100 feet! The views from the top are similar to Diamond Head, offering panoramic views of the surrounding area.
The fifth day was a day centered around birding and beach going on the north shore of Oahu. We awoke early to catch the bus for the nine o’clock bird tour at James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge. This refuge is one of the few remaining natural wetlands on Oahu. Therefore it is home to a host of endemic and endangered species as well as a stopping ground for many migratory birds.
Fortunately the refuge encompasses a decent amount of real estate which is off limits to people. It happened to be unfortunate for us because google map led us to the wrong entrance, which was inaccessible. So after walking/jogging westward for about 3 miles to the refuge boundary we realized that the entrance was at the east end. Fortunately enough for us, an avid birder offered to drive us back to the east entrance.
We arrived just in time to start the tour, led by three very knowledgeable volunteers. With their help we spotted eleven new species of birds including the Hawaiian Coot, Hawaiian Moorhen, Hawiian Duck, Black-Necked Stilt, Bristle-Thighed Curlew, Long-Billed Dowitcher, Ruddy Turnstone, Sanderling, Wandering Tattler, Sharp-Tailed Sandpiper, Northern Pintail, and Cackling Goose.
After a few hours of intense birding at the refuge, Apryle and I walked the Kamehameha highway to Turtle Bay, and then westward to Sunset Beach where the HIC Pro surfing contest was being held. We arrived just in time for the finals and witnessed our first pro surfing competition.
We continued down the beach until we reached our goal destination – The Banzai Pipeline. This is a famous surfing destination due to the massive waves, which break in shallow water. Because of the cavernous reef, the waves form thick, hollow curls of water that are ideal for tube riding. After watching the waves crash for a while, we made our way back to the bus stop and the long (excessively air-conditioned) ride back to Waikiki.
Keeping things rolling right along, day six consisted of a long hotel-to-hotel hike. Because my leg was still inflamed we decided to walk, not run, which added amble time to our Ka’au Crater loop. The Ka’au Crater was our third and final crater hike of the trip and we certainly saved the best for last. The walk to the trailhead was about 4.6 miles and took about 1:15. The start of the hike is full of signage describing that the trail is not maintained and to travel at your own risk. We dove right in were enamored at the flora and scenery from the very start. A meandering creek surrounded by vegetation; green waxy leaves, dense canopy and vines hanging all around. The trail surface itself is thick mud that is quite slippery in many sections. After several stream crossings we began to follow along an old rusty pipeline.
After about a mile of following the pipe and ascending upward from the valley there is a small rock wall to climb with a rope assist. This begins the next stage of the hike, which is a little more precarious. I lost count of how many waterfalls that we climbed up next to by the time we reached the start of the crater rim, but it was several.
Each climbing section is equipped with an old rope to use just in case but there are enough holds that they are not really necessary. There are a few slippery sections and one that requires a down climb over some slick rock but other than that it is a fun ascent to the crater rim.
Once we crested the final waterfall we made our way to a high point on the crater rim at 2375 feet. This portion of the trail is very rutted out and steep. The highpoint offers views of the windward side of the island as well as the city of Honolulu and Ko’ohlau Range. Unfortunately, the high point did not offer a water fountain. We then decided to loop the crater rim and descend via a less technical route.
Some sections of the crater rim made us a little uneasy with sheer drop offs to one side and steep slopes to the other. The rim trail spit us out on a ridge that sloped back toward town. This trail was much less technical, but a little more muddy with much less vegetation and one species of tree growing densely all around the trail. After about 5.4 miles and over 3600 vertical feet we completed the loop.
The total travel distance on the day was 14.90 miles, 7:04:16, and 4350 vertical feet. This was far and away our favorite hike in Hawaii and one of our favorite hikes for the year. The vegetation was unique, the trail was diverse and interesting, and the views were incredible. The experience of traversing the rim of a crater is one that we will not forget.
We wanted Day seven to be a little more restful; we rented a surf board in the morning and tried our best to surf in the calm waters of Waikiki. We mainly paddled around and caught a few very small waves until our 2-hour rental was up.
Then we completed our circumnavigation of the island with a bus trip to Laniakea Beach to watch the sea turtles. Unfortunately the waters were a little rough and the turtles were not coming onto shore, but we saw plenty of them swimming about in the waves off the beach. It rained off and on all day and we were glad we did coincidentally had dry, warm weather for the previous day’s hike.
Day eight was the final day of our trip, which started with one last short run around the Waikiki Beach area. We spent a little more time in the pool/hot tub, cleaned the room, and packed up for the trip home. Our last exploration of the island consisted of an afternoon trip to the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. Here we explored the museums and took a boat ride to the U.S.S Arizona Memorial. This was a somber way to conclude our trip to Oahu.
In our short time on the island we saw and discovered a lot, but both realized that there was much more to do and see. Specifically after running the trails around Manoa, I have become extremely interested in running the HURT 100. We will definitely be planning another trip to this beautiful state very soon.