Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Hiking Hawaiian Style

Rock climbing on the Hawaiian island of Oahu is currently closed due to an accident that occurred a number of years ago. With this restriction in place, climbers stranded in paradise can either entertain themselves with a bit of jungle bouldering (check out or leave the beach to explore Oahu's varied topography on a well-developed network of local hiking trails. Hiking in Hawaii has gained a lot popularity in the last decade and there are now guidebooks, maps and websites dedicated to this away-from-the-sand activity.

(Edited on 3/2/15- A local climber reached out to us indicating that two of the three main areas on the island have since reopened to climbing.) 

The landscape on the eastern side of the island is dominated by steep mountains cut by sharp valleys, all draped in a heavy coat of lush vegetation. Nowhere is the power of water erosion more evident, and this terrain provides an interesting assortment of hiking options from muddy adventures in damp valleys to alpine-like traverses along steep, spiny ridges. In stark contrast is the west side of the island, an almost desert-like environment consisting of rocky hillsides fringed with dry, grassy slopes. Ka'ena Point is the hike to do out here, and sightings of endangered Hawaiian monk seals are common.

The ridge traverses are the most spectacular of the Oahu hikes, and my favourites are Moanalua Valley to Haiku Stairs, Kuli'ou'ou Ridge and Wa'ahili Ridge to Mt. Olympus. However, newcomers to the island are best advised to acclimatize on some of the shorter trails first. Recommendations include Diamond Head, Makapu'u Lighthouse, Koko Crater, Monoa Falls and Waihe'e Falls. Heat stroke and dehydration are real hazards in a tropical environment, especially for those arriving from icy homes locked in the depths of a Northern Hemisphere winter, so easing into strenuous, hot-weather hiking is a darn good idea.

Although equipment will vary depending on your objective, a basic Hawaiian day-hiking kit would typically include the following: sturdy hiking shoes or lightweight boots, shorts, lightweight pants for brushy areas, breathable T-shirt, rain shell and pants, 15-20 litre backpack, hydration unit plus lots of water, sunglasses, sunscreen, sun hat, mosquito repellent and first aid kit. Note that cell reception may not be available in some of deeper valleys. Come prepared.

No visit to Hawaii would be complete without a good dose of beach time, but if lying about isn't your thing, there's a spectacular 5-mile beach walk around the northern tip of the island. It begins at the Kahuku Golf Course and ends at the Turtle Bay Resort, so it requires a car shuttle unless you do it as an out-and-back excursion. This hike is not well publicized, but is a personal favourite. The cat's now out of the bag! Enjoy your time in Hawaii...

Marc Bourdon - Squamish, BC

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