Our last full day on Kauai had us a bit conflicted. We had planned to do the
Tunnel Trail on the east side of the island, featuring a mile-long water
diversion tunnel that had been carved between two drainages. It had rained a
good deal in Lihue overnight and the forecast had more in store and it seemed
it would be a whole lot of mud for the privilege of stumbling hunchbacked
though a wet tunnel by headlamp for half an hour or more. In the end we
decided to skip that one and headed back to Waimea Canyon/Kokee State Parks
to hike the Awa'awapuhi Trail. Afterwards we did some gratuitous peakbagging
to a selection of minor summits found on LoJ that amused us for the rest of
This is one of two major trails on the west side of the highway in Koke'e State
Park. The other is the Nu'alolo Trail starting just south of the Visitor Center,
but has been closed now for a few years (though I've heard folks still use it).
The Awa'awapuhi Trailhead is about 1.5mi up the road from the Visitor
Center and continues to be as popular as when I first hiked it in the 1980s.
The trail is about 3.5mi each way to its end at an overlook on the
ridgeline between the Awa'awapuhi and Nu'alolo Valleys on the Napali Coast.
Though there had been little rain on this side of the island the past week, the
trail was terribly muddy in places, mostly in the beginning. Despite
this, it makes for a very fine hike through forest, ferns and
occasional vistas before reaching the end where the reward is an almost
unreal view looking steeply down to the two valleys on either side.
One can descend the ridge a few hundred yards further
for even better views. We stopped near the end of this, having the place to ours
elves while we took a break for snacks. One could hear goats bleating on the
cliffs far below and a small mouse came looking for handouts - lots of
non-native plants and animals in these parts. The chickens are of
course introduced, but so are most of other birds that inhabit the
There is a connector trail between the Awa'awapuhi and Nu'alolo Trails,
found around the 3.0mi mark. This trail was closed back in the day but has been
reopened and can be used to visit the lookout at the end of the Nu'alolo Trail.
It was going to be a bigger undertaking than we wanted to spend time on, so we
left this section untrammeled. We returned to the jeep by 1:45p, taking
about 3.5hrs on the roundtrip effort at a leisurely pace.
Less than half a mile north of the Awa'awapuhu TH is the TH for Honopu Ridge,
a trail that appears to no longer be mainained by the State Park, but still very
useable. There is a small turnout where the road bends and a large tree has
fallen over the start of the trail. Poke through the tree branches or
around the left side and you can easily find the trail. Ka'inamnu is a
with minimal prominence found off the trail about half a mile from the TH. When
we were about 450ft east of this summit we left the trail, initially
a use trail through very dense uluhe ferns. This led in a short distance to a
rat trap installed at the base of a tree, but did not help us get further. We
then began a slow thrash through heavy ferns, myself leading (and doing
most of the work, mind you) and the others following, rather amused by my
determination. We eventually found our way to the top of this little
knoll where we found a few summit rocks to rest upon (about the only
firm ground we'd seen for several hundred feet) and provide some views
looking northwest. Iris also found an orange flagging which
turned out to be very helpful. It was one of half a dozen we noted showing a
faint trail through the ferns heading south off the summit, making for a much
easier exit than our ascent route. It dropped us
right onto the Honopu Ridge Trail which we then followed back to the start.
With more time we might have taken the trail west to its end, probably at a
nice overlook spot.
Paved Makaha Ridge Rd runs west from the highway to the Pacific Missle
Facility on a bluff overlooking the Napali Coast. The point indicated on LoJ
for Makaha Ridge is located near the midpoint of this road, just a few
hundred feet from it. No ferns on this one, but there is somewhat thick forest
with lots of downfall to work through for a summit with zero views.
Found a few miles to the south, Hikimoe Ridge can be reached by a muddy hunter
road off the main highway. The area around the summit has been cleared
of invasive eucalyptus trees and replanted with native o'hia trees in their
place. It made for easy walking to reach this otherwise uninteresting
This last LoJ "summit" is found along another hunter road further south. A
prevented us from driving within a few hundred feet of the point,
but we had only about 3/4mi to hike each way. It made for a nice, late
afternoon stroll, followed by a short bit of cross-country
through forest downfall to reach another point with no views. And with
that, we pretty much wrapped up our Kauai visit. On our return
to Lihue, we would stop once again at the Kauai
Island Brewery & Grill - purported to be the westernmost brewery in the world,
a claim that might actually be true...